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Diverse Interim Executives – A catalyst for change

The business case for diversity is now established beyond doubt. Organisations that form teams of mixed gender, ethnicity, physical ability, age and sexual orientation are more representative of their customers. Together they offer a variety of viewpoints and a wider range of experience, which can improve decision-making and problem-solving perspectives.

The question many organisations are now struggling with is: ‘How do I go about effecting change?’


Everyone has a role to play in creating a more inclusive workplace, but senior leaders can have a much greater and enduring influence.

Board or executive level leaders have the power and influence to drive through organisational change. And diverse senior leaders send a powerful – and often very visible – signal that an individual’s background is no barrier to career progression within an organisation, providing inspirational role models to those coming through the ranks.

However, whilst progress has been made in some areas of boardroom diversity in recent years, overall change in some sectors has been slow and sluggish.

The number of female board members is on the rise, but is still a long way from achieving equality with men. Evidence suggests there are both glass ‘ceilings’ and glass ‘walls.’ The overall percentage of women on boards was around 22% in 2017, according to figures from the Guardian.

Also, the Parker Review, published in November 2017, found that only 8 per cent of board members in the FTSE 350 were non-white even though 14 per cent of workers came from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Moreover, there is no openly out LGBT+ CEO of a FTSE 100 company and the fact that no official or reliable data exists to show the number of disabled board directors perhaps tells its own story.

audeliss-Interim-2Part of the reason for the snail’s pace of change is that opportunities to make new permanent senior hires are few and far between for most organisations. So, even if the appetite for a move to a more diverse leadership team exists, it may take years to achieve.

This is where hiring interim executives from diverse backgrounds can play a role, since interim roles arise far more frequently. This could be a great opportunity to introduce a more diverse candidate who – even within a limited timeframe – can have a major impact.

In fact, the idea that small changes can make a big difference to wider organisational culture has gained credence in recent years, following the publication of influential books such as ‘Little Bets’ and the idea of ‘Trojan Mice’.

These management theories suggest that – rather than wait for a huge, grand plan – organisations should instead focus on making lots of small changes that catalyse wider change. The hiring of a diverse interim executive can be one of these – quickly introducing fresh perspectives and a diversity of thought that is unhindered by groupthink.

So how do you go about finding a diverse interim executive? (more…)

Business BAME Role Models: Latest Research White Paper from Audeliss

lack of ethnic minority BAME business role modelsAudeliss is proud to launch our latest research white paper on the shocking lack of role models for BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) people in the business world, and explore the way forward to achieving greater racial diversity.

Earlier this year our UPstanding initiative reported that only 4% of FTSE 100 CEOs are not white, despite the BAME community making up 14% of the UK population.

Our research revealed that:

Read the white paper here

Visible role models are vital, both to increasing the awareness of opportunities for BAME individuals and in empowering organisations to value diversity and foster inclusive workplaces.

In the coming weeks, we will be following up the ‘what’ with the ‘how’: a thought leadership piece exploring how senior executives can attract and retain excellent diverse talent, ultimately achieving increased business success, through championing diverse role models.

You can download the free white paper here and read more about the impact of diversity and inclusion here.


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2016 Emmy Awards are Most Diverse Yet – But at What Cost?

Emmys Diversity InclusionMonday night’s Emmy Awards celebrated some fantastic wins for diverse talent in the entertainment industry, with female, BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Emmy nominees and winners including:

However, whilst the above achievements suggest that actors of ethnic minority background are achieving greater visibility and recognition for their work, and the media and public alike are celebrating with the hashtag #EmmysSoDiverse, the Emmys have also presented some worrying signs that suggest progress in achieving racial equality has stalled – and in many ways is rapidly worsening.

One immediately noticeable trend involving the BAME winners and nominees is that the majority of the actors were nominated and/or won for their role in The People vs OJ Simpson: a television show focused on the criminal trial of a black man suspected of brutally murdering a white woman. This is problematic in itself but also points to wider issues in the entertainment industry.

The People vs OJ Simpson has received a wealth of critical praise and in terms of racial diversity is leaps and bounds ahead of the American television industry on average, with a fantastic opportunity to showcase non-white talent that resulted in a brilliant diverse cast. However, the show is based on real-life events and all characters are based on real people, of whom a large proportion are black or have an ethnic minority background: from the very beginning the show necessitated, and executives specifically sought and cast, non-white actors.

The disappointing element of the increase in racial diversity is that, although inclusion of BAME actors is always a welcome step towards greater diversity, it was not achieved in this instance because of a proactive attempt by businesses to tell original stories of three-dimensional BAME characters or to open up opportunities for diverse actors. OJ Simpson has more black cast members than other shows only because the story could not have been told without black actors. This then begs the pivotal question:  Is diversity still progressive – and beneficial – when lacking in diverse intentions?

The seeming progression of increased BAME representation also stands in stark contrast to the struggles for racial equality throughout the rest of America. The real-life OJ Simpson trial in the early 1990s shone a spotlight on institutionalised racism, and provided a powerful platform for previously unheard voices to raise awareness of criminal justice bias and police violence against the black community. But more than two decades on, what has really changed?

Though people with ethnic minority backgrounds have won increased legal rights and protections, BAME people across the US, UK and the world still face discrimination every day. Activist groups such as Black Lives Matter argue that police violence against the black community has actually worsened – in America, unarmed black people are five times more likely than unarmed white people to be shot and killed by police.

Whilst entertainment businesses are taking positive steps towards diversity and inclusion, there is a still a long road ahead for greater racial diversity across industries: in the UK,  just 4% of CEOs of FTSE 100 companies are BAME. The opportunities available to actors of ethnic minority and the worrying representation of BAME people in the media reinforce the need for visible role models and increased awareness of the importance of diversity. By championing diverse role models from all backgrounds and career paths and by celebrating our differences, we are on the way to making our world a better and more inclusive place for everyone.

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.


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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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


There’s still a long way to go!

McKinsey panel

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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