International Women’s Day 2022 : Breaking The Bias – one placement at a time

March 08, 2022 Share this article:

This year’s International Women’s Day Theme is #BreakTheBias. AltoPartners, a leading international partnership of retained executive search and leadership consulting firms, knows the effects of that bias only too well.

What we know:

  • A 2021 report from Payscale says that women in the US earn 82 cents for every dollar men make.
  • Globally, women earn on average just 68% of what men are paid for the same work. In countries with least gender parity, this goes down to just 40% on average, according to the World Economic Forum.
  • Research suggests that the higher a woman rises through a company’s ranks, the more backlash she faces if she negotiates her salary assertively.

This is why our partnership of 63 offices in 36 countries is committed to closing the gender gap as part of our pledge to champion diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)— both in our work with our clients and internally within our partnership.

We walk the walk internally:

  • Of the 42 firms in the AltoPartners alliance, just under half are headed by women (20). And of the 589 people working across the partnership, more than 380 are women.

  • AltoPartners is a global signatory of the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) Diversity Pledge, a commitment to combat all forms of discrimination within our own organisations, with candidates and the clients we serve and in our communities. AltoPartners is also an active member of the AESC Leadership Council for DE&I.

  • AltoPartners actively seeks to partner with leaders in this field. Diversified Search, for example, was established in 1974 by Judith von Seldeneck with the express aim of finding jobs for women in male-dominated corporates. Today, Diversified Search Group / AltoPartners USA is the acknowledged leader in creating opportunities for underrepresented communities across America and remains the gold standard in the executive search field for identifying, recruiting, and placing diverse talent.

  • In Mexico, where women make up less than 37% of the total labour force, Ezentia Group / AltoPartners Mexico co-chairs the region’s 50/50 Women on Boards.

  • Accord India / AltoPartners India was instrumental in conceptualising the annual Economic Times Prime Women Leadership Awards, which has already run three editions. In addition, Accord India has relaunched its board practice, with a special focus on diversity. Accord India serves on the national Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry’s DEI committee.

  • In Europe, our partner in Spain, Seeliger y Conde, created a specialist consultancy unit to advise companies on diversity issues. In the broader DEI space, Leader’s Trust / AltoPartners in the Netherlands works with an innovative Dutch labour market initiative to transition newly arrived immigrants into local companies; and Novare / AltoPartners Sweden has business units dedicated to helping migrants and people with disabilities find employment.

In our work with candidates:

In 2020, 30,9% of placements fell in the DEI category in those countries that keep DEI stats and diversity placements increased 14,26% year on year from 2019 to 2020. In one specific case, 50% of all executives placed by Leaders Trust /AltoPartners Netherlands were women.

Says Sonal Agrawal, global chair of AltoPartners and Managing Partner of Accord India: “We are proud of our global track record and the commitment of our partners towards creating a more equal and inclusive world. But we know very well that it’s only the tip of the iceberg. In terms of achieving real and meaningful equity — the type that has the power to close wealth gaps and stop discrimination – we still have a long way to go. Real change starts at the top, and as trusted advisors to the C-suite, we are ideally placed to help leaders identify and break down bias and inequity in their organisations. This process goes far beyond merely advocating for equitable pay. It is also about finding ways to ensure that women are not prejudiced financially or stuck in a career cul-de-sac because of their obligations as caregivers and finding ways to split the burden of domestic care more equitably among genders.”

How executive search consultants work to #BreakTheBias:

  • Lend voice: pledge, speak out, write, advocate across forums and with clients for awareness and support.

  • Measure: amplify your own statistics and efforts as employers.

  • Encourage the conversation about DEI with clients whenever possible and promote the commercial and competitive advantages of a diverse leadership team.

  • Check that client job descriptions are gender-neutral.

  • Help companies articulate their commitment to DE&I when hiring, including paying a fair wage, irrespective of background.

  • Proactively ensure diverse candidate slates and champion unconventional candidates, wherever possible.

  • Advocate for and support more equity at the board level, even when not mandated by law.

  • Reframe salary discussions to focus on value-add and desired outcomes. Some consultants advocate presenting candidates without compensation information (within the agreed range) to reduce bias.

  • Focus on a candidate’s market value rather than a percentage pay increase. If a candidate has always been underpaid, a standard percentage increase will still mean they are underpaid.

  • Provide accurate benchmarking and up-to-date market intelligence as the basis for fair and equitable salary discussions.

  • Encourage organisations to run pay and equity audits to understand their companies’ gender and racial pay gaps.

  • Share best practices with clients on attracting and retaining top female talent, especially concerning hybrid working arrangements and other measures to facilitate the meaningful and equitable participation of women and mothers in the real economy.

AltoPartners is ranked in the Top 10 Global Search Firms and has created a distinctive force in executive search worldwide, giving global coverage across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.