This article about the lack of representation of Black voices in executive search was originally published in February 2022. All relevant stats have been updated as of October 2022.

Improving diversity levels in corporate leadership has been a central theme over the last several years, so it is disappointing that across the Fortune 500, there are only now six African American CEOs: Marvin Ellison at Lowe’s, Thasunda Brown Duckett at TIAA (Teachers Insurance Annuity Association of America), Rosalind “Roz” Brewer at Walgreens, David Rawlinson at Qurate, Frank Clyburn at IFF, and Robert Reffkin at Compass, Inc.

A 2021 study from McKinsey & Company revealed while Black employees comprise 14% of all US employees, the Black workforce at the managerial level is just half of that. And, at senior-manager levels declines further, to about 4%. 

Clearly, there is a disconnect between the DEI policies and ambitious diversity recruiting goals in place and the reality of the results of these policies in practice.

@IQTalent sheds light on the dramatic lack of #diversity within the corporate leadership world. Take a look at the shocking statistics: Click To Tweet

A Dramatic Lack Of Diversity Candidates

The stunted growth of Black representation in leadership positions across North American companies certainly isn’t helped by the lack of diverse candidates within executive search firms, which have historically held the proverbial keys to the castle of C-suite roles.

When a corporate board decides it needs a new CEO, COO, or CFO, the board traditionally leverages a well-established search firm with an extensive network of experienced executive leaders. These executive recruiters create a candidate pipeline of qualified executives. Eventually, that pipeline is whittled down to the “shortlist,” the final list of 2-3 candidates who will interview for the coveted C-level position.

According to David Windley, President of the search firm IQTalent Partners and a member of the Caldwell board of directors, “Executive search firms are powerful brokers in shaping the C-suite across corporate America, and we need to start paying attention to the diversity profile of this important industry.”

Search Firms Are Devoid Of Diversity Candidates, Too

Windley is one of only two African American leaders of large search firms earning more than $40 million in annual revenue. The other is Dale Jones of Diversified Search Group. Having such a small representation of African American principals at executive search firms has an impact on candidate pipelines that are created primarily from personal networks.

According to the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Survey, over 78% of working professionals believe diversity and inclusion give companies a competitive edge. Yet, executive recruiters have been unable to fill their pipelines with sufficient numbers of African American or other diversity candidates.

Fixing The Diversity Gap

The dramatic inequality in corporate leadership begs the question, “What can be done?” 

First, recruiters and corporate leaders must understand the role unconscious bias plays in hiring. Systems must be put in place to eliminate bias, such as creating search and interview processes that revolve around structured questions that aim to assess the candidate’s core competencies and not simply gauge “culture fit.”

According to Fortune 500, there are only 6 Black CEOs in 2022. @IQTalent says that now is the time to improve #diversity #hiring when it comes to C-Suite employees. Learn more: Click To Tweet

Next, executive search firms and the corporate boards who hire them must be willing to seek diversity candidates outside of their traditional networks. Leveraging advanced technology can assist executive recruiters in looking outside their networks and creating a more inclusive candidate pipeline. 

Tools such as Diversify by IQTX ™ allow underrepresented talent to be identified in search results so the recruiter can be sure they are starting with a robust candidate pipeline. Having access to technology means executive recruiters no longer need to rely solely on personal networks that may lack significant diversity candidates.  Diversity recruiting should be the cornerstone of every professional-level search.

It is vital to have an authentic approach to diversity and inclusion in executive recruiting. Leaders should strive for increased diversity of candidates not just for moral reasons but for business incentives as well. 

According to McKinsey’s 2018 study, “Delivering Through Diversity,” companies with the most ethnically diverse leadership teams are 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability. The road is steep to equal racial representation across leadership in corporate North America, but it is one we can’t afford to ignore.

Are you looking for support in achieving your diversity hiring goals? IQTalent Xchange can help! Reach out to our team today to see how we can help you source a list of diverse, qualified candidates.