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.


Disability Solutions is changing minds and changing lives through disability inclusion.

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 Venesaklein.com 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.