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Promoting Women’s

Economic Empowerment:
The Learning Journey of Heidrick & Struggles

“We will not rest until the boards of directors
we serve have the look and composition of the
society in which we all live. This makes sense
for business.”
– Kevin Kelly,
CEO

Main Lessons
n Support from the top is critical
to advance gender-related
Women in the global workforce have increased their numbers significantly in recent decades,
initiatives.
yet senior corporate officers and board members remain overwhelmingly male. This is true
n Research and data help embed
the business case. despite a professed effort by many international companies to increase the number of women

at the highest levels, and despite increasing evidence suggesting that more diverse boards and
n Women need to help each other
if the boardroom door is to open management teams can be more effective. Heidrick & Struggles, a premier executive search and
wider.
leadership consulting firm, is working with corporate clients and women to address this situation.

It is an exciting challenge for the firm and an important business imperative.

Win-Win Situation for Business and for Women
n A global executive search and leadership advisory firm working with international
companies to recruit talented board members and corporate officers, commited to
including at least one woman on every board search assignment.
Contents n Buildingand promoting international networks of board-ready, professional women to
expand the candidate pool.
The Business Case: Widening 2
the Pipeline to Meet Client Needs n Promoting best practices in corporate governance and management, including greater
cultural and gender diversity.
Global Impact 3
n Publishing research on board-level trends and viewpoints to help strengthen the business
Lessons Learned 4
case for diversity.
Sources 4

Alicia explains. 2005) developing countries. The Learning Journey of Heidrick & Struggles The Business Case: Widening and looking to improve. minimal representation in Korea and Japan. the firm has helped women by educating corporate clients on the value of bringing diverse The Business Case: Diversity and Performance perspectives to a board and by making an extra effort to identify qualified female candidates. operational line managers with profit and loss CEOs. managing committee level. them toward board positions – at least not In both Europe and Asia. the number of educated and professional women is also increasing. role models. as companies awake to the idea that are now taking gender issues quite seriously. are increasingly aware that homogenous members and corporate officers in The variation across countries is huge. This means less visibility candidates. Inc. They are also less likely to have Heidrick & Struggles has witnessed – and Heidrick & Struggles has had to delve deep experience with their companies’ executive helped shape – this gradual evolution. The job requires however. and access to key decision-makers. the firm’s partners have and meet this challenge. ranging from about 40 percent in to do business in an increasingly complex deep understanding of business needs Norway because of a government mandate business environment. They are aware that women represent half of the market and are often responsible for more For nearly 60 years. 2007) relative to the proportion of educated women n Outperforming their sector in terms of return on equity. to five percent in India. they recruiting. into issues of corporate culture to understand committees. In n 40% higher average return on equity (Singh and Vitticombe. whether in full-time roles or seen increasing demand for female board partner at Heidrick & Struggles’ Singapore strategic projects.. boards with no women at all. Yet. In Europe’s top 300 companies. operating result and stock price in the workforce. with a concomitant years. the pipeline of “board-ready” n 53% higher return on equity. women represent just n 18% higher stock price and more than double the earnings per share three years after an over 15 percent of directors at Fortune 500 IPO (Welbourne. expertise in strategic management and where some firms are willing to pay Heidrick At the same time. leadership teams can be less well equipped multinational corporations. particularly in the last few office. “A lot of international companies for women managers. and helping place new board percent of board seats are held by women. boards should better reflect the markets and They are setting employee targets. or even stagnating. and 66% higher return on women is not as well developed as it could be invested capital (Joy. less than 10 And when it comes to top management.S. The task is not as easy. to following career paths that easily channel high-performance leadership teams. women’s presence in boardrooms 2004) everywhere has been increasing only very n Firms with the best record of promoting women found to be 18% to 69% more profitable slowly. Chicago-headquartered these boards now have at least one woman.” These companies want to attract and retain the best talent the Pipeline to Meet Client Needs possible from the widest talent pool. tracking. customers they serve. although nearly 85 percent of 2 . n Morethan one-third higher return on equity and total return to shareholders (Catalyst. In the last talent. the percentage of women directors to retain senior executive women. In Asia. and board nominating committees. 1999) companies. Alicia Yi. there are still many in great numbers. 2007) in OECD countries is now female. than the median (Adler. than half of consumer spending decisions. et al. this has meant increasing attention ranges from a high of 16 percent in Singapore and many minority groups have not been to cultural and gender diversity when building and Australia. responsibility. even at the functional or regional As witnesses. many leadership issues faced by all companies & Struggles a premium to find good female companies are puzzled that they are not able in the international marketplace. It also requires best practice to under two percent in Portugal. Women decade. according to findings in the U. including a large percentage of middle managers. While demand for a While the studies do not point to causal relations. As an influencer. the results are significant: diversity of candidates is getting stronger in many countries. and trends. Companies with more women in senior ranks and as directors show stronger financial results compared to those with fewer women. 2001) In North America. Heidrick & Struggles has been searching. About half of the workforce growth (McKinsey & Co. and Europe. says. They are less likely to be Working directly with company chairpersons. impact on women’s networking. 42% higher return on sales.

