AESC members get results

The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) recognizes that diversity is a business imperative with direct implications for organizational success. As trusted advisors to those companies that drive economies, lead innovation, and compete across vital sectors and geographies, we know first-hand the power of diverse corporate leadership. Our member firms are uniquely positioned to advise our clients on the talent that will give them a competitive edge.

AESC member firms already lead the industry in helping clients build inclusive boards and executive ranks by finding highly-qualified top talent that might not otherwise be identified. Our members possess the access, the resources, and the experience necessary to help organizational leaders extend their reach. We have a proven track record of delivering results that meet your business needs.

A standard source for board positions and new corporate leadership is “who you know.” But how does a leadership team seeking to capture the diversity advantage find and attract potential leaders from outside of their circles? Our members have deep relationships and credibility with a vast array of diverse, high-performing executives.

AESC members are also in the best position to accurately and objectively assess clients’ readiness to effectively harness diversity of thought, and can assist clients in attracting, retaining and leveraging the full potential of diverse people.
As trusted advisors, we provide clients with our best, most informed counsel. That includes the business case for diversity, and the urgency with which leading companies must compete for and leverage diverse executives. We have both the opportunity and the obligation to introduce our clients to new possibilities, and help them reap the potential of new perspectives.

We are well-positioned to identify and attract talent that may be under-represented. This helps accelerate the natural pace of achieving the benefits of diversity at higher levels, effectively building a strong pipeline.

IBM thinks about diversity the way we think about innovation—both are essential to the success of our business. When we innovate, technology becomes smarter for clients and creates new opportunities for growth. When we incorporate diversity into our business, we create better innovations and outcomes. IBM has embraced diversity, and it gives opportunities for IBMers and our clients to achieve their full potential.
Virginia M. Rometty, Chairman, President and Chief Executive, IBM

Building a diverse pipeline

As objective talent experts, AESC members have a unique insight into the pipeline for diverse candidates. While there has been tremendous progress in many countries around the world in bolstering the ranks of women in the boardroom, this hasn’t always carried through to the executive ranks.
AESC members work with their clients to ensure that we correct the status quo of the past and cultivate a pipeline of diverse talent. This is essential to maximize the business case for diversity of thought and to generate sustainable change. If an organization believes in diversity in the boardroom, they should be working with their executive search and leadership advisors to develop a plan for building a strong pipeline of diverse leaders to create sustainable change.

What do we mean by “diversity?”

An organization could be considered “diverse” if women and minorities are represented on the board, in the executive suite, and within the employee population. But this is more than a numbers game. Successful organizations look beyond diversity metrics and recognize that building an inclusive culture is vital to leveraging the benefits of a diverse workforce.
Demographic diversity refers to, but isn’t exclusive to, variables including gender, race, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, age, geographic origin and more. The value in demographic diversity is in accessing the resulting diversity of thought.
Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, says: “Over more than 40 years of building our businesses at the Virgin Group, my colleagues and I have seen time and time again that employing people from different backgrounds and who have various skills, viewpoints and personalities will help you to spot opportunities, anticipate problems and come up with original solutions before your competitors do.” Organizations that cultivate diversity of thought and harness the power of unique perspectives are achieving a competitive advantage through increased innovation and creativity.
For the AESC, diversity means both demographic diversity and a culture of inclusion that values diverse perspectives and leverages the full potential of those differences.

At the core of our company philosophy is the principle of respect for the individual. This fundamental commitment to respect guides Honda in all of our business operations. It fosters the kind of innovation and vitality that enables us to dream big and create products and technologies that make people’s lives better. We embrace diversity across all levels of our business, from our associates to our suppliers to our dealers.
Honda’s diversity statement
Lenovo employees represent a talented and diverse workforce. Maintaining this diversity and achieving the full potential of this diversity is a business priority fundamental to the Company’s competitive success.
Lenovo’s diversity statement

Why diversity?

