A Call to Action, and Platform to Enable Female Executive Search

CEO Worldwide & Female Executive Search
A message from France Dequilbec, MD Female Executive Search, founded by INSEAD alum Patrick Mataix

“The majority of the women I have interviewed over the past 2 years testify how difficult it is for them to access top level management and/or boards. There is no room for error and they had to continuously outperform their male colleagues. They feel they have to constantly justify their position, their responsibilities and their salary.

The ambition alone is not enough. It’s not even enough if they have better academic grades, work harder and perform better than their male colleagues. At the end of the month their pay cheque proves the inequality of perception by a staggering gender pay gap of above 20%.

A woman’s early career advancement still has significant challenges – if they are young, the fact alone that they could get pregnant puts them in a back row seat, then if they do have children towards mid-career, “back row” becomes their middle name – and when their kids are grown and they are 50+… well, do I need to continue?

I have also observed that some female executives have adapted themselves to the “Dominant Leadership Model” in order to be accepted by their male colleagues, even if the soft skills and emotional intelligence are now recognized criteria and added value to businesses.

Companies appear to be hiring more women into senior roles, but there is still work to be done…

Despite the evidence that equality at the senior level improves the bottom line, a disparity remains in representation at the C-suite level, across all sectors. However companies appear to be hiring more women into senior roles as attitudes to gender balance at senior level shift.

The results we obtained with our latest survey, targeting C-level executives and HR professionals across the US, Europe and Asia, revealed that 40% of applications for senior management roles now come from women, with well over half of businesses having hired more than one female executive in the last 12 months.

Companies often say there is lack of female C-level candidates and this why they have difficulties in recruiting the right female candidate. To us at Female Executive Search, this does NOT sound right at all.

Expertise and legitimacy

As expert in international executive recruitment, Female Executive Search offers a dedicated recruitment platform designed to drive boardroom equality. Its purpose is to connect recruiters with quality, vetted female executives, empowering women leaders and businesses that value female leadership.

INSEAD alum Patrick Mataix, founder of CEO Worldwide and I established “Female Executive Search” to demonstrate the value of diversity for the good of business, and the benefit of the global economy. It was therefore a natural and obvious step to launch this service, dedicated to promoting and placing female executives. It is high time to break the taboo and to promote and show the talent of women within business.

At CEO Worldwide, we have been building a community of 18 000 vetted international candidates for almost 20 years, the percentage of our female candidates have deeply increased. Every day female C-level candidates register with us and we are committed to promoting them and the advancement of female executives in senior positions.

They can now demonstrate their professional track record via innovative tools such as video. We help them to build their personal branding and get more digital exposure, and last but not least, to give then more confidence and trust in themselves.

There is power in women leadership.”

Now, men and women can jump on board and help CEO Worldwide to support the advancement of female executives in senior positions by utilizing our database:


Women, please join now our community of vetted female International executives register TODAY:



The power of language: watch your words!

By Anne Dumesges

Language can drive diversity. Or not if you’re not careful. As behavioral scientists and practitioners know very well, words matter a lot. Words are the tools we use to describe the world and to communicate with people. They can impact people’s decisions and behaviors, depending on what or how you use them.

This is called Framing. Framing can be very powerful: the way you present something can have a strong impact on people’s decisions.
Not convinced? I was also skeptical,   I read th e following research[1]:

Doctors were asked to choose between radiotherapy & surgery to treat lung cancer. They were presented the results with a different framing:

If you are like me, I bet you will agree with the idea that:

  • doctors are considered as rational people by most of us
  • the 2 sentences mean EXACTLY the same

However, option 1 is framed in terms of probability of survival, while option 2 is framed in terms of probability of death. This is the only difference, and this is driving quite a difference in terms of final choice.

So, can this framing help drive diversity in your workplace? Can it help support your business performance, as BCG study[2] showed? Business challenge I often hear about : “How to ensure diversity in hiring?” Is your company struggling to hire a diverse workforce? Do you often hear: ”I would be happy to hire more women, but we struggle to have them apply”. If this is the case, you might want to start with your job descriptions, to make them more inclusive and accessible to a wider audience.

Indeed, without us noticing, research[1] shows that the language in job descriptions often subtly adhere to gender stereotypes. Meaning chances are that the wording of some job descriptions is more biased toward one gender than we can and want to realize.

These social scientists at the University of Waterloo and Duke University coded a long list of adjectives and verbs as masculine or feminine then scanned a popular job site to look for those words. They found that job ads in male-dominated fields (like software programming) tended to use masculine-coded words such as “competitive” and “dominate” much more than job ads in female-dominated fields. Follow-up research confirmed such words made those job listings less appealing to women.

It’s unlikely that the world will stop associating certain words with certain genders any time soon. Fortunately for employers looking to narrow the applicant-pool gender gap, there is a simple way to take the gender bias out of job listings: Simply rewrite them.

Google[2], for example, has been looking at the various languages used by different people within their internal data sets. They found that different words meant different things depending on your gender. So they worked on an internal tool to screen job descriptions and by using this, they significantly improved the level of female applications on some of their tech jobs.

