Women Gaining Top Jobs at Elite Recruiting Firms

April 7, 2016 – Hiring activity at executive search firms seems to be favoring women these days, especially when it comes to leadership roles within some of the best known global recruiting outfits.

One case in point is Isaacson, Miller, which just appointed Vivian Brocard as its new president. In her new role, Ms. Brocard will lead the search firm’s management committee in overseeing firm-wide operations and work with its executive committee to guide strategy and execution. She replaces Elizabeth Ramos, who held the presidency post at Isaacson, Miller from 2013 until late last year. Ms. Ramos previously served as Bain & Company’s first global chief people officer.

Ms. Brocard joined Isaacson, Miller in 2003 following nearly 20 years of executive search experience in business and technology. She has served on the firm’s executive committee since 2010.

During her tenure, Ms. Brocard has built a highly regarded national search practice focused on leadership roles in higher education, healthcare, and research, with particular expertise in engineering, science, and technology. While serving as president she will continue to serve of counsel on a select number of executive search assignments.


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Along with Ms. Brocard, Isaacson, Miller has named three additional partners — all women:

Patricia Hastie joins Isaacson, Miller as vice president and partner, bringing with more than 10 years of executive search experience and an early background in healthcare. As a principal at Opus Search Partners, she led searches for a wide range of hospitals and health systems. She is a founding partner of Globalislocal, a foundation of women leaders investing in the sustainable empowerment of women and children living in extreme poverty. Her practice at Isaacson, Miller will focus on broadening and deepening the firm’s work across the healthcare spectrum;

Kate Barry, who joined Isaacson, Miller in 2005, has been named a partner. Her practice has focused on academic leadership positions, including presidential searches for a wide range of clients that includes community colleges, HBCUs and the Ivy League. She has extensive experience with dean searches at both public and private universities;

Rachel Ellenport, who joined the firm’s advancement practice in 2006, has also been named a partner. She has worked on executive management and advancement searches in higher education, academic medicine, independent schools, museums, and advocacy organizations.

“We are very pleased to expand the leadership of our firm with talent from both within and outside of Isaacson, Miller,” said the firm’s founder, John Isaacson. “These appointments will help ensure continued growth in our service to the civic sector.”

Nationally Recognized

Isaacson, Miller is a nationally recognized search firm specializing in transformative leadership for mission-driven organizations. Mr. Isaacson founded the firm in 1982 with a fundamental belief that diversity strengthens society and the organizations that function within it. Over 34 years, the firm has conducted some 5,600 searches which have resulted in a record of diversity across all of its hires, including 43 percent women and 23 percent people of color. Last year, the firm conducted 280 search assignments, three quarters with returning clients.

According to data compiled by Hunt Scanlon Media, and confirmed by the search firm, 61 percent of Isaacson, Miller’s partners (20 of 33) today are women; 68 percent of its associates (39 of 57) are women. In all, 66 percent of the firm’s search professional base (59 of 90) are now made up of women. Isaacson, Miller ranks as the 13th largest search firm in the Americas, according to Hunt Scanlon’s latest data, with annual revenues exceeding $25 million.

While women have been making huge strides at boutique search providers like Isaacson, Miller — from running them, to forming their own businesses, or heading up important practices within — they can also be seen moving into top leadership positions at large search firms, where men have dominated for decades.

Heidrick & Struggles recently appointed Catherine Lepard as head of its Americas retail practice — a new position at the Chicago headquartered recruitment company.

With more than 20 years of experience working on the front lines with leaders in the retail sector, Ms. Lepard focuses on helping her clients create the high performing teams they need to accelerate change and drive performance. Her work includes partnering with boards and CEOs to conduct targeted talent benchmarking across industries and geographies.

Prior to joining Heidrick 11 years ago, Ms. Lepard was a partner with a major North American boutique firm, where she specialized in the consumer industry, serving clients in the retail, consumer products, hospitality, and leisure sectors. Her early career experience focused on international merger and acquisition activities at a consulting firm serving Fortune 500 and venture capital-financed companies.

“Catherine brings judgment, energy and a strong track record of results into her new leadership role. She is absolutely hands-on when working with clients to find high-impact and culturally in-tune leaders to accelerate an organization’s performance,” said Tom Snyder, global practice managing partner for the consumer markets practice at Heidrick & Struggles. “In today’s hyper-connected multi-unit retail environment there are numerous challenges facing leaders. Catherine brings a keen focus to understanding the customer, operational excellence, and the complexity of supply chain and cybersecurity in a digital age,” he added.

Historical Data

According to historical data collected by Hunt Scanlon over a nearly 30 year period, women in the executive search industry have made considerable progress when compared to other professional services sectors  and they continue to do so on a global basis.

