The call for greater diversity at senior leadership levels is not new, although it has itself become more inclusive, extending beyond gender, race and ethnicity, to encompass age, education, socioeconomic background and sexual orientation, as well as experience, skills and talent.
It is also not news that diversifying leadership teams can pay financial dividends for corporations. As early as 2004, research by Catalyst, Inc. showed a significant positive correlation between financial performance and female representation at the executive leveli with female Board representation having an even stronger effect.
Most recently, a new international study by McKinsey & Co.ii showed that companies with gender diverse leadership are 15% more likely to report financial returns above their national industry median, while those with ethnically diverse leadership were 35% more likely to have financial returns that outpace their industry. Sadly, none of the 366 public companies surveyed stood out as leaders on both gender and ethnic diversity axis together. In spite of the long-established case for balancing executive teams, the C-Suite has remained stubbornly homogeneous. Only 4.6% of chief executives of S&P 500 companies are women, and there are just six black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies currently.iii Progress has been made, but slowly and inconsistently. In their recent study mentioned above, for example, McKinsey & Co. notes that women now represent about 16% of executive teams in U.S. companies overall, calling that “measurable progress” but acknowledging that women remain underrepresented at senior levels globally.
Dr. Kim Villeneuve is the co-founder of bluSPARC™ a learning and development company with coaching at its core. Drawing on extensive experience in executive search, coaching for succession, Kim specializes in working with entrepreneurs, business executives, and those enhancing their capacity for complex leadership. Kim holds a doctorate in Human and Organizational Learning from The George Washington University. Kim can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.