Headhunter: A Female Executive’s Best Friend?

According to studies, sponsors are the key to helping women advance into the C-Suite in business. But finding the right sponsor, not mentor, can be very difficult. But another alternative for acting as a support and leverage system for women trying to get a seat on the board could be headhunters.

These headhunters or executive search consultants can act as external sponsors which is crucial for anyone hoping to get a spot on a board of a major company. Phoebe Miles, a consultant at headhunting firm Augmentum Consulting said:

Although headhunters are driven by the clients (the employers), not the candidate, it is fair to say that good search consultants will work with the whole executive community – with talented women and men from a wide variety of backgrounds and career types – and provide professional development information and advice.

Headhunters present an advantage to women looking to move up because their job is pretty much to already do that. They would be meeting and talking with women and helping to place them in companies by pitching their talents as a candidate. Headhunters also have great knowledge of the executive level network which contains the women who need to be recruited for the boardroom level.  “Whilst headhunters should not be singled out, their scope and ability in being able to help women develop their experience and careers to match the boardroom criteria can and should broaden,” said Miles.

Using headhunters to help increase the number of women on company boards, without quotas, was one of Lord Davies’ recommendations for getting FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies to get 25% female board representation by 2015. But it was revealed this week that only 33 of the FTSE 100 have set targets in response to Lord Davies’, London’s Business Minister, call. And the U.S. is in worse shape in terms of women on boards. Only seven of the top 100 companies in the Fortune 500 are headed by women.

The overall point of Lord Davies’ recommendations was to not only fix the lack of women on the board problem but also to fix the “talent pipeline” which means making the women at the mid-manager and executive committee level better so they can be recruited by chairmen. And who better to help them with that than a headhunter?


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