LUCKILY there are also free online tools that automatically scan job descriptions for biased language, such as Gender Decoder for Job Ads[3]. Simply paste the text of a job listing into the decoder, and it scans the text for the list of gender-coded words from the Duke/Waterloo study. In less than a second, the decoder reports whether there are more masculine-coded or feminine-coded words in the ad.

To conclude with, framing your language in the right way can change who you are surrounding yourself with in the workplace, driving more diversity, and better innovation & performance.

Also, as behavioral economist Iris Bohnet[4] puts it in her book What Works: Gender Equality by Design[5], “Our minds are stubborn beasts that are hard to change, but it’s not hard to de-bias the application process”. “To start with, job ads are super-low-hanging fruit.”

Now, you have the tool to make your next job ads gender neutral. Just apply it!


[1] Pauker, S.G, Sox Jr. H. C., & Tversky, A (1982). On the elicitation of preferences for alternative therapies. New England journal of Medecine, 306(21), 1259-1262.

[2] https://www.bcg.com/en-us/publications/2018/how-diverse-leadership-teams-boost-innovation.aspx

[1] http://www.fortefoundation.org/site/DocServer/gendered_wording_JPSP.pdf?docID=16121

[2] Women’s Forum conference, #Women4STEM, Kristell Klosowski @Google

[3] http://gender-decoder.katmatfield.com/

[4] visiting professor at Harvard Business School, co-chair of Harvard’s Behavioral Insights Group, and director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School

[5] https://www.amazon.com/What-Works-Gender-Equality-Design/dp/0674986563/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=what+works&qid=1582905636&s=books&sr=1-1



Women are not a common sight in most executive suites. The number of females in C-level positions is surprisingly low.

The problem is compounded by the fact that women rarely hold the roles that lead to the executive suite – even though research has shown that when women participate in leadership, companies tend to have better performance and return on investment.

Yet, there are very few women in management roles, and the number of female managers decreases the further up the hierarchy you go.

The Current State of Women in Leadership Roles

While women occupy 60% of junior positions, they are sorely underrepresented as you move up the corporate hierarchy. Only 50% of middle management and just 20% of senior management are female. In the C-suite, women have roughly 10% of the roles there and the percentage of females in executive roles is even lower. According to Pew Research, only 5.1% of executives at S&P 1500 companies are female – and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.


“Invisible Women” wins the 2019 Business Book of the Year Award

December 4, 2019The winner of the 2019 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award is an investigation into how a gender gap in data perpetuates disadvantages for women across the world. Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, by journalist and activist Caroline Criado Perez, delves into the ways data collection systematically ignores half the world’s population.

McKinsey global managing partner Kevin Sneader and Financial Times editor Lionel Barber presented the award on Tuesday, December 3, at the Park Hyatt Hotel in New York. Verizon CEO Ronan Dunne sat down with Barber for the event’s keynote interview.


Invisible Women – a world designed for men

by Caroline Criado Perez

From the ‘one-size-fits-men’ approach to smartphone design to the medical trials that are putting women’s lives at risk … this book uses data like a laser.

The problem with feminism is that it’s just too familiar. The attention of a jaded public and neophiliac media may have been aroused by #MeToo, with its connotations of youth, sex and celebrity, but for the most part it has drifted recently towards other forms of prejudice, such as transphobia. Unfortunately for women, though, the hoary old problems of discrimination, violence and unpaid labour are still very much with us. We mistake our fatigue about feminism for the exhaustion of patriarchy. A recent large survey revealed that more than two thirds of men in Britain believe that women now enjoy equal opportunities. When the writer and activist Caroline Criado Perez campaigned to have a female historical figure on the back of sterling banknotes, one man responded: “But women are everywhere now!”


Not walking the talk of gender diversity

INSEAD research finds investors are not walking the talk of gender diversity

Middle East, Asia, Europe
29 November 2019

In recent years investors have become vocal advocates for gender-diverse boards. But how committed are they?

New INSEAD research suggests that despite proclamations of support, investors perceive companies which increase female representation on their board as having a weaker commitment to shareholder value and are likely to punish them accordingly.

Specifically, it found that:

  • Among the firms that had made other investments in gender diversity, the appointment of female directors to the board reduced the firm’s market value relative to the value of the company’s physical assets by almost 6 percent.
  • The market penalty is unrelated to actual board performance
  • The effect dissipates after two years


8 Tips for Creating a Gender Balanced Workplace

A diverse workforce brings varied perspectives that contribute to an organisation’s prosperity, yet only one in five C-suite leaders is a woman and fewer than one in 30 is a woman of colour, according to a new study from LeanIn.org and McKinsey.

Overcoming this disparity is critical to the success of top companies. In fact, investment analytics firm MSCI ESG Research found that companies with strong female leadership generated a higher return on equity versus those without and suffered fewer governance-related controversies.

INSEAD alumnae from the INSEAD Women in Business Global Club and National Alumni Associations weighed in on what women need to thrive in the workplace, as well as how companies can attract, retain and leverage top talent to cultivate a more diverse workforce. Based on their input, here are eight tips for companies.