Elaine Filimon, who heads boutique search firm Filimon Partners in Arlington, Virginia, says that 15 to 20 years ago female role models in the search business were hard to come by. But as more women have gotten into the business, many of them starting boutique firms of their own, they in turn have introduced more women into the recruiting field. That, she believes, lies at the heart of the exponential growth rates of women in the industry.

“What’s more, there are more female executives today on the client side,” said Ms. Filimon. “So women in search feel far more comfortable, and less threatened, interacting with a professional of the same gender.”

One sector that has opened up completely to women search professionals, oddly enough, is the traditionally male dominated world of high finance. Of the 50 recruitment providers that made the cut for this year’s Hunt Scanlon ‘Financial Fifty’ ranking of search firms focused on the financial services sector, 14 firms (28 percent) were either established by women, or have a woman in charge of their financial services practice group:

Search firms designated in blue represent women-established concerns or those that have a financial services practice commanded by a woman. 

“Successful women I know in executive search have a highly developed EQ that contribute to their success in becoming leaders,” said Linda Mack, founder and president of Mack International, inaugurated into this year’s ‘Financial Fifty’ list.

“In a business based on discretion and trustworthiness,” she said, women also possess a “distinctive competency in assessing culture fit” between candidates and clients. “In the niche in which we specialize (family office / wealth management), culture fit is paramount for success – and trumps technical skills,” she added.

Ms. Mack said that these traits, often referred to as the ‘soft skills’ that women are known for, are increasingly valued in the market and contribute to women increasingly rising to positions of leadership in every business, including executive search.

“Recruiting is a ‘whole-brain’ exercise, requiring both an analytic component as well as an evaluation of softer elements such as culture fit,” said Gabrielle F. Parish, president of another ‘Financial Fifty’ search firm, GF Parish Group. “It is quite possible,” she said, “that applying these two pieces simultaneously is particularly satisfying to many women.”

Combining that with the desire of so many financial services companies to hire more women and to allow the glass ceiling to crack wide open, she said it is understandable why executive search firms specializing throughout the finance sector are increasingly composed of, or led by, women.

The Big Five

An information request made of the larger field of players — the Big Five recruiting firms — yielded mixed results. Three would not provide any public breakdown of gender in their employee population count: Industry leader Korn Ferry, culture shaping firm Heidrick & Struggles — both publicly-traded, and Spencer Stuart all declined to provide their data, without explanation.

But among the other two global talent leadership solutions providers, both of whom seemed eager to share their numbers, the statistics are, indeed, encouraging:

At Russell Reynolds Associates, the fifth largest global recruiter, 44 percent of its 377 consultant base (164) are now female. Moreover, 20 percent of the firm’s executive committee are women, 30 percent of its global managing directors are women, and 40 percent of its global sector and practice leaders are women. Mentoring among its female consultant group is an important part of Russell Reynolds’ culture, say women who work at the firm.


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At Egon Zehnder, which leapfrogged Reynolds in Hunt Scanlon’s search industry rankings in the Americas this year, and now claims the No. 3 spot globally, 127 of the firm’s 423 consultant base, or 30 percent, are now women. Ten of the firm’s 29 practice leaders (34 percent) are female, while 12 of 69 office leaders around the world are women (17 percent).

“Diversity is the beating heart of our business,” said Zehnder CEO Rajeev Vasudeva. “One third of our workforce is female and over half of our elected partners are women.” Pushing that message outside the firm has become somewhat of a mantra for Egon Zehnder: The firm now hosts an annual global symposium shining a spotlight on the critical issue of women leadership issues, and it has launched several global initiatives committing to increased targets for female chief executives and board directors at companies around the world.

Making Room for Women

Many search firms, it seems, are making it their personal business to make room for women. Here’s some recent activity from the Hunt Scanlon news archives:

  • U.K.-headquartered executive recruiter Morgan Hunt today named Sue Cooper as its new CEO. She joined the firm as a director in 2011 managing education, health and community service sector recruiting and was appointed managing director in 2013;
  • Global recruiting boutique, RSVP Group, yesterday merged HM Long Global Partners Ltd, a search firm founded and led by Helga Long, into its expanding footprint that now covers New York, Zurich, London, Paris, Boston, Wiesbaden, Washington, D.C., Princeton, Austin, Shanghai and Singapore. Ms. Long will lead the firm’s efforts in building leadership teams for global healthcare and life sciences sector clients; 

New Launches

Not to be outdone, two search firms have been launched recently by women, joining a distinguished group of female founders who now control access to some of the most important corporate positions anywhere around the globe:

  • Lucille T. Famulary has launched L.T. Famulary Executive Search Consultants, specializing in executive recruiting for healthcare, financial services and law enforcement professionals. The Long Branch, NJ-based search firm was established to match healthcare and financial services companies with professionals in those respective fields. Additionally, the firm assists individuals in law enforcement transition into private-sector careers;

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media and Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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