Can GC Succession Planning Drive Diversity? | February 25, 2021

The article, "Can GC Succession Planning Drive Diversity?" quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Cynthia Dow and is based on our report, "Fortune 500 General Counsel Succession: Leveling the Playing Field to Create Equity." The article is excerpted below.

Some of the largest companies in the U.S. are failing to develop thoughtful general counsel succession plans and are holding diverse candidates to a higher bar than their white male counterparts must clear, according to a new report from management consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates.

Diversity progress at the GC level for Fortune 500 companies has been relatively glacial in recent years. Gender and ethnic diversity for GC appointments averaged 42% and 20% from 2017 to 2020, respectively. In 2020, 45% of the GC hires were women, and 22% were ethnically diverse, according to RRA’s report. 

Still, the corporate diversity push has “positive momentum that has built over time and will likely continue to move forward,” the report states. Companies could accelerate the progress by improving internal development efforts for diverse GC candidates.

According to the report, external GC hires are twice as likely to be ethnically diverse and are 20% more likely to be women, which indicates that companies and existing GCs aren’t doing a stellar job when it comes to grooming internal, diverse legal talent to take the reins of the legal department.

“That pointed us to encourage corporates, GCs, their heads of HR, CEOs, to have a robust approach to talent pipeline development,” said Cynthia Dow, the Boston-based leader of RRA’s legal, regulatory and compliance officers practice.

“Usually, the single biggest piece that candidates are usually missing is exposure to the board, the corporate governance, [and] the public company aspects of the role,” she added.

Companies also could improve the situation by ditching strict “check-the-box” hiring methods, which favor candidates based on certain criteria, such as an Ivy League education, over others who might have similar or better on-the-job experience or track records as leaders.

“When companies take a narrow or formulaic approach to GC succession and don’t dig deeper, they risk choosing a candidate for the wrong reasons—or worse, hurting their brand as an employer by disenfranchising diverse talent,” the report states. 

Find the full article here.

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Can GC Succession Planning Drive Diversity?