On International Women’s Day 2019, we talk to Lisa Hooker and Kathryn Ullrich, Partners at Odgers Berndtson US, about the road to a better gender balance and more diversity in business, and beyond.

Lisa, why is balance better?

Balance is better because it allows us to view things from a more holistic perspective and thus provide a more open-minded viewpoint. When we have multiple sources of input, new ideas emerge and fresh perspectives can lead to new approaches and innovation.

People feel heard and respected when they are represented.

Kathryn Ullrich: Yes, diversity of thought leads to improved performance and balance leads to a culture of diversity of thought.

Does the current debate about gender equality risk overshadowing other related minorities, and what is the best way to ensure a better dialogue to stop this happening?

(LH) I believe that it can and probably does. I understand why gender has been the start, but minorities need to be included as well. It’s best to ensure programs are targeted to address all diversity and inclusion, not just gender.

What would have the greatest impact on inclusion and diversity in organizations?

(KU) Balancing the board and the executive leadership team. Just balancing the board is not enough. The board needs to make sure that there is diversity at the executive leadership level to create this balance and diversity of thought throughout the organization. Culture starts at the top with both the board and executive leadership.

Women can be qualified for a job and still lose out to male candidates. Why do you think this is, and what can be done about it?

(LH) More training and mentorship for women internally and through outside mentoring and coaching is needed.

It’s our job as advisors to look for any biases and ensure women know how to interview effectively as men.

We need to work to ensure executives who are interviewing don’t have any biases. We need to ask: is there the possibility to develop more senior women in an organization, perhaps by matching them with a male mentor or senior female executive?

What is the most positive change you have seen, and what is the area where you think the most work remains to be done?

(KU) The voice of women is not stopping. I’ve gone through thirty years of my entire career with the same message of women breaking through the glass ceiling with the same results: reduced pay, lack of promotions, lack of opportunity and no seat in the room.

Over the last few years, the momentum has increased and I think we are finally starting to see some results with women on boards, women investors, women entrepreneur’s companies being funded and women being elected into government roles. I am hopeful that future generations will not just get lip service, but will have a chance for equality in the workplace.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to younger people as they grow up and, hopefully, have the opportunity to explore and discover their passion and potential?

(LH) Your professional career is a journey, let it unfold. Be open to possibilities. If you are so laser focused, you may miss a great opportunity because you were close-minded. Find a mentor and set goals. Talk to people and learn from their mistakes and their success.

Be patient and be yourself – no one else can do you!

Be wary of comparing yourself to others – everyone is blessed with their own gifts.  It is what you make of them that counts.

Thank you, Lisa and Kathryn.

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Lisa Hooker

Lisa Hooker is a Partner in Odgers Berndtson’s Austin and Silicon Valley offices and a member of the firm’s Technology and Board Practices. With more than 20 years of executive search experience, s...

Kathryn Ullrich

Kathryn Ullrich is a Partner in Odgers Berndtson’s Silicon Valley office and a member of the Technology Practice and leads the Diversity Practice. She focuses on senior executive searches for major...

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