and she got the job in 1999. they are not in key operational roles.” based partner. we will not female partners organize and participate in example. “But I was the best problem both tactically and strategically. for will permit us to achieve today. Heidrick & Struggles’ its expertise to client companies seeking. to improve the retention of senior rest until the boards of directors we serve business groups focused on the advancement minority and female employees. Elisabeth Marx. COOs. Beijing.Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Impact: In Her Own Words: Joanna Szymanska-Bulska One Woman at A medical doctor by education. an international more traditional sources and networks. Switzerland. “While this is a good first area. But it’s a matter of my personality. Heidrick & To help make this happen. 3 . the firm is building remained the only female board member throughout her seven-year long tenure at the diversity talent banks by systematically company. the overall business case for diversity. such as a corporation’s the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda internal succession planning. Joanna had been working in the Polish medical industry for a Time nearly a decade when she was approached by a Heidrick and Struggles recruiter looking to fill a board seat at Phoenix Pharma PL. Each chapter women. the firm is offering step and a commitment we believe the market In addition to research. not identifying and assessing the top five percent gender. the firm is casting a wider net for good female candidates. Heidrick & Council on the Gender Gap where she can Struggles is able to help by making objective Struggles is undertaking strategic initiatives to promote high-level discussion on board talent assessments of a client’s talent base. helps educate members on the latest board responsibility issues. The firm’s record in placing women and encourage women’s networking. In North America. In 2008. even when representing different regions is leading regions to broaden their contacts. membership organization that includes female including gender diversity. and other corporate-level Heidrick & Struggles’ work has paid off for business associations to promote discussion executives. She is be on boards but for some reason are not. for example. Joanna successful women executives who should quickly accepted. percent of the firm’s board placements were and retaining high-level minority and female Hong Kong and Sao Paolo. pledged at the the leadership team are keenly interested in new talent for their own companies. Joanna quickly made an impact and was promoted to chair the board within a year. Mumbai. Kevin Kelly. To candidate. up from 16 percent in 2004. “My experience there was very good. making prepare the next generation of female board strategy.” she says. It includes research to establish Women Corporate Directors. Dr. Delhi. Heidrick & Struggles is able to tap into this set of qualified candidates and present them alongside others found from the effort. has also greatly benefited from women. Heidrick & Struggles is addressing the and I was the only woman among seven candidates. today back in the business arena. practice.” The company agreed. Heidrick & Struggles has is already higher than the global average developing a global diversity practice to help helped Women Corporate Directors open new currently on corporate boards. of executives in the countries where it does business. 20 clients look at the wider issue of attracting chapters in London. Partner it presents for potential boardroom duty. She Europe. Hiedrick & Alicia says that Kevin and other members of network to find new board appointments or Struggles’ CEO. to include at least one Heidrick & Struggles’ board of directors – diversity practice should also help improve woman on each slate of candidates that which includes two women – has asked for a women’s long-term board prospects. a London. The firm’s own ‘Women of Influence’ sure that strong women and minority staff members. takes part in leadership issues. and the recommendation by Heidrick and Struggles opened new doors. Matrice Ellis-Kirk in Chicago is leading this new According to Kevin. A team of three female partners events allow senior women in different members are spotted early on. 2009 meeting of the World Bank Group’s how these different pockets of gender-related Global Private Sector Leaders Forum in activities tie together and might evolve. Meanwhile. natural outgrowth from consulting on other in which we all live. executives within corporate ranks. search. “I was recommended by someone in the sector. and the firm’s support.” she explains. Heidrick & Struggles’ emerging global Davos. She had not been aware of meet immediate demand in its board search this job opportunity. working as a member of the management board and as When corporate clients request a board the foreign markets director for Bioton. Under her guidance. They especially seek out highly When she received an offer to serve as adviser for the Polish Minister of Health. while allowing them to Confident with this progress. another pharmaceutical company. and Asia. partnering with CEOs. This is a have the look and composition of the society of women. strategy in this regard. eager for a chance to add public sector experience to her resume.

