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Executive Search

Flipping The Equality Switch

By January 30, 2023May 9th, 2023No Comments

There are still distinct differences between how men and women approach a promotion. But, in a world where we need more women at the helm, it may help to simply put every qualified candidate forward – unless they indicate otherwise.

By Vanessa Rogers on behalf of BossJansen Executive Search.

Women need to feel overly ready to apply for a promotion, is the message arising from a recent Bloomberg article.

And it’s true: the fairer sex is still socialised to be considerably less confident, assertive and aggressive than their hairier counterparts, and often won’t put themselves forward for a leadership position – even when they’re more than adequately qualified and experienced to do so.

But there’s a clever way for CEOs to ensure that their talented female executives are in the running for any new senior role that must be filled. Simply put all qualified applicants forward to HR, unless they specifically indicate the desire to opt out.

“The brilliant thing about this approach for a big corporate,” enthuses Jeremy Bossenger, director at BossJansen Executive Search, “is that a client’s highest performers will then automatically reach the C-Suite, and the gender gap in SA will narrow simultaneously.”

Critically, senior female executives based elsewhere in the industry may opt to move across to firms intent on following this approach to gender equality – given the opportunity via a reputable executive search firm – where the elevation of female talent is prioritised in this way.

With just eight years left to reach the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “strong and renewed efforts” are needed to tackle South Africa’s gender targets, says a Daily Maverick “Equal Rights Analysis”.

In the related report, put together by Equal Measures – a collaboration of national, regional and global leaders from feminist networks, civil society, international development and the private sector – at least four target areas were identified that will bring about change in our local gender-equality data:

1) SA must reform and apply inequality laws, because the countries that do this have “better health, nutrition and educational outcomes for women and their families, more resilient employment for women, and more women in their parliaments”.

2) We must eliminate austerity budgets; and rather invest in gender-responsive budgets, progressive taxation, and public services/infrastructure – otherwise conditions may worsen for women and girls.

3) Leadership, participation and the voices of girls and women must be promoted, “with an emphasis on transforming gender norms, promoting good role models and increasing the visibility of women in public life”.

4) And the voices of women must be heard in all the decisions that affect them. Astonishingly, less than 20 percent of all sources quoted in the media today are female – without the necessary inclusion, policies may continue to reinforce the status quo.

These target areas should be embraced by all areas of the private, and public, sectors – says the report; and not just by the extreme feminist movements, where it’s a case of preaching to the converted.

So how do we implement this notion of women being entered into the senior candidate pool, by default? Perhaps, via a policy that sets out and enforces the “opt-in” model for all firms that hire at the senior level.

“Executive search firms, “ suggests Bossenger, “can further these vital SDG goals by ensuring that all relevant candidates who fit the bill are included in any high-level search process. The end result, is most likely a better and more inclusive pool of candidates – so that managers, corporates and society at large stand to benefit, big time.”

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