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Hiring Women Execs w/ Venesa Klein

Swapping spit. That's how Venesa Klein describes the never-ending shuffling going on in the C-suite these days, swapping one female executive with another one. And around we go, failing to give fresher talent the chance to shine. In this show, the boys peel the onion and let Venessa of Calibre One cook up some tasty education on the problems of solutions of equality in the workplace. Olé' Boys Club beware.

Supported by Sovren, AI so human you'll want to take it to dinner.


INTRO (1s):

Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts! Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel (20s):

Oh yeah. It's your favorite podcast the Chad and Cheese podcast. I am your loyal cohost Joel Cheeseman joined as always by Chad Sowash. And today, we are just tickled pink and giddy to welcome Venesa Klein, partner at Calibre One to the show. Venesa welcome.

Venesa (42s):

Thanks so much for having me.

Joel (44s):

Yeah, so that was a really sparse intro by me. So why don't you give the listeners a little bio Twitter on you?

Chad (50s):

Long walks on beaches, listening to the Chad and Cheese while you take a bubble bath.

Venesa (55s):

I am Venesa Klein. I'm a partner at Calibre One, which is a transatlantic executive boutique search firm. And I specialize in go-to-market market searches for our consumer practice.

Joel (1m 7s):

Very, very exciting. You wrote a blog post that caught our attention, and this was at for those who want to check that out, as well as on your LinkedIn account.

Chad (1m 18s):

Venesa with one n, by the way.

Joel (1m 21s):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We'll put that in the show notes, probably. So tell us about the post, what was the inspiration for it? And we'll kind of dig into it.

Venesa (1m 29s):

Well, the inspiration for the post was as an executive search firm, we're constantly asked to recruit women into the executive suite, at our various client companies. And what has come about is some challenges in doing so, for a number of different reasons, but this idea of companies in particular, startups who are being told, listen, there's a bunch of predominantly men in your executive ranks and now that you have a position open and you're recruiting a CFO or COO or CTO or whatever it might be, we like you as the search partner to find us a woman.

Venesa (2m 16s):

And what I had noticed was that there was no method internally for these companies to promote from within or there was no, there's no thought around what it's going to take to hire a woman into your executive C-suite, what kinds of things they're thinking about, as to, as opposed to some of the male candidates, and why isn't there a program to promote women from within? And that was what started it.

Joel (2m 49s):

Before we get into some of the nitty gritty. You talk a lot about what's right for women in the workforce, some of the advancements that women have made, I want to start on a positive note and let you talk about, of the good things on that side.

Venesa (3m 1s):

Well, there have been a lot of good things for sure. There are, first of all, more companies now have are hiring and have hired recruiters, specifically focused on recruiting diversity candidates, which has led to an increase in recruiting those candidates into companies, which is great. There are some companies have done a really good job of this. It started off early like Genentech who in 2007 had learned that there were five times as many men than there are women in their officer roles and they launched a really top down and bottom up approach to changing that.

Venesa (3m 49s):

And as of a couple of years ago, they had already doubled the percentage of female officers at the company, and they're still working to increase that. So they have done that successfully.

Joel (4m 2s):

Further back you talk about graduation rates for women? Number women go into college. All those are, all those numbers are trending in the right direction, yes?

Venesa (4m 9s):

They are, yes, they are trending in the right direction. Absolutely.

Chad (4m 13s):

So question around Genentech real quick. To be able to hire somebody directly into a leadership position C-suite or what have you is one thing, but that's short term?

Venesa (4m 23s):


Chad (4m 23s):

What about the long-term buildup, because you have to have females within your ranks to be able to get them ready, to hopefully boost into leadership. And that's where, like you'd said from an internal mobility standpoint, we've had a problem, has Genentech identified that problem? And if so, what have they done to fix it?

Venesa (4m 47s):

Well, the short answer is yes, they have identified that problem. And I would have to let Genentech kind of speak there, their head of talent acquisition, tell you more of the details around how they have done that. But in addition to increasing their effort to recruit women into leadership positions, they have increased their internal candidate pool by creating programs at the organization that identifies their top performers and promoting them within the organization, in particular focused on women so that their internal candidate pool has broadened.

Venesa (5m 29s):

And there's a big difference between a large company like Genentech and a startup. And the startups are the ones that are often faced with this challenge of, okay, well, we don't have, we're not a big enough company yet to have enough women within the organization that we can promote into leadership roles. And so they're typically looking for a firm to partner with like Calibre One who can identify and successfully recruit executives that are women into the top ranks of their organization. But to your point, that is not an effective long-term strategy.

Chad (6m 4s):

So as a client, why would I come to your organization that has 20% females as partners when, if I want to boost to 50% myself. Right. So what, what can you guys do from a leadership standpoint when you're demonstrating 80% of your partners are male today? What are you guys doing to be able to demonstrate that you are actually moving that way yourself?

