Ageism in Recruiting | What to Do About It

Ageism in Recruiting | What to Do About It

Ageism in Recruiting

ERE Media’s Todd Rafael tackles the hot topic of ageism in recruiting and executive search in an interview with The Good Search CEO Krista Bradford.

Ageism exists.

So it is more a question of what executive recruiters are going to do about it to ensure equal opportunity for all candidate. We must become aware of our own unconscious bias and ensure we’re assessing candidates for the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that they bring to the table, detached from age.

Check Yourself.

So if you are a hiring executive or recruiter and you find yourself describing a candidate as being “long in tooth”, check yourself. One fifth of the working population is over the age of fifty. In the end, you’ll only hurt your own company if you unconsciously discriminate against older workers. Ageism doesn’t hurt the candidate. It hurts your company as well. There’s something to be said for someone who has been-there, done-that. It is unlawful to reject a job-seeker because he or she is over the age of forty. So let us not let Age Discrimination get in the way of good hires. The opportunity cost is too high.

Woman Speaker Mandate #LetHerSpeak

Woman Speaker Mandate #LetHerSpeak

Woman Speaker Shortage

Susan Danziger, the Founder and CEO of Ziggeo, offers up a frank observation in a recent blog post: Spotlighting Females at Conferences: A Mandate for Change.

The woman that’s brought you video technology that lets you record, curate and play videos right from your site probably wishes she could erase recent conferences from her own memory. She’s noticed that at virtually every event, women have been largely missing from the lists of speakers:

“I’m continually gobsmacked how many panels and speaking slots at conferences are still predominantly male.

That, or females serve only as panel moderators or are limited to discussing issues of diversity/gender in the workplace.”

In other words, Susan is utterly astonished, if not astounded, that women are so incredibly under-represented as speakers on conference panels when we make up half the population on the planet. But not one to complain, Susan sees this challenge as an opportunity.

Woman Speaker Solution

True to form, Susan Danziger the entrepreneur, has devised a solution — a reasonable rule to which reasonable people can agree.

Susan calls it a mandate. To elaborate . . . We, the (women) People officially order that public gatherings featuring public speakers diversify.

In her post, Susan spells it out:


In order to highlight women in business, serve as role models for others and present diverse and wide ranging viewpoints that benefit everyone, we agree that conferences, competitions and public gatherings of any kind shall adhere to the following:

1. There shall be no all male panels.

2. We shall strive for a 50:50 male: female ratio of speakers / experts.

3. Women shall not be limited to discussing only topics of gender diversity and women in the workplace.

4. Female moderators do not count as female speakers on panels.

5. No excuses.”

If I may add, new shows should be subject to the same mandate. For example, I would ask the same rules be applied to MSNBC’s guest speakers on the morning news broadcast Morning Joe.

All too often, Mika Brzezinski is the only female on the set, surrounded by a half-dozen or so male guests along with co-host Joe Scarborough.

When that happens, I’ve witnessed an unseemly pack mentality emerges where the banter veers into “boys will be boys” teasing.

Mika does just fine fending for herself, but she should not have to fend quite so often. The author of Knowing Your Value certain knows the value of having women speakers better represented on Morning Joe.  When women representation drops below the 50% mark, let’s suggest they up the women quotient.

To go macro for a moment . . . there will be wall-to-wall speakers featured on June 14th at the first United State of Women Summit. The White House Council on Women and Girls, together with the Department of State, the Department of Labor, the Aspen Institute and Civic Nation, is convening the event tp advocate for gender equality. The large-scale effort will highlight what has been achieved, identify the challenges that remain, and chart the course for addressing them. It runs from 8:30 am to 7:00 pm on June14th. There will then be additional events throughout the following day, June 15th, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. If you can’t be there, tune in on the Live Stream.


Hashtag Campaign

In the interim, there is something we can do to advocate for better representation of women speakers at conferences, events, and news broadcasts. Add your voice to the chorus and pay it forward by sharing with your friends. If we cook up a pithy twitter hashtag, it might even become a viral meme.