org/ then arguments for gender balance need to eventually they will become aware that best casestudies/heidrickstruggles be put into the language of that culture and practice multinationals are operating in a disseminated as widely as possible. The Forum is an initiative of the World Bank Group Heidrick & Struggles does not have a budget term approach. they acknowledge that it does it competes with many other issues and still rest in large measure on them and their priorities. “We also are trying to find whole issue of diversity on boards in the ways to get men involved so this is not seen broader sense.S. important lesson from the Heidrick & Struggles Sector Leaders Forum experience is to take a comprehensive. visit our website: attending events and keeping the women’s reasons unrelated to preference. Its members quantify. They and other products are actually preferred by women diversity and inclusion initiatives. The reasons http://pslforum. doing things that are meaningful and won’t take companies often have targets and ideals that and gender diversity. the firm is putting could be women’s lack of transportation. Heidrick & Struggles had to first Gender Action Plan to engage private sector leaders in promoting women’s economic empowerment. research. adds with a laugh. It is putting the spotlight Alicia says the firm’s leadership and as just a women’s issue. Ellis-Kirk is the top is critical when it comes to advancing working with Heidrick & Struggles’ own gender-related initiatives. finding the time to keep save their money to buy just such a product.” their competitors. and education are critical. and without their personal interest and extra gender work is important to the business.worldbankgroup. female colleagues. an About the Global Private make these arguments. information more open practices. Three key lessons from the Heidrick & the firm has been developing gender- Struggles experience are that support from related materials. Zoellick’s and so the overall level of effort is hard to harder to find and then do something about it. In Europe. Companies also watch of promoting women. The Learning Journey of Heidrick & Struggles Lessons Learned together a website to share best practices on gender diversity and to collect all their intellectual capital in one place.” looking at how the most effective boards doubt the value of what we are doing but they are comprised. She current economic crisis will accelerate the the envelope. sector. “because I think the environment that is encouraging them to push network will grow more easily on its own.” It is a matter. of and regions is also important. As more women are placed and As far as corporate boards are concerned. she says. for companies wishing to explore skills. the better. It line specifically dedicated to gender issues uncover why board-ready women have been is one of World Bank President Robert B. Likewise. research and data board and legal department in the U. long. Alicia says that she. there is no doubt in my mind are a little bit uncertain about what we can do Cross-pollination across different countries that it will be those boards who are more to change things. Other companies – in consumer products. six commitments on gender equality. If some are attracting a greater share of talented women because of Hence. it takes time. the female pipeline and optimistic. attention. partnerships. Meanwhile. When the lack of access to banks where they can safely women partners leading the firm’s efforts According to Alicia. are asked whether this could have happened advancing is the biggest challenge. for are committed to creating opportunities for women Kirk. but obviously the on board composition – and when we’re approximately 80 percent male partners “don’t women are most inclined. “I am actually extremely support of the CEO. effort to initiate and benefit from change. on how to describe and position the firm’s and women need to help each other if the new diversity practice. companies do respond when they understand the opportunity cost of under-valuing women’s Finally. While the In other words. Matrice Ellis. open inquiry. or a 4 . however. If a major female role models on the board.” she says.org network going. Multinational international and with more functional. “We don’t they apply across the world when it comes to certainly supporting that view.worldbankgroup. some countries are less interested in diversity. The more people and organizations and capitalize on gender opportunities. including the existence of Date: September 2009 sharing.” New research is women back a step. want to be promoting women just for the sake talent management. But with the full and active the global knowledge base on diversity gets Elisabeth is hopeful. and Elisabeth Marx have monthly calls example – might discover that poorly selling in core business. are important to embed the business case. In Asia. but are not purchased by them for For more information. corporate social responsibility or to coordinate their activities. female partners also spend quite a bit of time consumers. they are operating in an stronger. Many different way – and with good reason. if local businesses in View this case study online at: corporate culture and gender stereotyping. boardroom door is to open wider. As she puts it. then others barrier to women entering the boardroom is will take note. http://pslforum.