Cranfield School of Management is releasing a report later this month which will review what impact the voluntary code drawn up by the UK's leading headhunters last year has had on recruitment decisions in the boardroom. The code pledged to look harder for female candidates, and set diversity goals.
I believe this new voluntary code should be supported - unlike boardroom quotas - as it put in place a framework, which will make finding female talent front of mind for headhunters. The role of the headhunter is particularly critical for women who tend not to be as self-promoting as men. There are many great women out there who are ready to join a board, they just need to be sought out and matched to the opportunities. By putting a code in place, finding top women candidates is on the agenda for headhunters, without it I fear they are not.
The report's author Dr Ruth Sealy has said that in the past chairmen and headhunters have tended to blame each other for the lack of female talent at the top. Sealy has suggested the code has helped improve this situation but headhunters need to do more to challenge the recruitment briefs they are given and chairmen must think more laterally about what skills they need.
I look forward to reading the full report upon its publication, but in the meantime what can women be doing to drive their own careers at the top? Amongst conversation on the latest apps, non-exec directorships and mentoring at our last everywomanClub event, we were fortunate to hear from Rita Clifton, UK Chairman of Interbrand. She treated us to a hugely interesting and entertaining talk covering the role of brand for organisations but also for people.
For women in business, building a strong personal brand is a critical investment in the rise to the top. As Rita showed us so powerfully through the annual Interbrand Brand Index, strong brands have held their value even in difficult times. There is less risk in a strong brand and more chance of a return.
As both headhunters and chairmen are broadening their search for board members, it's never been a better time for women to build their personal brand.
Rita had ten components to a strong personal brand. The ones that resonated the most for me thinking about getting more women into the boardroom were:
- Clarity - have a clear view about what you stand for, it helps to build a coherent picture of you for others
- Vision - be clear on what you want
- Relevance - keep your skills relevant and fresh and keep working on your weaknesses
- Differentiation - identify the things that you're good at and make the most of them
Finally, and dearest to my heart, Rita emphasised the importance of authenticity; your personal brand will only be successful if you are true to yourself.