The Good Search CEO Diversity Speaker Harvard IT Summit

The Good Search CEO Diversity Speaker Harvard IT Summit

For Immediate Release

The Good Search CEO Krista Bradford is featured diversity speaker at Harvard University’s Sixth Annual IT Summit

Westport, CT: Krista Bradford, the Founder and CEO of The Good Search, LLC, is a featured diversity speaker at the Sixth Annual IT Summit at Harvard University. Ms. Bradford is appearing on on a discussion panel, “Diversity in IT: Challenges and Opportunities”.

Information technology suffers from a lack of diversity. As with many STEM careers, women and minorities remain under-represented in information technology occupations. Although there are promising long-term trends, there are some concerning short-term changes, and we have a long way to go before we reach equality. This presents significant challenges and opportunities for Harvard and the IT community at large. We will discuss the state of diversity at Harvard and other organizations, as well as opportunities to improve the situation and attract exceptional talent from all backgrounds.

Krista Bradford Diversity SpeakerAs, The Good Search CEO, Ms. Bradford has led numerous diversity talent acquisition engagements for some of the most powerful and successful companies in technology. A former investigative reporter and television journalist, she has worked tirelessly to boost diversity at the senior executive level and across technology organizations. Said Ms. Bradford, “I am honored to have been invited to be a participate as one of the diversity speakers and to discuss best practices in diversity. The Harvard University gathering offers unique insights designed to make diversity initiatives more effective.”

The Sixth Annual Summit takes place at Memorial Hall at 45 Quincy Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Thursday, June 2, 2016.

Joining Ms. Bradford in the discussion are the following thought leaders:

Gabriele Fariello, Assistant Dean for Computing and Chief Information Officer, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Andi Karaboutis, Executive Vice President, Technology, Business Solutions, and Corporate Affairs, Biogen

LaVerne Council, Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology and Chief Information Officer, Office of Information and Technology, United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Pratike Patel, Chief Information Officer, Harvard Law School

The Sixth Annual IT Summit is hosted by The CIO Council at Harvard University. It is designed for University IT staff, key partners, and faculty to explore technology innovations and best practices in higher education. Harvard faculty and staff present on a wide variety of IT projects and initiatives. External industry practitioners participate in an exhibition space and lunchtime educational sessions to share information and demonstrate on industry trends and practices.

Join the conversation on Twitter: #itsummit16

About The Good Search, LLC
The Good Search recruits board and senior-level executives and technologists for luminaries in technology and media. Founded by an award-winning investigative journalist, The Good Search delivers candidates clients never dreamed existed; offers flat fee pricing you can trust; and hands over all the research, something traditional firms never do.

If you like the post, please share it with your friends, so more people can enjoy it.


Michelle Obama Lesson in Executive Feminism

Michelle Obama Lesson in Executive Feminism

Executive Feminism Begins with Education

Celebrating International Women’s Day,  the First Lady of the United States spoke on behalf of Let Girls Learn and teaches us a lesson in executive feminism: you can’t get there if you can’t go to school.

First Lady Michelle Obama and the Peace Corps have formed a powerful collaboration to expand access to education for adolescent girls around the world.  62 million girls are not in school: in some countries, fewer than 10% of teenage girls complete secondary school. There are parts of the world that believe girls are not worthy of education.

I’ve included excerpts below from Michelle Obama’s speech below:

” . . . And like many of you, as a woman, I take all of this personally.  While I’m thankful that I’ve never faced anything like the horrors that many of these girls endure, like most women, I know how it feels to be overlooked, to be underestimated, to have someone only half listen to your ideas at a meeting — to see them turn to the man next to you, the man you supervise, and assume he’s in charge — or to experience those whistles and taunts as you walk down the street.


And I’ve seen how these issues play out not just on a personal level, but on a national level in our laws and policies. You see, in my lifetime -– and I’m not that old -– it was perfectly legal for employers to discriminate against women.  In my lifetime, women were not legally allowed to make fundamental decisions about their bodies –- and practically speaking, many still can’t.  In my lifetime, domestic violence was seen as a private matter between a man and his wife rather than as the horrific crime that it is.


And today, it is so easy to take for granted all the progress we’ve made on these kinds of issues.  But the fact is that right now, today, so many of these rights are under threat from all sides, always at risk of being rolled back if we let our guard down for a single minute.


