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Australia – Recruitment firms to boost the number of women executives

06 November 2013

Executive recruitment firms have adopted a code of conduct designed to boost the number of women in executive ranks, but their recommendations fall short of the measures proposed by the Business Council of Australia (BCA), reports the Australian Financial Review.

Two of the five firms involved in developing the code, Heidrick & Struggles and Korn/Ferry International Australasia, said it was more "measured and achievable", could be implemented immediately, and was designed to help companies achieve the longer-term objectives of the business council.

The BCA wants its 120 member companies to commit to having female-only hiring shortlists. The recruiters list seven principles; including aiming for at least 30% of the candidates for senior jobs on long lists to be women, and if this number can't be found, a justification provided on why there are no other qualified female candidates.

The BCA also proposed filling half of senior roles with female candidates in the next decade. The recruitment firms, which also include Egon Zehnder, Russell Reynolds and Spencer Stuart, want to help companies develop two to three-year succession plans to "identify the balance of experience and skills" to "maximise executive and board team effectiveness" and explore if recruiting women is a priority on a job-by-job basis.

Managing Director of Korn/Ferry International Australasia, Katie Lahey, advised that while the BCA's target was achievable in a 10-year time frame, executive recruiters were focused on what could be gained now. She added the 30% target could be met in some industries, but not others.

"It would be difficult to source 30% women on a long list for an executive role in engineering or mining, but for a senior role in an accounting or law firm, it is more likely. The important thing is that both the global search firms and the BCA members each have a positive and constructive approach to improving gender balance in the C-suite [a company's senior executives]," she added.

Heidrick & Struggles managing partner Guy Farrow added that while 30% might seem to be a stretch, female representation on ASX 200 boards almost doubled from 8.6% in 2004 to 16.6% in October.

"The issue goes beyond women to the need for a hugely more diverse corporate culture. Diversity of thought is driven by gender diversity, as well as racial diversity – we need more Asians on Australian boards for example, as well as skills and generational diversity in senior ranks and in the leadership pipeline," he concluded. 


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