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Building a Diverse Leadership Recruiting Pipeline

Leadership diversity is the inclusive practice of filling high-ranking roles with qualified candidates who represent different races, genders, ages, sexual orientations, economic backgrounds, religions, political views, etc. (Maryville University). Companies that prioritize this kind of diversity and inclusion should make sure that women and other minorities are well-represented in the C-suite and executive roles.

Statistics show a lack of progress in this area. In a 2021 report, Mercer, an HR consulting company, stated that white males still hold 85% of executive positions and that women and minorities are still paid significantly less than their white male colleagues, even when they do hold similar positions.

Let’s talk about why it’s so important to hire for diversity in leadership, and then we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty of how to build a diverse recruiting pipeline.

Why is Leadership Diversity Important?

Hiring for diversity in your leadership roles is imperative for both ethical and practical reasons.

Ethical Factors

According to the current Census report, just over 50% (50.8% to be precise) of the entire U.S. population is female, and almost 40% of it is made up of ethnic/racial minority citizens (U.S. Census Bureau). Without a doubt, this country has a very heterogeneous population, so to ensure that the company’s policies and outcomes are in the best interests of the widest range of people, company leaders need to hire to reflect that diversity. In a nutshell, diversity in leadership assures inclusive practices and integrates important and varying perspectives (Forbes).

Practical Factors

Recruiting diverse candidates isn’t only important because it’s the “right” thing to do. Following is a short list of rewards that will follow when companies promote diversity in their upper ranks (Fundera):

  •         Broader variety of skill sets
  •         Better branding
  •         The ability to attract and retain top talent
  •         Strong employee/customer relationships
  •         Greater profits
  •         Superior performance
  •         Higher market share

How Are We Doing?

With all of the abovementioned benefits, you’d think companies would fall over themselves to promote diversity and inclusion. While prevailing corporate attitudes are improving, however, we still have a ways to go. Currently, women comprise 47% of the U.S. labor force, while people of color account for 36% of it (American Progress). These numbers have progressively increased over the years, which indicates that we are making strides toward greater diversity in the workplace.

However, the numbers in the C-suite aren’t quite as good. Women only held 25% of total S&P 500 executive positions as of April 2020, and a mere seven companies had a female CEO. Racial and ethnic numbers were even more abysmal. Racially-diverse executives held only 16% of total S&P 500 C-suite positions, only 16 CEOs were people of color, and only four companies had non-white CFOs (Cooley PubCo).


The best solution for your diversity hiring practices is to build a diverse recruiting pipeline. What is a recruiting pipeline? Basically, it’s a pool of qualified potential candidates from which you can draw to fill an open position. Currently, with so many companies struggling to fill vacancies in a timely manner, a full pipeline is more important than ever, as it can dramatically reduce time-to-hire as well as hiring costs.

Attracting Diverse Candidates

Now, let’s talk about how to pack that pipeline with diversity. To find qualified diverse candidates, you obviously need to source from diverse talent pools. A good source is to network in organizations and associations that have a good number of minorities or diverse executives and C-Suite. Some you can consider are the Forbes Council Executive Network, Chief Executive Organization, The National Association of Women Executives and Hispanic Executives. You can also advertise through specific avenues that target underrepresented talent. Do your research to find the right types of job boards and platforms. One executive job board to consider is The Ladders and Execunet. Doing deep research and talent sourcing on platforms like Linkedin can also be a good resource. Working with an executive search firm like Barbachano International that specializes in recruiting diverse passive talent and minority executives is a very good alternative.  Additionally, you might want to consider offering apprenticeships or scholarships for promising minority candidates and grooming them for your upper level management positions (TalentLyft).

Hiring for Diversity

If your management isn’t as diverse as you want it, you most likely need to consider establishing a new set of hiring practices. Consider taking the following steps (Forbes):

  •         Avoid language that communicates bias on job descriptions. Gendered words like “chairman” and “foreman” communicate bias, as do words with racist connotations like “blacklist,” “whitelist,” and “master.” For a great reference if you’re wondering how to write without unconscious bias, see the Conscious Style Guide.    
  •         Block out identifying information on resumes that indicates age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc.
  •         Conduct “blind interviews” first. Blind interviews can take the form of online or emailed questionnaires or even an online chat. Phone calls and video chats don’t count as blind interviews because they still reveal a lot of information.
  •         Appoint a diverse hiring committee. Doing so goes a long way toward eliminating unconscious bias.
  •         Track company diversity so you can establish specific diversity targets. Where are you now? Where would you like to be? Know your numbers and follow the data.
  •         Purposefully select for diversity among equally qualified candidates.

The most important step you can take is to create a culture of inclusion and diversity at every level of your organization. You’ll find that when you do that, your reputation will precede you and a host of diverse, qualified candidates will flock to you.

By Octavio Lepe

By Octavio Lepe

Executive Vice-President

Octavio is the search practice leader for Sales & Marketing, Agribusiness, and D&I in the Americas.

Barbachano International is the premier executive search and leadership advisory firm in the Americas (USA, Mexico, Canada, and Latin America) with a focus on diversity and multicultural target markets.  Outplacement and Executive Coaching services are provided by our sister allied company Challenger Gray & Christmas. BIP has been recognized by Forbes as Americas’ Best Executive Search Firms for 6 consecutive years and currently ranks #26 and #3 on the West Coast.  



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