These issues aren’t settled.  These freedoms that we take for granted aren’t guaranteed in stone.  And they certainly didn’t just come down to us as a gift from the heavens.  No, these rights were secured through long, hard battles waged by women and men who marched, and protested, and made their voices heard in courtrooms and boardrooms and voting booths and the halls of Congress.

And make no mistake about it, education was central to every last one of those efforts.  The ability to read, write, and analyze; the confidence to stand up and demand justice and equality; the qualifications and connections to get your foot in that door and take your seat at that table — all of that starts with education.  And trust me, girls around the world, they understand this.  They feel it in their bones, and they will do whatever it takes to get that education . . .

. . . Every single one of us has a role to play on this issue.  And you can start today by going to and find out how to get involved right now.  No contribution is too small, as you can see, because in the end, that’s how we’re going to solve this problem –- one girl, one school, one village at a time, with folks like all of you — particularly our young people — leading the way.

And no, it will not be easy.  And it will not be quick.  But make no mistake about it, we can do this.  If we can make this kind of project — progress in just a year — in just a year — if we keep putting in this effort and this investment that these girls deserve, we can get this done.  I know we are all up to the task.  I know we are.  I see it in your eyes.  I know you feel that burning sensation, that sense of unfairness.  Turn that into action.  Turn that passion into something real.  Those girls will be so grateful, because they are all of us.  They are my daughters, and they are you.”

As we think about diversity and women’s efforts to break the glass ceiling, the First Lady of the United States reminds us that parity for women around the world begins with a girl’s right to learn. Because they are all of us.  It’s crazy that there are so many parts of the world that think girls do not deserve to go to school.  The First Lady, the Peace Corps, and corporations  around the world are pitching in to change that. If you are moved to donate to Let Girls Learn, please do. If you can help in other ways — by getting your company involved, as a for instance — please join in their good efforts. Our collective equality begins with access basic education: Let Girls Learn.

Beyoncé Slay Diversity

Beyoncé Slay Diversity

(Updated 22 Feb 2016)

Okay. So Beyoncé detonates a video the day before the Super Bowl:  Formation.  Ka-blam. Why do I care? I recruit technology executives for a living. And at the senior executive level: diversity matters. So when the Queen B weighs in with her vision, I pay attention. I bear witness to the viral effects that reach across the media landscape. For the many reasons detailed below, I believe her message will help shatter the glass ceiling.

She is Beyoncé: she will be heard.

While it may not be obvious, the ripple effects of media messaging in general are felt at the senior executive level. That’s what study after study demonstrates.  Having spent the first half of my career in television news, I’ve witnessed the power of the mass media first hand. As Red & Black notes:

Super Bowl 50 was the third most-watched program in U.S. history, a number that proves that the Super Bowl is not just about the sport, but the spectacle. And no one delivers more of a spectacle than Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.

Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z run a $1 billion entertainment empire. When you are talking that much money, you have influence. When you entertain in the public eye, your every move can change the world.”

I have updated this post to attempt to answer concerns raised by a reader:

So confused. I honestly see zero correlation between a pop star and her choreographer, and the day-to-day realities of being an executive of color and glass ceilings in the a business environment. #worstcomparisonever”

While the hashtag stung, the criticism seemed valid and called for further explanation:

Throughout history, artists have been outsiders. While they have entertained royal courts and today’s version of royal courts — multinational corporations — they remain on the outside looking in. Beyoncé does not hold the power to affect change directly. She neither legislates nor writes regulations to change the diversity status quo. So the reader makes a good point. But as an artist, Beyoncé does hold the power to change how we feel, and in turn, how we think.

Having spent the past couple of decades married to a man who has performed with the most renowned rock stars in the world: I know pop icons hold the power to move people in ways that politicians do not. Music bypasses the thinking brain and goes straight to the the heart. Music enters the body through the hypothalamus, a portion of the emotional brain layer that receives stimuli related to emotions, sensations, and feelings. That’s what makes the seemingly innocuous creative commentary by pop diva Beyoncé relevant.

Artists are not literal beings. They speak in metaphor. And when Beyoncé speaks, people listen. Formation has set off a chain reaction of diversity consciousness-raising that extends from the Formation debut to a New York Times review to an SNL sendup The Day Beyonce Turned Black  to a freakin’ brilliant Formation dance routine created by choreographer WilldaBeast Adams. Reaction continues to this day.  For the most part, that’s a good thing.

