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Why were Spencer Stuart headhunters peddling such diversity nonsense?

Jim Armitage
·2-min read
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

A USUALLY quiet corner of LinkedIn has been raging this week, albeit in that polite manner only commanded by this most genteel form of social media.

The blaze was sparked by a short letter in the Financial Times by two headhunters from Spencer Stuart.

They expressed a view so controversial that it deserved far more attention than it got.

Their claim was that corporate governance rules have created the dilemma of “two opposing requirements” for those hiring new company directors.

One, to hire diverse board members. The other, to appoint those qualified to take more responsibility for the accuracy of the firm’s accounts.

The clear insinuation is that only white blokes from private schools have the ability to do the job. That diversity and competence are somehow mutually exclusive.

Little wonder the LinkedIn-osphere has gone berserk, and rightly so, with highly capable and qualified female and ethnic minority business folks pointing out that there are plenty of decent execs. It’s just they don’t get hired.

They’re right. And the reason they never get hired is because it’s always the same group of white men doing the hiring.

That’s not just the non-execs, it’s the headhunters, too. Of the 44 London consultants pictured on Spencer Stuart’s website, only three are BAME.

Thankfully, there are more women and BAME executives than ever moving up into senior positions in businesses. Still nowhere near enough to reflect the population their companies serve, but enough to stock a steady pipeline of competent non-execs.

The chairman of Greensill was a white, former foxhunting ex-City banker. Possibly supplied by Spencer Stuart. What good did that do?

The idea that the top talent only looks white and male is from a bygone age. Headhunters should not be peddling it.

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Latest figures on ethnic diversity in the UK