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Breakthrough with PwC

On 5th July, I was asked to be a guest speaker at the PwC Breakthrough Programme Relationships and Networks session. Breakthrough aims to increase the diversity of PwC’s leadership and uncover biases whilst working to create new attitudes and behaviours.

I worked alongside senior PwC leaders and their clients in sharing my experiences of creating and building networks. We also discussed the importance of being authentic in the workplace and overcoming barriers to effective networking particularly in terms of gender and culture.

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Other guest speakers included Jonathan Howe from PwC and Nicky Moffat CBE. Helen Beedham from Cityparents was also a guest speaker and thoroughly enjoyed the experience:

The discussion was lively, wide-ranging and constructive and the participants’ clients added another valuable perspective to the mix.  PwC is one of 79 City firms who have corporate membership of Cityparents, so I was delighted to collaborate again with them and support their efforts to promote female progression within the company.

The session was organised by PwC’s Inclusive Leadership and Breakthrough Leader, Nicola Caldwell: “I’m really proud of our Breakthrough community who are making a tangible difference to the everyday experiences of their colleagues and clients. Our aim is to truly be able to value difference to enable all our people to flourish.”

We are looking forward to future Breakthrough events!

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Top 100 most impactful BAME executives named in inaugural UPstanding list

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The inaugural UPstanding list, created in partnership with the FT, is the first ranking of it’s kind to wholly unite business leaders from across all BAME communities, internationally. This profiling initiative forms part of a wider campaign to shine a light on BAME business leaders who have made an impact and achieved great success and to champion those with a passion for driving the BAME agenda forward. It is produced to encourage and inspire the BAME leaders of tomorrow.

Today, just 3% of CEOs in FTSE 100 companies and 7% of AIM CEOs are not white, despite the BAME community making up 14% of the UK population meaning that ethnic diversity in British board rooms lags almost 2 decades behind female representation at the top level.

These statistics are shocking and quite frankly –unacceptable. That’s why profiling those individuals that are succeeding, in spite of this bias, as often as possible is so important.

The organisations profiled in today’s list employ over 5.3 million people worldwide. Our potential reach is huge and the impact will hopefully be felt not just in the UK and US but also in countries where equality is not a promoted agenda.

The fact is, there is a diversity deficit at the very top of organisations in both the UK and the US and we whole-heartedly believe that highlighting diverse role models and celebrating them is the most powerful way to address this as you are demonstrating to the leaders of tomorrow exactly what is possible for minority ethnic groups. The message of this list is that there should be no boundaries or barriers for your potential.

Introducing the new Managing Director of Audeliss

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As all of you know, I have made it my life’s mission to further the diversity agenda in business. Whether this is through Audeliss, OUTstanding or the new BAME initiative I have co-founded, UPstanding (audeliss.com/UPstanding100), making the world a bit more inclusive is my goal.

But changing the world is a very difficult task and I can’t do it alone. With that in mind, I’d love to introduce you to the newest member of the Audeliss Team; the new Managing Director of Audeliss- Chris Bernard.

Chris is one of UK’s predominant interim management and executive search professionals. She will be lending her 20+ years experience in these fields to leading across all of Audeliss’ practice areas, as well as managing and strategically directing the organisation. She is a specialist in offering intelligent solutions for her long-term clients in executive search, interim management and consulting services. This loyalty is due to her ability to constantly produce creative recruitment solutions and candidates who are ready to capitalise on the opportunities she presents.

Prior to joining Audeliss, Chris was a senior partner and board director at a City-based boutique executive search and interim management provider and before that was Managing Director of the Interim Management business of a multinational HR consulting group.

I’m sure you will all join me in wishing Chris the warmest welcome to Audeliss and you will be meeting her in due course. If you’d like to introduce yourself or arrange a meeting, you can reach her on: chris@audeliss.com

Why #OscarsSoWhite isn’t just about the film industry

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Next month on February 28th 2016 the 88th Academy Awards will take place, and this year there has been much criticism and furore into the fact that for the second year running, of the 20 acting nominations- all of them have been for white actors.  This diversity row has resulted in the on-line campaign #OscarsSoWhite, with several actors deciding to boycott the ceremony and the President of the Academy writing an open letter about how “heartbroken and frustrated” she is at the lack of diversity.