Beyonce Knowles Formation



My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana. You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama. I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros.

I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils. Earned all this money but they never take the country out me. I got a hot sauce in my bag, swag “



The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica weighs in with his review:

In “Formation,” she returns to that city [New Orleans]; this time, she’s in scenes that suggest a fantastical post-Katrina hellscape, but radically rewritten. She straddles a New Orleans police cruiser, which eventually gets submerged (with her atop it). And at the end of the clip, a line of riot-gear-clad police officers surrender, hands raised, to a dancing black child in a hoodie, and the camera then pans over a graffito: Stop Shooting Us.

This is high-level, visually striking, Black Lives Matter-era allegory. The halftime show is usually a locus of entertainment, but Beyoncé has just rewritten it — overridden it, to be honest — as a moment of political ascent.”

Given the power of Beyoncé video, SNL pushed the diversity message further.  If we need to learn to talk about racism — to talk it out — what better classroom than Saturday Night Live?  Comedy, by definition, calls out racism for all its absurdities and contradictions. It is ripe for the pickin’.

And today’s lesson brings us back to  . . .Maya Rudolph. The daughter of soul  producer Richard Rudolph and singer-songwriter Minnie Riperton who was African-American. Rudolph rose to prominence as a cast member on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. On SNL, Maya not only does Beyoncé. She is Beyoncé.

Ultimately, Beyoncé’s message is embodied in Willdabeast Adams’ choreography that her Formation inspired. The dance routine, filmed and edited by Tim Milgram, was uploaded to YouTube just days ago. It already has 4,912,206 7,260,813 (updated) views.  The dancers slay it.

Beyoncé’s ripples wash across the media landscape. Her mashed up racial imagery  — Black Panthers,  #blacklivesmatter, Katrina —  speaks to oppression born of slavery, segregation, police brutality and racial inequality in the criminal justice system, and the poverty cycle. Beyoncé went there because she can.

Spike Lee also went there  — #oscarssowhite — in his boycott of the Oscars over lack of nominee diversity.  A New York Times article covering the boycott referenced a study that showed how television lowers the self esteem of children with the exception of white boys.   “Television was linked to lower self-esteem among black and white girls and black boys; white boys, however, reportedly felt better.” A Los Angeles Times investigation found academy members — the people whose votes decide who wins the Oscars —  skew heavily older, male and white. In fact, 94% were white. As a result of Spike Lee boycott — joined by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith — The Academy is changing its rules on which members will be eligible to vote. The jury is still out on whether those changes will have an effect when voting has nothing to do with what movies get made, who gets cast to play starring roles, or who gets hired for other vitally important roles behind the scenes.

Again, what does this have to do with the day-to-day realities of being an executive of color and glass ceilings in the a business environment?

Good question.

I consider myself and executive feminist and diversity advocate. I do a lot of work helping companies boost diversity at the senior executive level. Still, somehow I failed to notice women are insanely under-represented in crowd shots in films, as detailed in a McKinsey video interview with actor Geena Davis. How could I have missed something so obvious. MS. Davis leads an organization that studies gender bias. She teaches us that we all carry unconscious bias.  We can’t help it.  So this isn’t about blame.  The solution lies in becoming more aware of the biases within and outside ourselves. To that end, Formation is part of the solution.

Formation has sparked myriad conversations about racial parity. Despite what you think of the artist or her commentary, Beyoncé’s video cannot help but be heard in the C-Suite. She may not lead a Fortune 100 company, but she comes in at #29 on the Forbes 2015 Celebrity 100 . That’s Forbes, mind you, a magazine all about business.  While Beyoncé does not hire senior executives to a traditional boardroom or C-suite, when she does hire she features an all female band because role models matter.

She holds the power to spark conversation,  if not controversy. And in this long-tail world of ours, that’s saying something. Her super-stardom signal breaks through through all the “white noise” out there. She is featured in myriad TV advertising campaigns — representing highly regarded consumer products that range from Pepsi to Samsung to L’Oréal.  In other words, Beyoncé has coin and she makes coin for some of the most successful companies in the world. You and I know that’s the kind of power CEOs everywhere recognize. That is why, inevitably,Beyoncé will be heard. It is why what she says has influence at the highest corporate levels.

