I’ve been lucky enough throughout my personal life and professional career, to be surrounded by empowered, determined, empathetic, successful female leaders. From the first woman I ever met- my strong, feminist kiwi mom- to a series of wonderful female bosses who shaped and developed the young professional I was, to my most recent position as Principal of a female-founded company. I’ve had the chance to learn firsthand how vital it is for business and society overall, to allow for talent and capability to shine, disregarding any social biases which are still strongly routed in the foundations of our culture.
As a headhunter, I am committed to doing everything I can to make this vision happen, a vision of fairness, social inclusivity and comprehensive working environments. Precisely, this is one of the aspects that I love most about my job: I have a real chance to make an active impact on my client’s agenda, influencing them to hire based on quality, challenging their preconceived ideas and putting forward diverse and outstanding talent.
I recently attended the LEAD Network Event in Madrid. LEAD stands for “Leading Executives Advancing Diversity” and it’s professionally-run organization committed to attracting, retaining and advancing women leaders in the retail and consumer goods industry. At LS International, we are passionate about diversity and more than 45% of the candidates we have placed in leadership roles with global retail and CPG companies are women. Our vision and mission are well-aligned with those of the LEAD Network, and we have been an active member for over two years and co-sponsored this edition of the event.
Here are my key takeaways from 2019’s LEAD Event, that reinforce the transformative power that I as a head hunter possess and the superior value I and others in this field can deliver to clients.
- Inclusion precedes diversity: only work environments that consciously work to establish and maintain inclusive dynamics for all- irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, mental health, generation, disability etc.- will be able to nurture a diverse workforce and harness the power of such diversity.
- Leading as a woman not as “a man in a skirt”: Displaying empathy, emotions or sensitivity have been traditionally regarded as “negative” traits in leaders. We need to change that mindset and approach leadership from very different angles that will allow women to feel more confident when leading teams, especially teams that are predominantly male. Also, organizations should realize that displaying emotions is OK- and in fact, may help reduce the rising incidence of mental health issues.
- Women don’t just want titles, they want power: Unless women are given responsibility for the P&L (which includes the authority to make decisions around finance), we will continue limiting their ability to make a real impact. In turn, this will impede the career advancement of women in the corporate world beyond the glass ceiling and thus come in the way of raising the bar on gender equality.
- Consumers are really the focus point of the change: Brand loyalty and consumption are increasingly becoming a conscious way for people to express themselves. Every purchase we make is a political statement or a vote for the type of world we want. This means that company executives must be aware of and sensitive to issues that are beginning to shape perceptions and eventually, purchases. So businesses that embrace the true spirit of D&I will be more likely to sustain financial success in the years to come.
Listening to different people at the event has reinforced my belief that as executive search experts, we can truly play a strategic role in how teams and organizations evolve because it is people that make or break innovation, technology, process excellence and operational efficiencies. It’s not just helping find people, but also provide valuable insights that can help organizations make better decisions to reinforce their diversity agenda which will ultimately generate a better outcome for their business, culture, and return to society.