The business case for diversity is not new, but research continues to support the premise that leading employers have known for decades: that diversity and inclusion are directly related to higher-achieving teams, innovation, better access to key markets, improved recruiting and retention, and healthier organizations. Multiple sources point to several compelling conclusions:

  • Diverse organizations are more successful in recruiting and retaining top talent. “Diversity in leadership can help a company secure access to more sources of talent, gain a competitive recruitment advantage, and improve its global relevance.” [McKinsey]
  • Organizations that harness the unique leadership styles related to different demographic groups tend to bring about improvements in organizational health, financial performance, risk management, and ethical standards. In 2015 McKinsey predicted that diverse companies will significantly outperform non-diverse companies, identifying diversity as a competitive advantage over time.
  • The collective process of discovery from different points of view leads to more innovation, and more business success. Research published in 2013 by the Harvard Business Review reports that diverse “employees in a ‘speak up’ culture are 3.5 times as likely to contribute their full innovative potential.”
  • A leadership team that is reflective of a business’ major customer base, likely provides key insight and strategies.
  • Customers and clients prefer to work with businesses that reflect the customer base.

“The story is about organizations with a more diverse talent pool, especially at senior levels, manifesting a workplace culture of openness, merit and rational decision-making. At heart, the story is one of diversity and inclusion of all employees, so that a richer knowledge bank is fully leveraged and better business outcomes are achieved.”[Deloitte]

Inclusion and diversity have been a focus for me throughout my time at Apple, and they’re among my top priorities as CEO. I’m proud to work alongside the many senior executives we’ve hired and promoted in the past few years, including Eddy Cue and Angela Ahrendts, Lisa Jackson and Denise Young-Smith. The talented leaders on my staff come from around the world, and they each bring a unique point of view based on their experience and heritage.
Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer, Apple
The spending power of the LGBT community exceeds $3 trillion globally.
Forbes Magazine, 2013

Why diversity now?

In addition to the business case for diversity, the battle for top talent is fierce, and increasing pressure from within clients’ regulatory and economic environments requires that organizations make serious efforts toward diversity.

  • Diversity often leads to open, inclusive leadership styles, which, according to diversity expert Lauren Leader-Chivee, are “essential skills to global competitiveness. If you don’t have them…you are very likely positioning yourself to go the way of Kodak or any number of companies who were poorly prepared to meet the rate of change in the global marketplace and to innovate in time.”
  • The demand for talent is increasingly global. Worldwide HR consulting firm Mercer identified that rapid economic growth in SE Asia, for example, “has increased the demand for talent, in some cases straining the ability of local labor markets to keep up. In response, companies are widening their gaze, reaching out to talent pools that they may have overlooked in the past.”
  • Organizations can no longer afford to ignore different demographic groups. With an aging workforce and skill shortages – particularly for science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers – the quality of leadership appointments could be greatly enhanced by broadening the pool of eligible candidates. In the United States and Europe there has been gender parity in the number of teenagers entering higher education since the 1990s, with women now overtaking men in many disciplines.
  • Corporations with significant buying power, e.g., Coca-Cola, Novartis, Johnson & Johnson and Marriott International now demand diversity in the companies they hire for services. Diversity is continuing to have direct economic implications for organizations.

Diversity expert and Huffington Post contributor John Fitzgerald Gates writes “leading-edge CEOs are practicing ‘strategic diversity’ to harness business value. They recognize that diversity is not just about people; it is about every complex situation, decision, task, and perspective that imbues their companies.”

Addressing gender diversity and equality is a business and growth challenge. It is a key priority which impacts not only the performance of our organization, but also its reputation as world-class employer. For many reasons gender diversity and equality is no more an option but a business imperative!
Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Schneider Electric
PepsiCo needs a team that reflects the diversity of our consumers. And that starts with creating a workplace where everyone feels welcome, including our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees, suppliers, trade customers and partners. Creating a culture of respect and trust is part of PepsiCo’s values and it’s the source of our strength in the marketplace.
Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO at PepsiCo

Attracting Diverse Talent: Executive Leadership and Boards

Our members value diverse leadership. They are well-positioned to identify the most qualified talent by searching and assessing without bias. Our Code of Professional Practice (see page 10) specifically addresses the importance of diversity and inclusion for our profession. As trusted advisors, clients have come to expect AESC members to think creatively and, at times, challenge them to think outside the box. AESC member consultants know how to align executive talent strategies with business strategies and culture to enhance business success.