Subsequently the governing body of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is the board officiating the Oscars, made a statement stating that its goal was “to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020”. These changes will also include 10-year limits on the voting abilities of new members of the Academy, which will be removed if the member is not “active in motion pictures” in the intervening time.

The Academy Awards and the public discourse about them has brought the conversation to the table about implicit bias and the role it plays in what films get made, by whom and the extent to which women and BAME individuals get awarded for their roles in film.

Reading all of the press reports written over the past weeks and following the debate which has played out on the world media stage exactly mirrors what happens daily within the corporate world, in recruitment and search functions, where diverse candidates continually face unconscious bias from those within the recruitment process and a lack of diverse interviewing panels when applying and interviewing for roles. Not unlike the Academy and their recent statement of intent, the UK Government has been urged by Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP and former shadow business secretary to “set a target for ethnic minority representation on FTSE 100 boards to be met by 2020″ following the report in 2015 which highlighted how less than 2% of British directors from FTSE 150 companies are black, Asian or minority ethnic.

Throughout the search process, Audeliss is 100% committed to providing our clients with a concise list of exceptional and diverse talent. Ultimately, we believe it is about the right person for the job, however it is also important that the widest possible net is cast for discovering diverse talent pools and opportunities are presented for all individuals to compete on a level playing field for their chosen career.

We work closely with our clients to ensure that, as the long-listed candidates are sifted through and the focusing of the search process is carried out, where possible, unconscious bias can be challenged and the skills of the candidate are continually matched, different individuals have an opinion into the process- not just the hiring manager, and perhaps those who may not seem an obvious choice are still considered.

Perhaps if the Academy reviewed its nomination process and those judging the criteria, this would allow for a greater diversity of thought around those selected for award nomination. Diversity is far wider than simple demographics such as gender and ethnicity, it is also related to informational differences such as education, experience value and goals.  Research has clearly proven that informational diversity stirs constructive conflict, or debate, around the task at hand and the outcome is that people deliberate about the best course of action.

The Audeliss team is proud to be 100% diverse and our diversity of thought has resulted in 65% of our appointments since 2011 being diverse candidates. We realise that, like others, we still have a long road ahead to increase those numbers, however we are committed to our diversity journey and supporting our clients in developing their own inclusive organisations.

Stick to your resolutions

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We’re now well into January.   Have you broken your new year resolutions yet?

Instead of adding to the ever-growing pile of ‘how to’ guides for being the better, brighter, shinier you in 2016, we’ve decided to paint a different picture. Year after year, we see our colleagues, friends and family pressured into making the same resolutions that are ambitious and inspired but generally unobtainable and we didn’t want to be contributing to those already unnecessary stresses.

You know, that questioning, self-doubt filled feeling that we’ve all experienced; why doesn’t my life make the grade? How will I ever reach these goals and why are there so many big changes needed for everything to be perfect? The grass is always greener, that’s for sure, but in a world where we now spend so much time bench-marked against each other, there are much bigger and heavier expectations placed on all of us just through being more exposed. Essentially, shooting for the moon can be so psychologically daunting, you end up failing to launch in the first place or drop off within the first few weeks. In fact, almost 40% of us make resolutions whilst only 8% complete them!

Don’t get me wrong, setting goals and targets each year are great for drive and sense of personal development but you just have to make sure that they are attainable and that they will make you better for it. For example, many of us would love to lose 5lbs but if that means not sitting down and watching your favourite TV show or having that glass on wine at the end of a long day, enabling you to unwind, recollect and repair before tomorrow, then is that 5lbs going to be beneficial or detrimental to a better new year for you?

Maybe that example is a tad extreme and we will always promote the healthy alternatives for stress relief and well-being but you get the point hopefully. It’s about being honest and true to what is actually best for you, and not what you’re bombarded with through social media or the TV, that should help you define your goals.

Within the team this year we have two marathons being run and pledges for better work-life balance, reading more and joining a writing circle amongst our goals. Bar the marathons, these are simple, easy to achieve and are vastly rewarding. The catch, most of these are not resolutions but were goals set during last year and are just being continued into 2016. Again, do not add pressure where pressure isn’t due. You’ve just had a longer break than usual and are in ‘back to work’ mode. Unless you’re certain, why not get used to your routine again, assess what really would be the most positive impact on it and then set achievable and tangible targets for various points throughout the year, not just one big daunting one to be complete by December 2016.