Beyoncé gets that. She told us so:

Okay ladies, now let’s get in formation, I slay
Okay ladies, now let’s get in formation
You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation
Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper”


Retained Search Firm Diversity Video

Retained Search Firm Diversity Video

Retained Search Firm Diversity Video

It is reasonable to wonder whether the lack of retained search firm diversity has a bearing on the diversity of the senior executives and board members that they recruit.  That’s what I talk about in our latest video, a follow-on to my recent blog post Search Firm Diversity Impact on Executive Hires. In that post, I featured a table detailing retained search firm diversity. In the absence of self identification, we made educated guessed as to the gender and ethnic/racial diversity of those leading the most highly regarded retained executive search firms in the world.

Search FirmNameTitleGenderDiversity
Heidrick & StrugglesTracy R. WolstencroftChief Executive OfficerMaleWhite
Spencer StuartKevin M. ConnellyChief Executive OfficerMaleWhite
Russell ReynoldsClarke MurphyChief Executive OfficerMaleWhite
Korn FerryGary D. BurnisonChief Executive OfficerMaleWhite
DHR InternationalGeoff Hoffmann Chief Executive OfficerMaleWhite
Egon ZehnderRajeev VasudevaChief Executive OfficerMaleAsian
Witt/KiefferCharles W.B. Wardell, IIIChief Executive OfficerMaleWhite
Caldwell PartnersJohn N. WallaceChief Executive OfficerMaleWhite
Diversified SearchDale Elton JonesChief Executive OfficerMaleBlack/African-American
Stanton ChaseMickey MatthewsInternational Chairman
Managing Director
BoydenTrina GordonPresident & CEOFemaleWhite
Herbert Mines AssociatesHal ReiterChairman & CEOMaleWhite
Slayton Search PartnersRichard SlaytonManaging Partner & CEOMaleWhite
Ferguson PartnersWilliam J. FergusonChairman & CEOMaleWhite
On PartnersTim ContiCo-Founder & Managing PartnerMaleWhite
JM SearchJohn C. MarshallChief Executive OfficerMale White
Morgan SamuelsBert HensleyChairman & CEOMaleWhite
Odgers BerndtsonRichard Boggis-RolfeChairmanMaleWhite
Allen AustinRob AndrewsChairman & CEOMaleWhite

Is Retained Search Firm Diversity Really the Problem?

Some well-meaning, enlightened retained search firm partners and hiring executives may be discriminating against those who do not resemble the power elite — which last I checked remains white and male. Moreover, common sense suggests there is likely a correlation between the lack of retained search diversity and the paucity of diverse candidates in the executive suite. However, it is crazy complicated.

Retained Search Firms Are Part of the Solution

Other data suggest that retained search firms are very much part of the solution. If it weren’t for them, they’d likely be fewer diverse candidate than the few we have at the senior executive and board level. Case in point? A study by the Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West entitledGender Diversity in Silicon Valley A Comparison of Silicon Valley Public Companies and Large Public Companies. On page 14, it goes on to report:

nominating committees and board members as a whole often start their search for board candidates by looking in their own networks of contacts (even if a professional search firm is also retained), and smaller companies often do not retain a professional search firm to find board candidates — reducing the chance that women will be represented in the candidate pool for some boards due to idiosyncratic network effects.

When You Check Your Network, Check Yourself

By depending their own networks — when one’s own networks tend to be homogenous — boards of directors are perpetuating the white male status quo. The utter irony is that they are perpetuating the status quo when the members of those boards are among the most politically progressive and enlightened leaders of the free world. I trust that the majority of the really do want diverse leadership.  Checking your own network for referrals is a natural impulse. It is fast, It is easy. You get pre-referenced candidates that speed through to hire. In so many ways, it makes sense. It is a senior level employee referral and employee referrals are among the most effective way to recruit, right? That’s what HR consultants advise. Yet by turning to our own networks, leaders are unwittingly discriminating against those who do not run in our same circles. It is a form of unconscious bias. Just when we thought we were evolved and become a better version of ourselves, unconscious bias comes back to bite us in the end.