Venesa (6m 31s):

Well, a few things. I think there's a couple parts to that questions as to why Calibre One. First of all, internally we actually have two, two additional women partners joining yay for us. We do have an internal mobility program. I myself was promoted from within the organization. I had joined as a principal, which is a non revenue generating role and was promoted into a partner role at Calibre One. So we, and we've done that before from junior research associates, two associates, senior associates, principals to partners. So we have a track record of doing that.

Venesa (7m 12s):

Importantly, we had identified that there would be this need years ago and have organized our internal data to highlight the great women that we all of us collectively, and this is internationally by the way, the great women candidates that we have come across all have gone into our system and are organized so we can actually see who are the women that we know in each industry and in each function. And we started doing that years and years ago. So we've got a huge list already of women over various functions, across various industries and different geographies.

Venesa (7m 53s):

In addition to that, you know, search firms all operate in slightly different ways. You just search is search. Everyone kind of does, it's the same methodology and the same kind of process with some nuances. We do a lot of work upfront to really understand what our clients need, what are the KPIs for this role, and flesh that out at an identifying the exact right profile that we need, we're able to quickly go back and go, who else, you know, who do we, who do we already know that are already women, that we've been keeping tabs on? And then how do we help our clients to effectively recruit those women, rather than just here, we're going to present you with this list of some, some great talent you take it from here.

Venesa (8m 41s):

It's have you thought about a number of different things? What's the culture like on the executive team? Would that need to change? You know, are there ways in which you do off sites that may not be as appealing to a top level woman candidate? Are you ready? You know, for a perception change within your C-suite. And here are the things that are going to matter to women. For instance, many women at this level are at a time in their life where they have kids. And especially during, during COVID where school would be canceled, or someone tests positive, and then you're in an awkward position with childcare, there needs to be flexibility built in to the schedule.

Venesa (9m 28s):

So that matters. And so what does that look like at your organization? How flexible, how flexible are you? Women tend to want to talk about compensation earlier in the process than men do. And so being prepared for that, the classic, well, don't worry about comp, we'll talk about it when, you know, further, along in the process, you'll lose many of the shortlisted candidates that you've been presented with. So you've got to think about a number of different things in a slightly different way than you normally would.

Chad (9m 60s):

It's interesting that you say comp because females are generally paid much less than males. So, I mean, when you are actually working with that level of female, are you seeing that that is changed? It's different? I mean, only 8% of the fortune 500 CEOs are female today, but do you see that the comp difference is actually understood and they go in at the quote unquote "old boys level," or is it still something they have to fight? Oh,

Venesa (10m 35s):

You know, that's a great question. And has comp changed? No, but I'm only speaking at, from the experience that I've got, working with the companies that I do and helping to negotiate compensation packages. And what I've seen is actually a little bit different, which is that women at this level that are at the C-suite are right now in very high demand. And because we're not, we're not talking about an up and comer, who's ready to step into the role we're, we're talking about. You're recruiting as CFO, and we've got candidates that are women that are already CFOs at a company that has scaled. And their compensation has actually from the women that I've spoken to has increased because their companies want to retain them and not let them jump, because it will be much, it's a smaller candidate pool to replace them with another woman.

Venesa (11m 27s):

So I've actually seen compensation increase for women across the C-suite that is existing C-suite executives. What I'm talking about is more around the transparency of compensation. If you've got a woman currently in a role, and she's making $450,000 a year, she wants to know ahead of time, is this opportunity going to be equal to, or more than the compensation that I'm currently making? And standard, at least in our experience is we know kind of a general range, but clients are reticent to have any discussion around hard numbers until they know they really want that candidate.

Venesa (12m 11s):

Men more often are kind of okay with that progression. And they're betting that their compensation is going to be equal to, or greater to where they are currently.

Chad (12m 21s):

Because historically it has been.

Venesa (12m 23s):

Right, historically it has been. And, and it, I think there is a psychological piece with women, of course, around a couple of things, one is, are they going to low ball me because I'm a woman? And two, am I going to waste my time investigating an opportunity that's compensation isn't going to be what I needed to be.,

Chad (12m 41s):

Are we just shuffling executives that are female around to different companies? Are we not sort of growing executives within companies? Is I assume that's a major problem and how do we solve that?

Venesa (12m 52s):

Yeah, that's the crux of it. And thank you for bringing that up because that that's really what's at the heart of the piece that I wrote was about, are we really making opportunity for women at executive levels? If what we're doing is hiring search firms to poach a C-suite executive from one company and bring it to your company. The answer is we're not increasing the opportunity for women. We are swapping candidates amongst the C-level ranks. And in order to really affect change, it's about creating more opportunity for women, conscientiously recruiting women into your organization at the more junior levels and cultivating that group into leadership roles.