Our recommendation for better goal setting then:

Boardroom diversity risks slipping into reverse if spotlight dims

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The diversity of Britain’s boardrooms risks going into reverse gear over the next 18 months, as the terms of current female Non Executive Directors (NEDs) expire, according to new analysis Audeliss is releasing today on the eve of the final Lord Davies report, which is due out on Thursday.

The latest research shows that the number of female NEDs in the FTSE 100 currently stands at 31.3% of the total. But our analysis shows that female NEDs only average 5.5 years tenure, which means that we are fast approaching a period when many of the current leaders will stand down.

This means that the number of female NEDs will fall to 25.6% by April 2017 if current NEDs follow existing trends and are not renewed in post or stand down due to expiry of their terms. In a worst case scenario this could fall as low as 17%. A similar picture is found when analysing the wider group of 350 FTSE indexed companies.

The situation is compounded by the slim pipeline of female executive talent emerging to replace the current generation of boardroom leaders. The Audeliss analysis reveals that the number of female executive leaders is worryingly low. In the FTSE 100, it stands at 9%. For the FTSE 250, the percentage is 5% and in the FTSE 350 it is 7%.

Our CEO, Suki Sandhu, said, “The data suggests that today’s female NEDs only average 5.5 years tenure, which means that we are fast approaching a period when many of the current leaders will stand down. The question now is ‘who will replace them?’. The female executive pipeline of talent is simply too slim to sustain the progress of the last five years.”

Huge strides have been made to improve boardroom diversity in the past few years. This is a result of government pressure, corporate action, pressure group activity and efforts from executive search firms in sourcing diverse talented candidates. Research has also proven that companies perform better when they have at least one female executive on the board.

But there is no room for complacency, as Sandhu explains, “As the Government spotlight from Lord Davies dims, there is a very real danger that companies could go into reverse gear in terms of their boardroom diversity. Ongoing pressure is needed to sustain and improve on today’s position. “We need companies to focus on nurturing the next generation of female talent with executive leadership programmes and by allowing more flexible working arrangements and other family-friendly policies.”

Helena Morrissey CBE, Founder, 30% Club commented, “I welcome this insightful research by Audeliss – it’s so important that the improvement in women on boards seen over the past five years is sustained, and this new data is a timely reminder of the need to  keep up the momentum and source more talented women who can serve on boards.”

If you’d like to learn more about our analysis, get in touch via info@audeliss.com

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Inclusive Capitalism with Bill Clinton


Our CEO and Founder, Suki Sandhu, was very fortunate to be invited to an event organized by the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism in association with The Economist. It was held in the historical Guildhall with a welcome address from Boris Johnson, Lord Mayor of the City of London.

Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker and he didn’t disappoint with his inspired speech calling for businesses to be more inclusive, long term in their planning & strategy and to think more about community and society economics. Lady Rothschild was the other keynote speaker and she was also very clear that change is required if capitalism is to regain trust.

We agree. Truly embracing diversity and. moreover, inclusion is such a mandatory cultural shift in big business and it’s great to see such predominant global authorities taking this issue as seriously as we do.

McKinsey taught us companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry averages. Now, if that isn’t a strong enough incentive for change, we don’t know what is.

There’s still a long way to go!

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Wow! If we didn’t already believe in the power and importance of exceptional professionals and diversity and inclusion, we would now.

The dais at the offices of our event partner McKinsey, echoed a unanimous and strong message, with all of our panel in agreement that the diversity agenda has undeniably gathered speed in more recent years but we still have a long way to go.

Denise Collis, former Chief People Officer of Bupa, hit the nail on the head when she said, “There seems to be a check-list of batches of different diverse groups. We need to stop bandying certain phrases around and actually get under the skin of what they mean and how we can promote a working environment where true diversity is encouraged and welcomed.”

Mervyn Walker, former Group Director- HR and Corporate Affairs at Anglo American, also drew attention to the role of board members, commenting, ““What we need to change is the perception that an accountant, for example, will be more valuable on a Board than an HR professional who understands people issues.”

The recent call for diversity in the workplace means that HR leaders are invaluable to success; they need to be champions of diversity if we are to move forward and the presence of HR Directors on Boards as non-executives is thus essential.

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