A Study in Gender Diversity: How We Can Advance More Women To the C-Suite

October 1, 2020

By: IQTalent

Gender Diversity in Leadership: How We Can Advance More Women to the C-Suite


Diversity in the workplace has taken center stage in today’s corporate environment, and it’s more important than ever to ensure every role shares in having a diverse talent pool. However, one area that continues to lag behind with its diversity efforts is executive roles for women. In 2019, just 33 women occupied the role of CEO across America’s Fortune 500 companies. Although this number is small, it was a 30% increase from the previous year. Advancing women in the C-suite is a growing trend, but in order for the trend to become the norm, biases must be overcome and a real emphasis must be placed on gender diversity in leadership roles.


IQTalent Partners CEO, David Windley, sat down with Hunt Scanlon to offer his insight as to why women are not equally represented in the C-suite and what companies can do to attract more women leaders.


Why haven’t we made more progress hiring women in the C-suite and as CEOs?

Windley: I believe there are two types of biases that continue to hold us back from making faster progress on this issue. Institutional bias and the unconscious bias that we all have as humans. Institutional bias is when our institutional processes lead to a biased outcome. One example is when we lean primarily on our networks to find candidates at the board and C-suite level. If a predominantly male C-suite relies on their networks that tend to be other men, then that process yields a biased result. It is not that individuals are intentionally trying to discriminate, but the process they use tends to create biased results.

Unconscious bias is trickier. We all are influenced by the societies we grow up in, the messages we hear, and the constructs we learn. Why is it that study after study shows that we view the same behavior differently for men versus women? Why is a man “assertive” or “strong” for the same behavior that a woman is labeled “bossy”?

@IQTalent CEO, David Windley, sat down with @HuntScanlon to discuss why women are not equally represented in the C-suite and what companies can do to attract more #womenleaders. Check out the conversation:Click to Tweet

Given this, what do companies need to do to attract more women leaders?

Windley: I don’t think we have an attraction problem; we have a selection problem. I think women are attracted to board and C-suite jobs as much as men. The issue is in how we select people for the job, not in who we attract.


Okay, then what do companies need to do to select more women in C-suite roles?

Windley: First, look at your processes. Make sure that your process will yield a diverse set of candidates. Don’t just rely on your networks or on your search firm’s network. Second, in the assessment and interview process, try to have a diverse interview team. I also have seen panel interviews work well. It allows the debrief to uncover different perspectives based on a common data set.


What is the one piece of advice that you would give a woman seeking a C-suite position?

Windley: While we will all continue to work on eliminating bias from the system, understand that networking is still critical. Many roles are filled through networking. Build your network.


Looking for a more in-depth analysis of gender diversity in the C-suite? Hunt Scanlon put together a detailed look at the challenges, the solutions, and the successes of women in leadership. Check out their 2020 Next-Gen Talent Leadership Report: Advancing Women in the C-Suite.


Need to add some diversity to your next executive search? IQTalent Partners can help. We’re experts in gender diversity and in finding the right fit for every leadership role. Schedule a free consultation today.

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