But diversifying our organizations – particularly at the management and leadership levels – has proven difficult. Despite women now comprising well over half of the university-educated population in the US, they make up only 6% of the CEOs. There are only four African American CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, less than 1%.
Numerous articles advising companies how to attract, hire and retain diverse talent illustrate why diversity is easy to integrate into strategies in theory, but challenging to realize in practice: Basic workforce data does not formally capture many facets of diversity, and it is impossible to assess improvement when the baseline is unclear.
We see this as an opportunity to draw attention to the incredible work of promising leaders across regions and celebrate the vision, tenacity and courage that unites this group. We also bring these individuals together regularly and witness how collaboration through diversity unleashes unprecedented energy and resourcefulness around solving unresolved global problems.
Our goal is to create a list of honorees that represents the spectrum of leadership diversity in the world; however, the nominations we receive from the public reflect prevailing assumptions about who and what comprises a leader. In 2016, nearly 65% of the nominations we received from the general public were from North America and Western Europe, and nearly 70% were male. Our nomination link is open to the world at large – anyone can nominate a worthy candidate. So why were we receiving so few female and non-Western nominees?
These figures follow broader trends on who is typically profiled and distinguished as leaders. In 2019, just 20% of profiles on Wikipedia featured women. Despite efforts to increase diversity, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences still receives a preponderance of Western-based, male nominations for the Nobel Prize.
Like other organizations aiming to achieve diversity, we have put concrete practices in place to support more diversity in our membership. We have also looked to experts in our community to as inspiration for our own work.
Evolving research on overcoming unconscious biases helped to inform our first steps to proactively evaluate gaps in our nomination pool. Our team identifies the absence of specific intersectional characteristics – for example, women from South Asia in extractive industries – and seeks to complement public nominations with our own research to fill these gaps. We examine nominations by region, country, sector, gender, ability and ethnicity to actively collaborate with nominators, colleagues and other organizations to find individuals whose leadership deserves recognition but who don’t fit the typical mould.
An important piece of this effort has been to specify the criteria we use to evaluate candidates. For instance, we evaluate candidates based on behaviours aligned to our community’s guiding principles. We also seek to understand their quantifiable impact – in undisputable numbers. This type of “inclusion nudge” aims to help us assess each nomination as objectively as possible.
Lastly, we have integrated structured interviews into the selection process to create more opportunities for interaction and information-gathering on candidates. These include uniform interview guides with questions that gather the same information across candidates, a suggested format and opening question to guide the conversation, and introduction that creates a similar experience. As our organization aims to highlight and invest in leaders whom we believe can lead the world to a more sustainable and inclusive future, we want to understand a candidate’s motivations beyond whatever is publicly available on the internet, and avoid getting distracted by subjective perceptions.
These types of structured exchanges are recommended by companies seeking to avoid confirmation bias in their hiring processes. This method allows us to recruit top leaders with an openness to learn, adapt and co-create innovative approaches to emerging challenges into our community.
Our efforts to translate strategy into tangible change are a work in progress. In 2019, the regional and gender diversity in our candidate pool increased significantly, but we have further to go. As we select this year’s Young Global Leaders, we are conscious of the bridges they will build for new categories of leaders to emerge, and the power they offer in innovating new solutions to challenges we face globally. The dynamism and ingenuity born from spurring collaboration across this group demonstrate the value of diverse teams.
This content was originally published here.