Unconscious Bias Consciousness

Everyone has unconscious bias. It is what makes us human.  The trick is to become aware of that tendency and, as leaders, to check ourselves. We have the power, collectively, to fix this thing so all deserving candidates get a fair shot.  If we believe those who have worked hard to become the best of the best deserve the best opportunities, then let’s prove it.  If we believe in meritocracy, then check ourselves and and the companies we lead to make sure that all those who merit consideration really are considered. Let’s make sure the best person for the job really gets it — especially at the senior executive and board level.

When the Best Person for the Job Happens to Be Diverse

When the Best Person for the Job Happens to Be Diverse

Companies seeking to boost executive diversity frequently will say that they want a top performer who “happens to be diverse”. The phrase gets tacked on as a kind of afterthought, suggesting diversity plays no role in the minds of the stakeholders involved. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In an ideal world, we are to be color and gender blind.  Yet most of us are not blind. Psychological studies have proven we register “other” race and gender as babies before we can walk and talk. We become afraid of “strangers”. Our pulse quickens. In other words, we come wired to discriminate. Yet studies also show while our lizard brain discriminates, as our thinking brain kicks in, we check ourselves. Our pulse slows.  The more educated we are, the better able we are to tame the unconscious bias within.

So Diversity is Awkward. Let’s Get Over It.

Some business leaders stick their heads in the sand, wishing conversations about diversity didn’t have to happen. But avoidance doesn’t work. Diversity is here to stay. So the question becomes how best to talk about diversity when race, ethnicity and gender is so very . . . personal. It speaks to who we are. Still, those of us who care about fairness find a way to talk about it when it isn’t easy and is often awkward. Diversity dialog often devolves into linguistic pretzels. The following scene from the hit TV series Silicon Valley pretty much nails it as the team discusses engineering candidate Carla Walton.

Jared Dunn: You know what else excites me here? There’s a distinct overrepresentation of men in this company. Look around. I think it would behoove us to prioritize hiring a woman.

Bertram Gilfoyle: I disagree O.J. We should hire the best person for the job. Period.

Dinesh Chugtai: And Carla is one of the best.

Jared Dunn: Right. Let me rephrase. I think having a woman in the company is important, but hiring someone only because they’re a woman is bad. I’d never compromise Pied Piper.

Richard Hendriks: Okay. But, just to be clear, our top priority is to hire the most qualified person available, right?

Jared Dunn: Of course.

Dinesh Chugtai: But it would be better if that someone was a woman, even if the woman part of that statement is irrelevant?

Jared Dunn: Exactly. It’s like we’re the Beatles and now we just need a Yoko.

Dinesh Chugtai: That’s the worst example he could have used.


Have you struggled with how best to talk about diversity or witnessed others struggle with it? Any instructive or entertaining anecdotes?



The Race for Technology Company Diversity

The Race for Technology Company Diversity

The Race for Technology Company Diversity

Increasingly technology company diversity is in the public spotlight. Some of the most prominent technology companies in the country once again have made their diversity data public. The diversity statistics offer insight that, just a few years ago, was scarce in the tech world. A new culture of diversity transparency has emerged. It is a trend that extends from Amazon to Yahoo and includes Cisco, Intel, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and LinkedIn. In fact, the release of diversity data is serving as a catalyst. Now that the EEO statistics are there for all to see, technology companies seem more motivated than ever to become more diverse. The race for technology company diversity is on.

Technology Company Diversity

What the Data Tell Us

Across every technology company, the EEO data confirm what many tech professionals already know to be true: there is little racial, ethnic and gender diversity within America’s tech giants. There’s even less diversity at the top among managers and senior executives. The utter irony is that the lack of diversity exists in one of the most progressive corporate cultures in the business world.

Diversity is Hard to Do

At most of the technology companies mentioned, the lack of diversity at the senior executive level is not for want of trying.  Most tech companies have invested heavily in diversity initiatives. For more than a decade, The Good Search has partnered with a number of technology companies on executive diversity initiatives. We have successfully recruited brilliant senior executives and technologists (who also happen to be diverse) into high profile leadership roles.

But work in diversity is a little like whack-a-mole.  Gains in one column can be offset by losses in another, such as the exits key diverse executives through attrition. Still, in recent years, valuable lessons have been learned and serious research is mounting on what actually does work to give diversity a boost, particularly at the C-Level. (McKinsey’s Diversity Matters by Vivian HuntDennis Layton, and Sara Prince is a must-read for any CEO seeking to increase leadership diversity.)

