Influencing the Composition of Tomorrow’s Leaders

March 4, 2021 –

With more than 22 years’ experience in the staffing industry, Jodi Chavez oversees the field organization and provides direction for Tatum. As president, Ms. Chavez is responsible for continuing to transform Tatum into a data-driven organizational search and consulting firm helping clients select the key financial talent they need to execute their business strategies.

Throughout her career, Ms. Chavez’s entrepreneurial drive and strong business acumen have led to increased revenues, gross profit growth and improved ROI. She also has experience in strategic planning and execution, mergers and acquisitions, brand strategy, social media, and multi-generational leadership.

Ms. Chavez recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the importance of diversity within organizations and how best to approach presenting diverse candidates to clients. Following are excerpts from that discussion.

Jodi, discuss the role that executive recruiters play as day-to- day DE&I mediators.

Backed by the majority of American adults across every racial and ethnic group, the grassroots social movement we now know as “Black Lives Matter” is the largest social movement in U.S. history. The conversations it has sparked, while at times painful, are not only critically important but long overdue. And executive search partners, like any other group in a position to promote inclusion and equality, absolutely have a role to play. We’ve all seen the studies showing, for example, that employers tend to view women and minority applicants as less likely to accept their job offers. That black and Asian applicants who successfully ‘mask’ their ethnicities on their resumes win more job interviews. That women and minority applicants in STEM with 4.0 GPAs wind up not receiving preferential treatment compared to white male candidates with 3.75s. So, stepping up, from an industry standpoint, means many different things. As in the above examples, all of which hinge on unconscious bias, that means working more consultatively with our clients — not just restricting ourselves to sourcing, but proactively advising our clients on best practices for mitigating unconscious biases from the end-to-end selection process. Most directly, of course, it also means consistently sourcing and delivering richly diverse candidate pools to our clients. This is something we all must live up to each and every time. As mediators of who gets in the door today, quite literally, executive search firms are uniquely positioned to positively influence the composition of the leaders of tomorrow. This capacity to drive change is both part of our backbone at Tatum and one of the ways we can deliver more value.

What are the biggest advantages of hiring diverse talent?

The statistics are unequivocal on this one. Studies show that companies ranking in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams tend to outperform their less-diverse peers in terms of profitability, value creation and more. The same holds for innovation, as well, as companies with higher-than-average diversity have been shown to derive 19 percent more revenue from innovation (45 percent) than those with lower-than-average diversity (26 percent). In a certain sense, the causality at play is fairly obvious: Outside-of-the-box thinking seems far more likely to flourish when heterogeneous, rather than homogenous, ideas are the starting point. On the flip side, companies in the bottom quartile for gender, ethnic and cultural diversity often suffer for it. For example, they are 29 percent less likely to achieve above-average profitability than their peers, according to McKinsey & Co. So, the business case for increasing workplace D&I, in other words, is effectively already in place — and the encouraging news of late is that organizations appear to be finally getting on board. You can see that reflected in recent research showing that greater investment in D&I is now regarded as a high priority at three out of four companies. And it is something we are hearing from our clients at Tatum as well.

What does diversity mean to your firm? What about equity and inclusion? How are they different?

Diversity refers to something specific — to individuals — but its meaning is contextual. Who is actually present in a given workforce? Who is being sourced, recruited, and hired? From there, we can define diversity by taking into account a wide range of different factors, from gender to race, age, socioeconomic status and more. Unlike diversity, equity and inclusion are more like principles. The former is top-down, while the latter is bottom-up. Equity is our commitment to treating people fairly and respectfully, while inclusion is the other side of the coin: ensuring that everyone feels respected, accepted, and valued in turn. In practice, these two principles — equity and inclusion — intersect with diversity in several ways. Equity, for example, underpins our obligation to eliminate biases in the selection and hiring processes, while inclusion means actively encouraging our candidates, advocating on their behalf, and supporting them in their career growth.

Discuss the lack of diversity at the C-suite level. Why is it persistent and what is being done to add more balance?

Today, only four out of America’s 500 largest companies have Black chief executives. For women of color, the stats are more abysmal still: They make up roughly 18 percent of the U.S. population at large yet hold a mere seven percent of the seats on corporate boards. Fortunately, here as elsewhere, this is beginning to change, and executive search firms are spearheading a lot of that. At Tatum, we’ve long been committed to ensuring greater representation in the executive candidates we short list, and we’re gratified to hear that commitment being echoed by our clients today. It’s also worth mentioning that the broader impetus to change isn’t just coming from the top down. To a large extent, it’s being driven by bottom-up pressure, too. One study, which shows that the majority of job seekers think diversity is an important factor when evaluating employers, is a case is a point. For companies anxious to land today’s top talent, the takeaway is clear.

What is being done to promote female leadership? What are executive search firms doing to promote women into senior leadership roles?

We’ve actually seen some really encouraging findings in recent years around women’s representation in leadership roles. In 2019, for example, the proportion of women in senior management roles globally grew to 29 percent. Granted, that’s still a long way from parity, but it’s also the highest number ever recorded. Of course, this too remains an area where there’s ample room for improvement, particularly when it comes to workforce culture. One worrying survey, for example, shows that the majority of
women in the U.S. workforce continue to feel excluded from decision-making processes, and that they’re often hesitant to voice their opinions at work. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that companies have a host of tactics at their disposal — formalizing both mentorship and sponsorship programs, for example — that can increase gender equity, and help address these lingering disparities in the workforce. Finally, strictly from the lens of executive search practices, we obviously have a responsibility to source gender-balanced candidate pools for our clients. But consciously seeking to nudge their organizational practices in a positive direction, too, not just during the hiring process but in day-to-day operations, should be an action item for executive search firms going forward, as well. After all, the candidate experience doesn’t end when we hand over our short lists, so we have an obligation to ensure it’s a positive one from there.

Finally, Jodi, discuss career development trajectories for men and women. What are you seeing?

To be sure, troubling discrepancies in the career development trajectories of men and women remain — and while this is true across the board, the evidence is more galling in some fields than others. Take finance, for example. Today, about 61 percent of accountants and auditors, 53 percent of financial managers and 37 percent of financial analysts are women. But climb the org chart to the office of the CFO and those numbers trail off dramatically, to the point where only 12.5 percent of CFOs at Fortune 500 companies are women. This is another important area where executive search firms can help finally move the needle — and what’s more, there’s reason to think doing so could have a domino effect. More women than men scrutinize the gender diversity of leadership teams before applying for jobs, for example, so in- creased representation at the top could have valuable trickle-down effects at all levels. Above all, what’s clear is that the days when C-suite leaders could comfortably claim that they were “too busy” to take action on D&I — as 41 percent at Fortune 1000 companies did in 2015 — are long gone, and good riddance to them. Now is the time to take deliberate action, promote different outcomes and drive meaningful change. In the executive search space, this is the mandate we all share.

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