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International Women's Day 2020: An Interview with Matt Wood

Posted on March 2020

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​The race is on for a gender equal workforce throughout the supply chain. Women now occupy 39% of the total supply chain workforce but only 11% of C-suite positions. Matthew Wood, director of DSJ Global, Europe, discusses the unique position that recruiters play in furthering gender equality in end-to-end supply chain.

The 2020 International Women’s Day theme is that an equal world is an enabled world. What does that mean to you in end-to-end supply chain?

The key to gender equality starts with talking about it. People have unconscious biasesthat's just a fact. But there's more incentive than ever before for people to question their implicit biases. The evidence for the business case for gender diversity has never been stronger, as shown in our report Gender Diversity: The Commercial Imperative. So for organizations engaging with gender equality in the supply chain is not just the right thing to do morally, it also impacts their bottom line. Report after report, and real-life case after real-life case, show that the more diverse teams are in all aspects, including gender, the more likely they are to challenge each other's ways of thinking and working; resulting in greater innovation and financial performance than their less diverse counterparts. But, none of that can happen without talking about equality. There needs to be freedom to ask questions. If people are made to feel bad about having unconscious biases, they probably won't change. However, if they feel they can talk about their concerns, for example when evaluating a candidate as part of an interview panel, these issues can be discussed and addressed directly and ultimately reduce biased decision-making.

Is gender equality a topic that often comes up in conversations with your clients?

Yes, a lot of bigger companies have very specific programs around diversity. Some clients ask for gender-balanced shortlists. Some clients take it a step further and take positive action to choose a female candidate when deciding between candidates of equal quality and experience. For the largest, more mature companies, they tend to be very aware of the importance of gender diversity and are quite overt about communicating their formal goals and objectives to increase female representation to their internal and external stakeholders.

Day-to-day, I've also had conversations with professionals who have expressed that gender diversity is something that matters to them. Often, the topic comes up in conversations about working out what a 'good' cultural fit looks like for their business, or to challenge existing gender-biased behaviors or culture in their team. So it's a combination of different conversations where the topic comes up. A lot of times, clients mention diversity when they are proud of how varied and inclusive their teams are. Whether that's in terms of gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation, languages, disability or something elsethat's always great to hear.

However, I've also experienced situations where a client has given a clear indication that they would prefer to hire someone who shares a certain gender or nationalitynormally someone who 'looks like them'. Either way, if they are looking to hire based on factors that are not relevant to whether someone can do the job, it's very important to challenge them. Without being too confrontational, there needs to be a productive conversation on why they have these preferences. It might be a company policy or just their personal opinion, but it's important to highlight how the employer might lose out on top talent to their competitors by excluding applicants from their candidate pool. But this often requires experience and confidence from the recruiter, as it can sometimes be a tough conversation. This leads back to the first point, that communication is key.

What role can recruiters play in creating an equal world?

First of all, as recruiters we shouldn't discriminate against anyone seeking employment—we have to interrogate and challenge our own unconscious biases when putting candidates forwards for a role. Secondly, as specialists and talent experts, we have the nuance and skill to navigate and start these challenging conversations with employers and potential employees. Many companies miss out on their preferred candidates or on the opportunity to hire somebody, not because they necessarily are biased, but because they may be perceived as so. Candidates, in most cases, don't voice any concerns around a company's lack of diversity or poor experience in the hiring process directly. By having a neutral third party like a recruiter involved, we can help solve any potential misconceptions. At the same time, with 80% of our candidates not actively looking for new employment, the recruiter plays the roles of an advocate for the company. We have to take the candidate on a journey and tell a story about the company, which can include addressing any issues around perceived bias and educating candidates on the true company culture. For many companies, this is not possible without a specialist recruiter.

What advice would you give to a company trying to create a diverse hiring strategy?

At DSJ Global, we are in a fortunate position to leverage our collective experience. As part of the Phaidon International group, we have access to an even wider network of consultants who work in different industries across the globe. This insight enables us to give candidates and clients a window into the lessons supply chain can learn from other sectors. We can offer a pharmaceutical company a glimpse into what an automotive company does, an automotive company a glimpse into what a bank does and so on. Every industry has different issues, experiences and solutions to increasing diversity and inclusion, with of course individual teams, companies and management having their own obstacles. There's an awful lot to learn. Comparing yourself to how you or your business have always done things or tried to tackle a problem is only going to get you so far. It's really good to be reflective, but comparing yourself to how best-in-industry does it is a different story. And going further, comparing yourself to how the best in a different industry handles things can be even more eye opening. It's really important to broaden your horizons.

Matthew Wood leads DSJ Global, Europe, in our mission to solve the number one challenge in end-to-end supply chain: talent. Get in touch with Matthew for advice on how to create a diverse hiring strategy in end-to-end supply chain.

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