In part one of this series, we described how Odgers Berndtson created Unlimited, an initiative to put inclusion and diversity at the heart of everything the firm does.

In Australia, says Caroline Dever, a Managing Partner in Odgers Berndtson’s Melbourne office, “our experience is that progress is incremental. The conundrum for organisations is knowing where to start and how to implement a meaningful strategy while managing levels of disruption not dealt with previously.”

Importantly, Odgers Berndtson has started with its own organisation. Unconscious bias training has been introduced, which is critical.

In addition, Dever says, “Our approach has changed to how we manage diversity for our clients. Our briefing process with clients is structured differently. We need to know where our clients are on the diversity journey.

“As an executive search firm, we must ensure we push ourselves to look at our processes more critically and make a deliberate effort to uncover talent that reflects all walks of society. How we ourselves look at the diversity challenge must continue to change and evolve if we are going to lead on supporting and promoting diversity to our clients.”

Gaining momentum

The South African experience is particularly interesting as cultural diversity is being prioritised across the business landscape.

In June 2017, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange Listings Requirements were amended to ensure that companies “have a policy for the promotion of racial diversity at board level and they are further required to report annually to their shareholders how they have applied the policy. Listed companies are also required to report on how they have complied with their own voluntary targets and to report on the progress they have made.”

According to Lauren van Halderen and Chania Stempowski, Joint CEOs at Odgers Berndtson South Africa, “Corporate South Africa is still very much male-dominated at the top leadership level, but that is slowly changing.”

Grant Thornton’s 2018 International Business Report shows that the percentage of women in senior management positions in corporate South Africa has risen by 3%.

The continued, “As a female-led executive search firm, we play a vital role in bringing the gender agenda to the table in our conversations with clients, and we are finding that such conversations are gaining momentum in boardrooms too.”

Indeed, the Odgers Berndtson South Africa team has a strong track record of offering diverse and inclusive shortlists on Executive and Board searches.

According to van Halderen and Stempowski, “We have unique networks into the corporate South African landscape across industries and we are committed to developing the next tier of board leadership. We regularly introduce younger, more creative and diverse thinkers into the board selection process, who are from different backgrounds, with industry experience and views on the future world of work.”

New solutions

Each day, across Odgers Berndtson’s global network, efforts are being redoubled to ensure clients understand the proven benefits of more diverse talent in their executive and board teams.  This also means, explaining, in a collaborative way, that thinking differently can be liberating.

“Our responsibility to our clients,” says Canada’s Jane Griffith, “is to support them to make diversity a reality in their organisations.”

She notes, “We continue to find ways to improve the creativity with which we tackle assignments. We actively create networks with organisations that assist us in sourcing more diverse candidates.”

Importantly and more broadly, the Unlimited initiative demonstrates that Odgers Berndtson’s commitment to diversity is being implemented at every level of the organisation.

Griffith says, “We value diversity in ethnicity, disability, gender, language, age, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, political persuasion, experience and education. We aim to ensure that employees are treated fairly, evaluated objectively and enabled to succeed.”

This is part two of a two-part look at Odgers Berndtson’s Unlimited initiative. Read the first part here.

A longer version of this article is included in the latest ‘Women, Diversity and the Path to Greater Inclusion’ edition of the Odgers Berndtson global magazine, OBSERVE.

Register to download your free copy

Caroline Dever

As Managing Partner, Caroline leads the Education, Government, and Health practices in Australia. Based in Melbourne, she has extensive experience working on a national and international basis and...

Chania Stempowski

Chania is the joint Managing Director for Sub Saharan Africa, based in Cape Town, where she leads the Retail & Consumer practice and actively participates in the organisation’s financial management...

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