Corporate Diversity: Is the Leadership Pipeline Balanced or Broken?

Updated: May 6

Talent is the lifeblood of progressive, successful organisations. The importance of diversity and inclusion across the leadership talent cannot be understated.

It helps to establish, and advance, the development of innovative products and services through enhanced creativity and the diversity of ideas and experience.

Developing diverse and inclusive companies is paramount for securing a range of business benefits that enhance productivity, motivation and a range of other positives.

Diversity and Inclusion is integral to talent pipeline

Talent Acquisition leaders understand the need to attract highly talented candidates to enable best in class results.

Countless studies show that increased diversity, at both team and leadership level, mean better business results.

In the UK, latest figures show that of a Black and Ethnic total population percentage of 14%, only 6% of top management positions are held by individuals from this group. There are only 6 Black or ethnic CEO's across the FTSE 100 index of leading companies.

Similarly, women represented only 7 positions at CEO level across the FTSE 100 index, as at June 2018.

Reports suggest that diversity is lacking within the senior leadership levels of UK corporate organisations. This is incongruous, with the fact that the talent pipeline suggests that there are indeed, suitable candidates, across industries, that can readily fill these positions.

There is no doubt that there remains, either a lack of understanding, at best, or an unwillingness, at worst, to create meaningfully diverse leadership.

Is Diverse Leadership Really Seen as a 'Must Have'?

In common with society in general, businesses face challenges with diversity and inclusion. The issues of inequality and lack of representation can only be addressed through sustainable means, if leaders are able to take a broad point of view on diversity.

Diversity is part of the 'Best for Business' philosophy

Diversity and inclusion is part of the frameworks of business growth and leadership development.

It is an essential part of people and leadership development, helping to align success with creativity and innovation.

Essentially, it is a component of the 'best for business' philosophy. It is part of the core values that support staff teams, customers and clients.

It is part of the agenda for producing talented, competent and confident leadership, that is able to use its diversity to enhance business results.

Piecemeal activities cannot be allowed to allude towards diversity, whilst evading meaningful and actual and meaningful representation in business.

What is needed is a concerted effort from across the corporate sector to change the situation, once and for all.

No longer can the mantra of 'not being able to find qualified and experienced candidates for leadership roles', be posited as an excuse for the prevailing situation.


The need for corporate inclusion resides here, in our time, in our space. There can be little hope for future generations to address this issue, when the resources and intellect necessary to change this situation are currently available.

Diversity and Inclusion is a must for the corporate agenda and requires high level commitment and endorsement to make it a reality, in our time.

Recently, as the debate on diversity and inclusion heats up again, Eve Roodhouse, Chief Executive of Economic Development at Leeds City Council, said at a Women in Leadership event at Leeds Beckett Business Centre:

"Male dominated environments are already being reflected in the output of artificial intelligence and machine learning."

"We know intuitively that diversity matters. It's also increasingly clear that there is an evidence base for it."

Ms. Roodhouse, suggests diversity will be key for the fourth industrial revolution:

" Its also clear that as we go through the fourth industrial revolution, we need to think about diversity if we don't want to have solutions that are built for us , as a society that have bias built into them." Eve Roodhouse - Chief Executive, Economic Development, Leeds City Council


Diversity and Inclusion is a must for the corporate agenda.

There cannot be a narrow focus on how business develops its human capital, in a fair and equitable way.

Nor can there be any barriers to advancement for any employee, who has the necessary capabilities, and career ambitions, to progress to the highest levels of leadership.

The fundamental purpose of any business is to create, develop and sell products and services to consumers. An integral part of these business activities is to create value for shareholders. It is also important to understand that corporate organisations have a broad, salient purpose in the world... to enact fairness and social responsibility

The point is that to be socially relevant, businesses must develop a purpose that goes far beyond making money for shareholders.

Corporate organisations, spend millions on CSR activities, supporting real social and economic causes across the globe.

What is interesting is that many of these companies lack diversity in any real, impactful way, across their executive leadership persona. This poses a range of interesting questions, related to trust and authenticity.

There is a seemingly an inability for some leaders in the Corporate sector, to foster true diversity and inclusion within. Herein lies the problem.

Diversity - Climbing the Corporate Ladder.

Employees are motivated to work for companies where they can develop and have a fair chance personal development.

The ability to climb the corporate ladder and advance within the company, if desired, is intrinsic to employee motivation. It enhances productivity, and employee trust and satisfaction levels.

Diverse talent acquisition and development processes are inextricably linked to increasing openness and trust with a brand. This is important to both internal and external facing activities.

Advancement into leadership positions

Corporate boards, talent and HR leaders, and executive management must become more proactive in leading sustainable change.

Re-framing organisational culture, to support inclusion, is necessary to advance women and Black employees, into leadership positions.

Making systemic changes to the ways in which talent is sourced, and supported within the business, can provide some redress to current imbalances.

To make the systemic changes that positively impact and advance results, corporate boards, CEOs, and executive management must actively lead change and drive purposeful solutions.

Understanding Bias and Leadership Group Think.

One of the main challenges to advancing diversity across the leadership space, is that of leadership group think. Most corporate boards are comprised of men, often from similar educational and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Lack of diversity in leadership encourages group think

Lack of diversity at the corporate executive level, ensures that leadership is likely to view the issue, and solutions to it, in very similar ways.

This is known as homogeneous group think. It is hard to advance the necessary changes, without the diversity of thought that diversity brings.

The problem here, is that senior leadership is often replicated in its own image. All too often future leaders are honed from an early stage, and come from similar social and educational backgrounds.

Top talent is not the preserve of any particular social, gender or racial background.

It is, evident, through both empirical and quantitative research, that on the whole, corporations in the UK have been shown to lack in diversity in leadership.

Corporate entities are remiss of the processes to procure a robust, diverse and ultimately inclusive leadership.

Is this an issue of closed group thinking, brought on by unconscious bias or some necessity to preserve the status quo?

Corporate leadership often replicates its own image

Whatever the reasons, corporate organisations are missing out on top

talent and an inclusive brand image.

The ability to think creatively and increase innovation, by maintaining an exclusive status quo, is the perverse outcome of maintaining group think and lack of leadership inclusion.

This fact is not lost on some key players within industry.

Theresa McHenry, HR Director at Microsoft UK has been quoted in the Financial Times:

"The point isn't to get people to accept they have biases, but to get them to see [for themselves] that those biases have negative consequences for others." - Theresa McHenry, HR Director, Microsoft UK

Regrettably, unconscious bias would appear to be a pervasive and entrenched reality.

This certainly, is not an image that any corporate entity desires, but is the reality for many corporate brands.

Rather than promoting inclusion to build brand equity, many boards seemingly act to preserve homogeneity. This, at the expense of fairness and the development of diversity and human capital.

Diverse Leadership supports Added Value.