Recruiters Scout Minority Talent to Help their Clients Diversify

Pepi Sappal, CareerJournal, Dec. 28

More women and people of color are occupying the top seats at big companies. And U.S. employers want to see more diversity in the “C suite”—the domain of those with “chief” in their titles, such as chief executive officer, chief financial officer and other top managers. There just isn’t enough diverse talent ready to meet the increasing demand, according to leading U.S. executive search firms.

“Most corporations think that just because there are a few more African-American CEOs, there must be more minorities ready to lead today’s corporation,” says Virginia Clarke, leader of global diversity in the Chicago office of international executive search firm Spencer Stuart. Top minority executives include Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express Co.; Richard D. Parsons, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Inc.; Franklin D. Raines, chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae; and E. Stanley O’Neal, chairman, president and CEO of Merrill Lynch & Co. “But in reality, the supply is very weak,” says Clarke.

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To become more inclusive and retain diverse talent at all levels, employers are enlisting diversity consulting firms, says Jeffrey Saltzman, CEO of Purchase, N.Y.-based Sirota Consulting, which specializes in attitude research and organization effectiveness. His firm conducts “diversity analyses,” which measure the diversity “friendliness” of a company’s culture and show how it can be improved. As companies have worked harder to embrace diversity and be inclusive during the past few years, there has been more demand for such studies, he notes.

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Recruiters are also teaming up with professional-development organizations that can help to identify minorities with potential. These include the National Black MBA Association, the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement, the Executive Leadership Council and industry-specific organizations. International executive-search firm Ray & Berndtson is partnering with the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC), a Costa Mesa, Calif.-based organization for minorities in the cable and telecommunications industry. The company is sponsoring events such as Cable Diversity Week, which is run by a number of diversity organizations, including NAMIC, says Tracy O’Such, a managing partner based in Ray & Berndtson’s New York office. “The challenge is to find high-caliber diverse individuals in relevant industry sectors,” she says.

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