Chief Information Officer, Diversity
If you followed the US Presidential election (even from a distance), workplace and leadership diversity was a theme commonly addressed throughout the campaign. As a result, one of the key discussions now among public and private leadership centers on their ability to build a gender and ethnically diverse coalition.
Multinational companies recognized long ago that succeeding in the global marketplace requires management teams and employees that reflect diverse populations. In speaking with an executive recently from the healthcare information technology sector, she emphasized the importance of having a diverse leadership team so that they could align with a diverse customer base. However, she also noted that from a management perspective, these teams can bring unique challenges with it because of the varied views and styles. In the end, her advice to those in the building process was to be patient while the individual members find their voice amongst the team, and then the team itself will soon find its voice collectively.
As our conversation continued, she also emphasized that diversity in thought is equally important if leadership teams are going to solve complex business problems with global solutions. The challenge for leaders in both the public and private sectors remains the shortage of diverse talent at the top.
Heidrick & Struggles’ Chief Information Officer Practice recently analyzed CIO gender and ethnic diversity data for the Fortune 500.We found that among this group of companies, only 16 percent of the top technology roles (CIO or similar) are led by women and only three percent of them are ethnically diverse. Looking at the data from another angle, only nine percent of the top technology roles among the Fortune 500 are filled by ethnically diverse leaders. With women the majority in the US population, it’s clear the demographics of the country are underrepresented in existing leadership teams, not to mention neglecting to reflect the customer base.
Talent development, succession planning and building a diverse team are top priorities for every company from entry level to senior management. Yet, this data suggests that companies are not moving quickly enough to achieve more diverse leadership through strategic hiring or cultivating from within. At a minimum they should have ongoing relationships with organizations (associations, alumni groups, etc.) giving voice to gender and ethnically diverse members.
In general, to be successful, companies can’t wait for a vacant position to begin recruiting the strongest talent. If attracting diverse, A-players is an organization’s goal, they will have to demonstrate that this is a real priority by investing resources in the initiative today and taking a long-view when measuring results.