Venesa (13m 39s):

And that has to start early. So for your you're a startup and you, and you're thinking, well, I don't have enough employees to do that. You're wrong. It means you increase the number of women you're recruiting into your organization, broadly. You identify those top performers and you put them on a career path and that isn't the immediate, you're not going to get the immediate result that you need, but you need to be doing that early in order to really affect change.

Joel (14m 11s):

It's commercial time.


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Chad (14m 56s):

It's show time.

Joel (14m 57s):

Yeah. And one sounds like you said, really affect change. The other sounds like, you know, you're checking off a box. So I'm guessing the conversation a lot of companies have is, you know, CEO of the board says we need a woman executive so that we can check the box that we are, diverse. The harder strategy is, like you said, let's, let's grow our own, let's hire junior folks, women, and grow them into positions like this. So what I'm hearing you say is the check the box strategy is what's happening. The jury's still out on whether companies are really serious about longterm female diversity inclusion into the C-suite and the rest of the company.

Venesa (15m 35s):

Exactly. And I think to the point of the startups who need an executive with experience right away, then if you want to really give opportunity to women, then that's when we look at that up and comer profile.

Joel (15m 51s):

And you talk about the one of the benefits of, of women in the workforce is boosting revenue. And I think, I always say like, the answer to all of your questions is money. And if change is going to happen, it's going to be on the bottom line. So talk about how boosting revenue is a positive that females bring to the C-suite and into companies.

Venesa (16m 11s):

Well, there's so many statistics on this that it's crazy to me that it will come up in conversation as a question, as a question mark. McKinsey has done a number of studies. They found that companies with more gender diversity at the leadership levels are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability just on that KPI. That has been kind of a fact that based on all of these studies from McKinsey to Harvard, there've been so many. And so there is no question that diversity at the executive leadership level increases profitability, innovation.

Venesa (16m 55s):

There are a number of important factors.

Chad (16m 58s):

What we're really trying to do here, and this is the hard part that nobody really talks about enough is busting up the old white boy network, because that's what it is. We have, again, these check the box initiatives that are happening. We have boards, we have C-suites that are very heavily white male, and they feel like they need something to be able to at least look like they're trying to diversify when they're not. The hard question is even with all this awesome information from McKinsey and all these other studies, we still aren't seeing a move that's incredibly fast.

Chad (17m 41s):

I mean, I think the last number I saw it was going to be over 150 years before we actually see equity in male to female ratio, a leadership positions.

Venesa (17m 51s):

I think what is really important is around, can we support a woman on our executive team from a cultural perspective? So many of the leadership teams that are these old boys clubs, when you're talking about startup high growth companies, you've got a founder team, usually two founders that know each other. They're usually both men and they're hiring the people they know within their network, their friends, their school chums, and those people all look like them as well. And there's a moment where they need to, instead of their reaction, which is to recruit somebody from their network, that they know they need to look beyond that and bring on board a woman.

Venesa (18m 43s):

And that feels like a risk because they've created this culture, the executive level and bringing on a woman is it is a different perspective. And the way that they have been interacting might change. You know, there was, I hired a woman into a CMO rural first startup, and she had said that their offsite was at a golfing club, they were all going golfing together. And she was okay with it, but she wasn't a golfer. And that's not to say that just because she's a woman, she's not a golfer. But as an example, you have to look at the ways in which you create comradery among your C-suite and make that more inclusive.

Joel (19m 25s):

We just need more female founders too.

Venesa (19m 27s):

Absolutely and that there are tons of numbers around that too. And there have been many firms that are focusing on investing in companies with female founders, which has been great to see, because that is a complete shift. When you have a woman, founder, statistically, they are recruiting a much more balanced in terms of gender diversity leadership team.

Joel (19m 52s):

You're talking about three tips to help bring more women into companies. You talk about transparency with salaries, flexibility, and promotion from within. Can you talk about each of these a little bit more in depth?

Venesa (20m 2s):

Yeah. Promotion from within, I think we have talked about, which is really bringing a strategic process into the organization where you were recruiting more women into junior level roles and cultivating those top performers into leadership roles. Then you're able to recruit from within your organization into more senior level roles. That has to be table stakes. This flexibility piece, meaning women and men are not the same. They want to be treated equally, but women typically will need some more flexibility in their schedules.

Venesa (20m 47s):

So working from home, knowing that they're going to get the job done, but they may have to do some things around a parent teacher conference, or after they put a new baby to bed. That kind of understanding and support is really important. And the transparency around salaries and compensation for new roles, which we also talked about is talking about that earlier in the process. And too, of course, you can't low ball a woman. She's going to be very aware of what her salary, what her salary expectations are for herself and what the market is.

Venesa (21m 33s):

She's going to check in with other people that have recently taken new roles and find out what market compensation is.

