Headhunters fear Lord Davies’ proposals will lead to positive discrimination

18 Mar

Headhunters say that gender, race and age are irrelevant when recruiting – and skills and experience should win out every time – in a survey carried out in response to Lord Davies’ proposals to increase the number of women on the board.

Out of 100 headhunters who took part in InterExec’s research, 65% disagree with Lord Davies’ report, which recommended that one in three board appointments between now and 2015 should be female. He also recommended that headhunters draw up a voluntary code, cast the net wider to recruit more talented women, and encourage more transparency in senior appointments.

However, 89% of the executive search consultants polled by InterExec believe that good candidates could be passed over, leading to fears of positive discrimination. Some are also concerned that there just aren’t enough good women out there.

Kit Scott-Brown, managing director of InterExec, said: “I think it would be a crying shame if the best candidate didn’t get the job, completely regardless of their age, sex, colour or creed. It should be skills, experience and aptitude for the job that count. Unfortunately, positive discrimination will inevitably mean that the best candidate could lose out on a board room position, which I feel is wrong.”

Lord Davies countered this argument when presenting the findings of his report, urging headhunters and companies to be more creative when seeking to appoint top-notch women to senior positions.

The InterExec research didn’t specify whether the respondents were men or women. However, I wonder whether the headhunters are just feeling uncomfortable about this challenge to their status quo – and the undercover, confidential nature of their business being put under the spotlight. Is it really that hard to find, nurture and promote women to top positions? Is the talent not there, or are women being too modest about their readiness to step up to the plate?

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3 Responses to “Headhunters fear Lord Davies’ proposals will lead to positive discrimination”

  1. Jane C Woods 18/03/2011 at 7:38 pm #

    Questions that immediately pops into my mind are:
    What ratio of headhunters are women?
    Where do headhunters network and glean their information and are these areas populated by the top notvh women?

    • womaneer 18/03/2011 at 8:01 pm #

      Indeed. Those questions also crossed my mind. Lord Davies is urging headhunters to look beyond their usual circles of financial services, or women who have already done non-exec roles. Does the Davies report mean they’ll have to work harder for their fee… and is that why they’re so resistant to its recommendations?

      • Jane C Woods 18/03/2011 at 11:23 pm #

        Suspect you may be right…

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