State of the State of Technology Company Diversity

Analysis of the most recent equal employment opportunity (EEO) data show that while none of the companies examined has achieved a diverse workplace, some are marginally more successful than others. Measured by the percentage of the overall staff who are women, LinkedIn rises to the top. Slightly more than 38 percent of LinkedIn’s employees are women. Since women make up half the workforce, that still means LinkedIn remains 24% away from gender parity.

Microsoft has made headway on its executive leadership team. Three of the 12 members of the executive team are women, including Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood.  Microsoft ‘s 2015 EEO data shows an overall workforce that is less than 24 percent female. Among the 155 employees Microsoft considers its leadership, 18 are women or fewer 12 percent of leaders.

Diverse Executive Supply and Demand

The demand for diverse executive talent is increasing, while the supply remains constrained. The very economics of it is resulting in a talent war for top performing diverse executives. Yet, many tech companies vying for experienced women executives find that many of the top contenders have chosen to leave the workforce altogether. The recruiting battles at technology companies that are fierce to begin with, have become even more fierce with the exist of some of technology’s most gifted women.

Google has captured two spots on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list for 2015, its CFO and the head of YouTube, even as its overall workforce is overall workforce is about 28 percent women.

When considering success in hiring black or African-American employees, Amazon is markedly better than other companies. More than 14 percent of Amazon’s employees are black.

CompanyEEO YearTotal EmployeesBlack
Percent Black
Percent White
AsianPercent AsianHispanic/LatinoPercent Hispanic/Latino

White and Male at the Top

The diversity gap exists — in fact, it is magnified — within the ranks of senior leadership at leading technology companies. While EEO data collections allow individual companies to define leadership, and those definitions vary to sometimes include managers and alternately include only top-level executives, it remains true that leadership remains even less diverse than overall workforces.

Google and Twitter count no Hispanic or Latino executives among their leadership teams; Amazon tallies one black leader on its team. In fact, seven of the 10 companies we’ve examined are at least three-quarters white.

At Apple, which reports 103 employees in leadership roles, more than 80 percent of leaders are white.

Apple Leadership Diversity


% White


% Asian


% Black


% Hispanic/Latino

EEO reports don’t require companies to list what roles people of color fill as leaders, but those employees at the highest levels — C suite executives — often are even more homogenous. At Apple, the top leaders are an all-white team. Apple lists one African-American vice president who also is a woman in a human-resources role.

Slow Growth

It’s difficult to say how quickly the tech industry should be reshaping their workforces to more accurately reflect a more diverse world, but what’s certain is that their employee diversity isn’t changing quickly. Take Twitter, where nearly 60 percent of employees are white and roughly one-third are Asian. Hispanic or Latino, black and employees who identify with two or more races make up the remaining 10 percent. 

Since Twitter first released its data, little has changed in a significant way. The attention brought by transparency has value.  It is prompting Twitter to rededicate itself to creating a more diverse workforce.

The release of equal employment opportunity data is serving as a catalyst for change. The EEO data has proven that technology companies are not as diverse as they say they want to be. That is bringing about political pressure for improvements from myriad stakeholders — employees, customers, politicians, and academics.  Becoming more diversity builds social capital with the stakeholders involved and it there’s a financial benefit a well. McKinsey & Co. research found that companies with greater gender equality and ethnic diversity are likely to outperform their less-diverse peers. 

Gender Pay Gap Stats

Gender Pay Gap Stats

Newsflash: there’s a gender pay gap. Women make less than men in the developed world.

(Okay, okay. We know this already. This is just my clumsy attempt at wry humor in face of the latest reminder that we female types have a ways to go to achieve parity . . .)

The latest statistics on the gender pay gap come from Forbes and Statista.  Check out their infographic. Then if you wish things were better share it, pin it, or otherwise pass it on.

Gender Pay Gap

In an article entitled How Pronounced Is The Gender Pay Gap In Developed Nations?, Forbes contributor and data journalist Niall McCarthy writes:

There is still a considerable disparity in what men and women earn across the developed world. Research by the OECD has shown just how pronounced the gender pay gap really is.”