Joel (21m 41s):

I assume you recommend companies post salary ranges in their job postings and make that public or do you think it should specifically stay sort of in house?

Venesa (21m 49s):

You know, I think there's so many different schools of thought on that. And I have, because I'm an executive search partner. Our philosophy has always been to not put a salary range in an assignment brief, as we call it, the job description. And instead have that conversation with people as we're interviewing them, what are their salary expectations? Disclosing a range that the client has given us the okay to talk about. In general, my belief has been, you keep it open because it may be that you are targeting a sitting C-suite executive, or maybe we are, but we're also open to a VP level candidate, and we're not going to give them the same bump in salary that we would a sitting C-suite executive or might be tied more to performance and less on the cash side of things.

Chad (22m 54s):

So many of these females have been stifled throughout their career, and they don't have the experience of their male counterparts. They bade the quote unquote been mommy tracked. So how is that fair? How is that fair to actually say, look, you're going to be doing the exact same job we would be putting a male in here to do, but we're just going to pay you less because you have less experience. Well, I have less experience because of how the system has actually treated females. How's that fair?

Venesa (23m 26s):

Well, I don't think that's fair. So let me clarify. So for instance, I have a chief revenue officer role that I'm recruiting for right now. And with that in mind, this person is running both sales and marketing. And we talked about, okay, here's the salary comp for this role, for this stage company. Now we also are emphasizing diversity. And if we can find a woman CRO who's right for this role, then she would absolutely fall within that same compensation range. However, we realized that that candidate pool is smaller.

Venesa (24m 8s):

And so what we said to our client is, what about a VP of sales who has influenced marketing? And we'll bring her in as a VP of Sales. And we've got a director of marketing who can run marketing, and as she hits her her goals, and as she proves her ability to influence marketing, then we'll give her ownership of marketing also. And her compensation will reflect that. But as she starts the role as a VP of sales, her compensation would be in alignment with a classic VP of sales role.

Joel (24m 44s):

So we talk a lot about on the show as COVID and the pandemic sort of being an accelerant for many things, whether that be adoption of work from home or adoption of automation or technology, but every metric that I've read it's the pandemic has been a negative for women in the workforce, whether it be the childcare issue, which I think we covered as well as some other things. What is the pandemic from your perspective met to this movement of getting more females into the C-suite negative, positive, or neutral?

Venesa (25m 15s):

I don't know that I have the best answer, and I don't know that I can give you negative, positive or neutral. So I'm going to tell you what, what I do know. Which is that initially during the pandemic, there was a tremendous amount of women who left their jobs in order to homeschool their kids, be present with their family, you know, reasons that we've all talked about. What I saw from a recruiting perspective is women who I knew were interested in other opportunities suddenly were not. And they weren't because they had figured out what would work for them and their families during this pandemic.

Venesa (25m 56s):

And they didn't want to rock the boat. They didn't want to take a risk on a new startup. They didn't want to take a risk joining another company where they would be establishing their credibility and their work schedule when they had already fleshed that out in such a way that they could be there to take care of their kids, zoom school meetings, and you know, that that whole suite of issues that came up and they didn't want to chance going to a new organization where they wouldn't have that kind of flexibility right off the bat. So there was all of a sudden, a big drop-off in women that were recruitable.

Venesa (26m 36s):

As things have progressed, there was also a reevaluation of what do I want to be doing with my life? Which I've seen across the board for men and women and women now have become more recruitable than they were just a few months ago. And I think a lot of that based on the conversations I've had, has a lot to do with, Hey, I've been doing this same thing for a while. I need to do, I want to do something different. Either in a different industry or have different responsibilities and/or I want to be doing something that is more mission driven. And I want to work with a company who's making an effort to make a positive social impact.

Venesa (27m 21s):

And so that I think we're right there where people have, women in particular who have been risk adverse during the pandemic, have now become more willing to take risks in pursuit of something more satisfying.

Chad (27m 36s):

Excellent. Well, Venesa, we appreciate you coming on, taking the hard questions, the softball questions, all the questions. Venesa if somebody who wants to find out more about you, what you guys are doing, especially with this initiative to try to drive more females from the bottom up and obviously parallel, where would you send them to find out more and also connect on LinkedIn? Where else? Where else are you on the Twitter?

Venesa (28m 5s):

Yeah. Well, you can certainly connect with me on LinkedIn, Venesa Klein at Calibre One. That's how you find me. You can go to my website

Chad (28m 17s):


Joel and Chad (28m 17s):

We out.

Venesa (28m 19s):

Thanks guys.

OUTRO (29m 17s):

Thank you for listening to, what's it called? The podcast with Chad, the Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting. They talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of Shout Outs of people, you don't even know and yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese, not one cheddar, blue, nacho, pepper jack, Swiss. So many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Any hoo be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, that way you won't miss an episode. And while you're at it, visit just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese. Is so weird. We out.


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