So what role do executive search firms play in helping organizations along their diversity journey?
The role of executive search firms
Search firms have an important role to play in helping clients build diverse leadership teams.
When looking to bring in female talent from outside, organizations should strive for a process that produces a diverse range of candidates.
Specific recommendations include embracing a wider and deeper universe of target companies and prospects. Most skills within aviation are transferable and bringing people in from other sectors should be the norm rather than the exception. Carolyn McCall is a good example for someone who came from a vastly different industry (media) and was very successful in her role as CEO of easyJet.
Aviation businesses tend to be very traditional and risk averse, and search firms could take a more active role in educating stakeholders about the benefits of hiring from outside the industry, especially for senior leadership roles.
According to the aviation leaders we interviewed, search firms should also challenge companies more to consider “non-traditional” candidates and to take more risks when hiring.
Including women in both client and search teams might also have a positive effect on producing a more diverse range of candidates.
Despite ongoing attention to the topic of gender diversity in the highest corporate levels in aviation, progress for female leaders in the industry remains mixed. With a small number of female executives in airport and airline boardrooms around the world, businesses that are serious about increasing the number of women in leadership roles need strong advocacy from their CEO, an effective recruitment and assessment approach that minimizes bias and assumptions as well as a strong internal support mechanism for women hired from the outside.
Initiatives such as IATA’s recently launched 25by2025 campaign, a pledge between IATA and the airlines to ensure they are all prioritizing diversity, is evidence that change is on its way. The campaign asks airlines to set a gender target for their senior leaders, and other underrepresented groups such as pilots, maintenance and ground operations. At a global level, the International Civil Aviation Authority’s “Air Transport Gender Equality Initiative”, by providing statistics and forecasting, will be a practical tool to assist countries in identifying gaps in personnel planning and training and gender inequality.