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Executive Search Firms

Executive Search firms and their clients are beginning to explore new pools of talent, with growing numbers of women appointed from Government, education, major charity or not-for-profit backgrounds.

The executive search community got together in 2011 and drew up their own voluntary Code of Conduct to support their clients in improving the gender balance on their boards. Nearly 40 firms are now signatories to the standard Code of Conduct.

The Enhanced Code of Conduct requires a more exacting standard of best practice on gender equal selection. Accreditation under the Code is performance/output based, as well as qualitative. It acknowledges those firms at the forefront of helping boards enhance their gender balance, with a strong track record in promoting gender diversity in the FTSE 350 and having done much to fuel the progress towards 25% on FTSE 350 boards.

Accredited firms are required to have demonstrated the following in the last 12 months:

  • At least 33% of their FTSE 350 board appointments have been to women
  • To have supported the appointment of at least 4 women to FTSE 350 boards
  • To have a proven record of helping women to achieve their first board appointment.

 
Enhanced Code Accredited Firms

FTSE 350Beyond FTSE 350
Egon ZehnderGreen Park
InzitoHarvey Nash
JCA GroupInzito
MWM ConsultingJCA Group
Odgers BerndtsonNorman Broadbent
Ridgeway PartnersRidgeway Partners
Russell ReynoldsSapphire Partners
Spencer StuartWarren Partners
The Zygos Partnership

 
Executive Search Firms Survey
A snapshot of recent survey results, in which 34 UK Search firms responded can be seen below. These results demonstrated search firms were committed to the collaborative approach, largely motivated and active on the Women on Boards agenda.

 
If more work is required, which of the following areas would you choose to focus on?

No more work required9.4% (3)
Increase target beyond 25% for FTSE 3509.4% (3)
Extend 25% target to all listed companies59.4% (19)
Increase target beyond 25% to all listed companies21.8% (7)

 
If the scope of the work was to be extended beyond the main board, where would you choose to extend next?

Do not extend beyond main board, keep to the main board only8.8% (2)
Extend scope to include executive committee and/or direct reports to executive committee52.9% (18)
Extend scope to include all senior managers29.4% (10)
Extend scope to include entire workforce2.9% (1)
Other5.9% (2)

 
Which initiative / other actions undertaken by the Executive Search community have been important in driving the increase in representation of women on FTSE Boards? (more than one option could be chosen)

Collaborative effort and the launch of the standard voluntary code of conduct (July 2011)64.7% (22)
Raising the bar on best practice and the launch of the enhanced code of conduct50% (17)
Focus on women specific career management and development programmes41.2% (14)
Added value services, maximising board effectiveness, long term succession planning38.2% (13)
Extending search process to look deeper and wider into the female talent pool72.5% (25)
Other14.7% (5)

 
Which statements best describe the approach to women on boards within your own organisation?

Supportive and very active on a company wide basis and are a key player in driving progress79.4% (27)
Supportive and moderately active on a company wide basis17.7% (6)
Moderately supportive, with some areas of activity2.9% (1)
Not overly supportive, little action0% (0)
Other14.7% (5)

KPMG Connect On Board
KPMG launched Connect On Board in October 2015 to address concerns from the business community that greater diversity was needed on boards. Connect On Board is an online platform designed to connect non-executive director (NED) candidates from a diverse talent pool with organisations seeking to build better boards. From the outset the vision for the platform has been to help increase the visibility of first class executives who are ready for NED positions. The platform has over 600 candidates, male and female at both aspiring and experienced level. More details can be found here: Connect On Board

We have also seen a dramatic reduction in the number of all-male boards. There were 152 in 2011. Today there are no all-male boards in FTSE 100 and only 14 in the FTSE 250.

Julia Budd

Despite the competitive nature of the sector, the Executive Search community has worked together, not only to establish a ‘code of conduct’ around gender diversity, but to ensure that words are put into action. This substantial shift in the proportion of women on boards is testament to this combined effort. Now we all recognise that there is more to be done on the executive pipeline.

Investors

Proactive engagement and agitation from the Investor community was anticipated in 2011 to be key to moving the dial on gender balanced boards. Although Investors are becoming increasingly vocal, the anticipated ‘Investor Spring of 2014’, has yet to gather real momentum.

Legal & General Investment Management and Aviva Investment Management continue to lead the way, with Allianz Global Investors, F&C Asset Management, Newton, Jupiter Asset Management and Standard Life also active. Investors with a more ethical bias, such as Co-op Investment Management, Ecclesiastical Investment Management and Church Investors Group, have also been thoroughly active supporters for many years.

The investor Forum of the 30% Club in a recently published letter to the FT asked Investors to see good gender balance at the top of FTSE companies as a safe core stewardship issue and they have our full support in their efforts to encourage investor action.

We thank investors that are at the vanguard of driving change in their community, particularly those that have specifically addressed gender balance within their Corporate Governance policy and have taken action against those companies that are slow to take action.

 
Investors Survey
A snapshot of recent survey results from the 19 UK Investors responding showed all investors thought the recent Women on Boards drive was important for British business, that the voluntary approach as set out in the Davies Review was effective and working, and that more work was required to further improve the representation of women.

 
If more work were required, which of the following areas would you chose to focus on?

No more required5.3% (1)
Increase target beyond 25% for FTSE 35031.6% (6)
Extend 25% target to all listed companies47.4% (9)
Increase target beyond 25% to all listed companies15.8% (3)

 
If the scope of the work was to be extended beyond the main board, where would you choose to extend next?

Do not extend beyond main board, keep to the main board only10.5% (2)
Extend scope to include executive committee and/pr direct reports to executive committee57.9% (11)
Extend scope to include all senior managers15.8% (3)
Extend scope to include entire workforce5.3% (1)
Other10.5% (2)

 
How well do you think the investor community has responded to the drive to increase the representation of women on FTSE boards?

Extremely well15.8% (3)
Moderately well57.9% (11)
Not that well, still more work to do26.3% (5)

 
Does your company's Corporate Governance policy clearly covered gender diversity on the Boards of FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies?

No gender diversity and women on boards is not covered by my company's corporate governance policy5.3% (1)
No gender diversity and women on boards is not covered specifically by my company's corporate governance policy, but wider diversity is included15.8% (3)
Yes my company's corporate governance policy includes gender diversity and women on boards, the policy encourages action to address the gender imbalance but falls short of voting against the re-election of chairmen/nominations committee chairs26.3% (5)
Yes my company's corporate governance policy includes gender diversity and women on boards, the policy encourages action to address the gender imbalance and includes voting against the re-election of chairmen/nominations committee chairs42.1% (8)
Other10.5% (2)