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Recrutiment & Employment Confederation

Room at the Top: Women Leaders and the Role of Executive Search

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By Nina Mguni, REC senior researcher

Executive search firms, recruiters, representatives from across industry and a handful of academics gathered at the REC to explore how executive search firms can work to get more women into senior leadership roles.

A day after the launch of the REC report, Room at the Top, the REC had invited a panel of speakers to discuss the issue. The panel was welcomed by Kevin Green and chaired by Yvonne Roberts, an award-winning journalist and lead writer for the Observer.

She was joined by Charlotte Sweeney, appointed by Vince Cable to review the Voluntary Code of Conduct, who discussed her report, Women on Boards: Voluntary Code for Executive Search Firms – Taking the Next Step March 2014 launched on the same day as the REC report.
What is clear is that there is a lot of synergy between the REC and Charlotte Sweeney’s recommendations, both of which were informed by the REC’s response to the consultation on the voluntary code of conduct. In particular it is clear that executive search firms welcome greater transparency to demonstrate how they are complying with the voluntary code of conduct.

More information is needed about the appointment process and where potentially some of the challenges are. This will allow a clearer understanding of where executive search is making a difference and where more attention needs to be placed. Both reports called for data on proportion of women at different stages of the recruitment process.

Following the two presentations, Rachel Tranter, Director of Women on Boards UK discussed  how this platform has helped executive search firms to identify women and given visibility to senior women leaders.

The panel discussion was rounded off by Krystyna Nowak, Managing Director for Norman Broadbent. She helpfully reflected on her own experience in finance and executive search. She emphasised the role of executive search in probing and challenging the candidate brief and unpacking and pushing back on some of the assumptions about what makes a successful board appointment.

There was a consensus in the room that more needs to be done to ensure that more women senior leaders and that there clearly is room at the top.

To download 'Room at the top: women leaders and the role of executive search' go to