The Grichan Whitestone Partnership are committed to adopting and encouraging diverse workforces, both for ourselves and the organisations we work with.

It is therefore vital that key stakeholders, executive search firms such as ourselves, and the clients we represent, work together in order to achieve greater parity among boards and senior management teams.

What is unconscious bias and why does it matter?

While it is unlikely business leaders and hiring managers deliberately exclude certain people to the benefit of others, this nevertheless happens, albeit on an unconscious level.

Of course, it is prescient and desirable to choose candidates based on:

  • Skill
  • Experience
  • Professional values

Unconscious bias is also a very real part of the hiring process and helps to explain why senior management teams and boards in particular, suffer from a lack of diversity, across all organisation types and industries.

We know that seeing a version of yourself reflected back at you, leads to feelings of familiarity and this can unwittingly contribute to a positive feeling about the person, leading to recruiting in one’s own image.

To reverse this mindset you must first understand the issue, why it is, and what practical steps can be taken to overcome it, including unconscious bias training, if needed.

The imperative to drive change and achieve fairer outcomes is not simply a moral one – research showing the positive impact of diversity on business performance is now well-established.

Diversity Matters

McKinsey & Co. has been examining workplace diversity for several years. Their report; “Diversity Matters” analysed data sets for 366 companies in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They looked at data on financial results and the composition of top management and boards and found that:

  • Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
  • Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
  • Companies in the bottom quartile both for gender and for ethnicity and race are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns than the average companies in the data set (that is, bottom-quartile companies are lagging rather than merely not leading).
  • In the United Kingdom, greater gender diversity on the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in our data set: for every 10 percent increase in gender diversity, earnings before interest and tax rose by 3.5 percent.
  • The unequal performance of companies in the same industry and the same country implies that diversity is a competitive differentiator shifting market share toward more diverse companies.

The Grichan Whitestone Partnership will work with you to source talent from the widest possible pool, on merit alone, using open-source intelligence tools and psychometric testing to locate and objectively filter candidates.

Gender Diversity

To support gender diversity, in line with recommendation eight of the Davies Report 2011 — Women on Boards, we are signatories to, and have fully adopted, the provisions of the voluntary code of conduct for executive search firms.

We readily acknowledge the importance of the role we play, as an Executive Search, Interim Management and Business Consulting practice, in supporting our clients as they take steps to increase the proportion of women on their boards.

  • Succession planning We support our clients in developing medium-term succession plans that identify the balance of experience and skills that they will need to recruit, in order to maximise board effectiveness. This allows a broader view to be established by looking at the whole board, not just individuals, meaning an increase in the flexibility in candidate specifications.
  • Diversity goals When taking a specific brief, we look at the overall board and senior leadership team composition in the context of the company’s agreed aspirational goals for gender balance and diversity more broadly.
  • Defining briefs We work to ensure that significant weight is given to relevant skills and intrinsic personal qualities and not just proven career experience, to extend the pool of candidates beyond those with existing board and senior leadership roles or conventional corporate careers.
  • Longlists When presenting longlists, we ensure that at least 30% of the candidates are women. If not, we explicitly justify why we are convinced that there are no other qualified female options, by demonstrating the scope and rigor of our research.
  • Supporting selection During the selection process, we provide appropriate support, in particular to first-time candidates, to prepare them for interviews and guide them through the process.
  • Emphasising intrinsic As clients evaluate candidates, we ensure that they continue to provide appropriate weight to essential requirements, supported by thorough referencing, rather than over-valuing certain kinds of experience.
  • Induction We provide advice to clients on best practice in induction and ‘onboarding’ processes, in addition to providing transition coaching services designed to help new board directors settle quickly and maximise their impact and contribution.
  • Embedding best practice We ensure that best practices in supporting and enhancing board gender diversity are well-documented and shared internally, and that adherence to the Code is effectively monitored.
  • Signalling commitment We signal our commitment to supporting diversity on boards through our marketing activity and invest time into developing a relationship with the pipeline under-represented candidates, such as women.