Diversity in Executive Search and Leadership Consulting

Diversity has long been a cornerstone of the profession, but something changed in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. “It was almost like a sledgehammer to the head, a wake-up call to the opportunity we had as a profession to truly be leaders.” Karen Greenbaum, President and CEO of the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) describes what happened within the leadership of AESC. “Clarke Murphy, the CEO of Russell Reynolds, sent me a text at 7:00 am on a Friday. I won’t forget it, with the headline ‘Black Lives Matter’ saying, ‘can we talk?’”

Greenbaum immediately called Clarke back, and within a few days, they were convening a meeting of the CEOs of some of the largest and most influential search firms. “We had eight CEOs who came together, all competitors, all CEOs. We had some of the largest firms in the world represented. We had the largest woman-led firm represented. We had the largest Black-led firm represented. And we decided that what we wanted to do is begin by creating a CEO pledge, pledging the commitment of our member firms to diversity and that we wanted to quickly follow that pledge with action because we knew that a pledge was not enough.”

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