What is hindering diversity in the search process
When asked what hinders their capacity to diversify, NGOs and foundations believe there are not enough qualified and diverse candidates to diversify the senior level. Search firms, on the other hand, cited a lack of organizational readiness, disinterest in environmental advocacy by potential job candidates, and a bad cultural fit as factors impeding diversity. This difference in perspective inhibits organizations’ and search firms’ ability to achieve their common goal of diversifying organizational leadership.
Breakdown of diversity as a search priority.
While 81 percent of search firms said they raise the issue of diversity with clients, the practice was inconsistent. Our interviews reveal that blue chip search firms allow the client to take the lead. If a client does not signal that diversity is a priority, only 43 percent of search consultants reported mandating a diverse slate. Furthermore, only 28 to 44 percent of NGOs and foundations, respectively, mandate diversity on their short lists, meaning the majority of these organizations lack the discipline to demand diversity throughout the search process. Both search firms and organizations need to be responsible for ensuring diversity is a top priority and not just one of several criteria.
Existing biases and compressed search timelines.
According to search consultants, the biggest barrier to bringing a diverse slate of candidates was organizations not allowing the time needed to find strong diverse candidates, and that their ability to ensure a diverse candidate slate depended on the client’s sense of urgency. This issue of compressed timeline coupled with existing biases creates the conditions for organizations to maintain a senior leadership that is neither diverse nor inclusive. For example, 46 percent of organizations surveyed agreed that there was unconscious or overt bias to diversity within their organization and 87 percent of search consultants affirmed that bias had been a problem in past searches.
Overemphasis on cultural fit.
Some organizations hinder their ability to diversify at senior levels by wanting a specific cultural fit within an organization, or in some cases, wanting a specific set of individuals. When participants were given a scenario to choose a candidate based on a short list of two black men, an Ivy League graduate and HBCU graduate, and one White man, there was considerable variance between responses. While few or none of NGOs, foundations, and search firm representatives believed the Ivy League grad could offer a different perspective, roughly one-fourth, one-fifth and one-third believed that candidate would be a better fit for the organization respectively. This suggests a serious conundrum for organizations that believe in the value of diversity but seek a cultural fit.