Barclays ensures that employees of all backgrounds are treated equally and contribute fully to our vision and goals. By deploying a global diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy which now plays a significant part in our Balanced Scorecard, the diversity of our employees is embedded into our journey to becoming the ‘Go-To’ bank. Our five global agenda pillars of gender, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender), disability, multigenerational, and multicultural, ensures that we cater for the entire network of diverse employees at Barclays.
Barclays’ diversity and inclusion statement

Attracting Diverse Executive Talent: Best Practice Framework

Whether the assignment is focused on identifying top talent for Boards or Executive positions, the following is a brief “best practice” framework to ensure success. Of course, the most important first step is selecting the right consulting firm to ensure success. By selecting an AESC member, clients know they have selected a firm that is committed to the highest level of professional standards in the industry.

Diversity in the Boardroom

Additional pressure to diversify comes from mandatory and voluntary government interventions. Several European countries have imposed mandatory quotas for female representation on boards, and the European Parliament voted for and is pressing the Council of the EU to adopt a directive calling for a minimum 40% representation of each gender among non-executive board directors by 2040. Outside of Europe, certain governments, including Australia, India, Israel and Kenya, have enforced legislative requirements for women on boards.

Women on boards

In recognition of the vital role the executive search profession plays in diversifying corporate leadership, dozens of the world’s leading firms have become signatories to a voluntary code of conduct, which recognizes the role that executive search firms play in helping clients find and recruit women to serve on their boards and in the executive pipeline.

The “30% Club” movement to place more women on corporate boards began in the UK but now includes CEO and Board Chair members in key markets around the world – including Hong Kong, East Africa, United States, Ireland, Southern Africa, Australia, and Malaysia. Helena Morrissey, the founder of The 30% Club and chief executive of Newton Investment Management, opposes quotas, which she finds patronizing, and instead is effectively convincing board chairs to lead the change, citing evidence that more diverse boards provide better shareholder returns.

To meet emerging demand for gender diverse boards from business leaders, regulators and governments, the AESC is a member of The 30% Club and partners with various organizations supporting diversity in leadership, including Women Corporate Directors, Global Board Ready Women, and a range of leading business schools.

Male and female directors have differing views about the importance of having gender and racial diversity on their boards. Female directors are far more likely to consider board diversity important. For example, 61% of female directors describe gender diversity as very important, compared to only 32% of male directors. Similarly, 42% of female directors describe racial diversity as very important, compared to only 24% of their male counterparts. These differences may be contributing factors to why diversity on public company boards has not increased substantially in the last five years.

Director say

Shareholders, institutional investors and customers are increasingly urging boards to diversify. They understand the business value that a diverse board delivers in terms of business strategy and shareholder value.

I don’t understand why some companies and chairmen don’t seem to want to have the best boards they can. The best boards are diverse in every sense and yet we don’t seem to ‘get’ the role and value that women play in helping create such an environment!
Mike McTighe, Chairman, WYG plc

Our Code of Professional Practice

Members of the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants are committed to the highest professional practices, acting in the best interests of their clients, candidates, the community-at-large, and our profession.

Women’s Share of Public Board Seats around the World (as of 2014)

Women’s Share of Public Board Seats around the World

About the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants

Since 1959, the AESC has set the standard for quality and ethics in executive search and leadership consulting worldwide. Because AESC members must commit and adhere to the AESC’s industry and government-recognized Code of Professional Practice, clients can be assured that AESC members are able to serve as trusted advisors for their most important engagements. As the voice for executive search and leadership consulting worldwide, today the AESC is comprised of more than 350 member firms, representing 8,000 executive search professionals in 70 countries. To learn more about the AESC and its membership, visit For information about the AESC’s career service for executive-level professionals, visit