Developing solutions and sharing accountability to ensure true Equality and Diversity in the HE Sector
Posted 8th January 2018
As an Executive Search Firm working solely within the HE sector we are acutely aware of the current Equality and Diversity conversation that is dominating both recruitment and succession planning across the board.
The role that Executive Search firms play in this has been the subject of much debate in recent months and often it is the search firms who are held up for scrutiny; claims of being overly subjective at initial sifting and projecting personal perceptions of “cultural fit”. However, we shouldn’t be looking to tackle this challenge but instead to develop practices in conjunction with HEI’s to ensure this becomes an engrained part of the process…the norm. No quick fixes on this one…and more importantly no ticks in boxes!
But what is the Equality and Diversity debate all about…we know that females are often underrepresented at the Executive Level within many HEI’s. Charters such as Athena Swan are making steps toward a positive change and we ourselves have documented an increase in the amount of senior female appointments in recent years, although clearly there is still some way to go. But what of other forms of discrimination? It is common place when embarking on a new campaign to discuss equality goals with our clients however more often than not it quickly becomes apparent that gender is the only consideration. HEI’s must look to realise the full scope of the challenge;
For example, representation amongst BME staff remains low. The Equality in higher education: statistical report 2017 suggests that only 6% of UK Professors were black. So why is gender dominating the conversation?
As an experienced Executive Search Firm we work hard to put true diversity at the heart of each campaign; we discuss and challenge goals with our clients, we explore current underrepresentation and stringently examine the language used throughout the campaign. We develop unique and tailored search processes that are often international in nature and visible on multiple platforms to capture as wide a pool as possible. Multiple Consultants are assigned to each project to ensure sense-checking and balance to avoid subjective bias.
But ultimately the sector needs to work together to provide a platform for success. Equality and diversity will never truly be reflected within our Universities until HEI’s themselves look at the full spectrum of what this entails. HEI’s should work alongside Search Firms to set clear parameters and frameworks based on their own strategies to address these issues. It is not a case of either/or but a working together in partnership to ensure successful appointments are made that both reflect the wider communities and student bodies to which they serve. Positive action may only be achieved where the true picture of under-representation is transparent, acknowledged and shared with search firms. Our aim is always to develop long lasting partnerships that allow for the development of individuals and appropriate succession planning that achieves strategic objectives.
The sector knows that change must come but meaningful change will take time and will require strong leadership and continued conversation of the benefits of having a truly diverse workforce. The talk must continue but it’s now time to start walking the walk as well.
Posted by Sarah Walker
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Emma Wilkins of Dixon Walter, led the recruitment campaign for this key appointment. It follows successful academic leadership appointments elsewhere for the University. Emma has taken much time to understand the institution and provide key advice on how to market the opportunities to ensure the best talent is found.
Hands up who’s ready for half term! Phew what a busy start to the academic year it’s been. At Dixon Walter, we’ve been busy working on some fantastic appointments with existing clients and new. Thank you to all those who continue to support us.
The theme this year, Take Action Make Impact, centres around the idea that we are all trying to reach effective, positive and sustainable impact through inclusion action for all those we work with and for ourselves. That is the ultimate aim of inclusion and diversity and why it’s so important to continue striving for truly inclusive workplaces – to create equity and equality impact for all.