You’ll note South Korea tops the list, discounting the equal work of women by some 36%. Our friends in New Zealand are doing something right . . .or right-er. They have the teensiest gap of just 5.6%. Kind of like sales tax, only its tax on our femaleness, apparently.

(Wouldn’t it be great if we could deduct the gender tax come tax time?)

I share these things not to depress you. Rather, I do so to invite your comments as we — men and women alike — collectively puzzle over ways to make things better.

To that end, what do you make of the gender pay gap? What would you do to fix it?


Silicon Valley Wants Black Coders. What’s The Issue?

Silicon Valley Wants Black Coders. What’s The Issue?

Silicon Valley Companies Say They Want Black Coders

Ken Chenault is not a black coder. He has a B.A. in history from Bowdoin College and and J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is the CEO of American Express. I had the good fortune to get to know him years ago. Our children attended Fieldston together, a private school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. He is one of the most accomplished CEOs of the Fortune 500.  He has been the CEO and Chairman of American Express since 2001. That’s no easy feat. He is the third black CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

He’s Not a Black Coder, But Stay With Me .. .

Kenneth I. Chenault

Kenneth I. Chenault Chairmain & CEO American Express

His commencement address at Howard University details how his father and mother met and fell in love there. His wife’s grandfather was an early architect at the University. His mother-in-law and father-in-law both are graduates.  What does Ken Chenault have to do with black coders in  Silicon Valley?


In a Fortune Magazine article, he detailed a $25 trillion dollar opportunity. American Express is embedded in the technology platforms that matter.  There are five platforms that matter to the future of payments: Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Alibaba. American Express will be embedded in each.

In other words, technology companies may deliver the connections and the content. But American Express delivers the money.

To deliver said money, American Express had to build a more scalable and cost-effective back-end data processing infrastructure. To do, American Express had to move away from the traditional data warehouses and more into a new Hadoop stack. It is the back-end system for a slew of new services that are driving revenues for the company.

American Express is all about the technology. American Express built the technology infrastructure through which trillions of dollars flow. While Senior Vice President, Enterprise Technology Head of Data and Digital Sastry Durvasula, and Vice President of Information Management and Integration Kevin Murray built the thing,  CEO Ken Chenault leads the charge.  He is the ultimate technology commander-in-chief.

Mr. Chenault’s leadership is visionary and unstoppable. Though he did not attend Howard University, he shared how his parents, like other graduates, left the University confident they would meet what the writer Albert Murray called our “indelible ancestral imperative to do something and become something and be somebody.” The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Black Coders Like Us

So how is it that Silicon Valley has determined black coders — Howard engineering graduates — are somehow not worthy?

Black Coders - Coders Like Us Bloomberg BusinessWeek CoverGranted, this whole tech diversity thing is complicated. Still Bloomberg Businessweek reports in excruciating detail in Coders Like Us how multiple diversity ambassadors from the leading Silicon Valley technology firms were sent to Howard University. They came, they saw, and they failed to conquer the vast racial divide.

While African-Americans comprise 13% of the U.S. population, just 1% of coders at Google, Facebook, and other leading Silicon Valley tech companies are black. If it is so very hard for Silicon Valley Companies to hire deserving black coders,  you can draw straight line from that gap up to the lack of diversity at the senior executive level.

Again, I come from a place of wanting to fix this thing. We all have unconscious bias. We humans are born that way. We must become mindful of the bias within. That is why so many technology company with so many well-intended diversity programs still have trouble achieving parity. There are things that can work against all those diversity initiatives: employee referrals for one. They have a way of perpetuating homogenous populations, unwinding the best-laid plans for leadership diversity. I’ve witnessed that first-hand.

So, if you happen to be a CEO or hiring executive seated at a technology company that you wish were more diverse, let’s talk. We can do this. My firm has worked on numerous diversity initiatives. We have seen what works and what up-ends the process. While it is complicated: it doesn’t have to be that hard.  American Express CEO Ken Chenault offers insights in a sit-down with Stanford Business School:

Bloomberg Businessweek has re-started the conversation. It did so by asking a simple question about black coders, which it subsequently explores in the must-read article by Vauhini Vara:

Silicon Valley companies all say they want black engineers. So why don’t they hire them?”

I ask the question again here today. I welcome your thoughtful answers and suggestions.