Executive search pipeline not bent at the top

Women self-steering away from C-suite

Mar 07, 2016, 08:38 ET from London Business School

LONDON, March 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- New research finds executive search shortlists may not be the only reason for the paucity of women in top management jobs. The problem starts much earlier in the pipeline.

Conducted by Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, Adecco Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, London Business School and Roberto Fernandez, William F. Pounds Professor in Management and a Professor of Organization Studies, MIT Sloan School of Management, the research analyzes sources of women's underrepresentation in hiring for top management jobs, focusing on the context of executive search.

"Women account for less than 16.9% of top executives and directors in Fortune 500 firms, and only 5.2% of CEOs, despite representing 40% of the workforce," says Dr Fernandez-Mateo. "Executive search firms have faced a lot of criticism for keeping women out of top management jobs. However, examining data from one of these firms, we found women are no less likely to be hired than men once they are included in the candidate pool. What gender differences exist play out much earlier, and they are driven by workers' as well as employers' behaviour."

The academics, who looked specifically at proprietary data from 10,970 individuals considered by one search firm, find that once women make it to the interview with a search consultant there is no disadvantage either at interview or in final placement. In fact, search firm-placed candidates are more likely to be female than candidates hired via other channels.

While the executive search firm doesn't disadvantage women once in the pool, search consultants are slightly less likely to interview women than men at the beginning of the process. But women are also self-selecting out of the running for top management jobs.

"The anticipation that employers will discriminate against women on the basis of implicit or explicit job-related, sex-based stereotypes may put women off entering into the race," says Dr Fernandez-Mateo.

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SOURCE London Business School