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 Gap Between

17 April 2020
By: Lisa Gralnek (MBA J’08)

‘The Messy Middle’ — an idea introduced to me by Scott Belsky who wrote a book of the same title

“No matter what it is you’re trying to create or transform, the myth of a successful journey is that it starts with an idea, followed by a ton of hardship, and then a gradual and linear rise to the finish line. But no extraordinary journey is linear. In reality, the middle is extraordinarily volatile — a continuous sequence of ups and downs, flush with uncertainty and struggle.” — Scott Belsky, author and founder of Behance


Ever since the Adobe 99U design conference a couple years’ back when I heard Scott introduce his soon-to-be-released book — I knew ‘The Messy Middle’ was a concept I would hold onto. It is so descriptive and so astute in capturing the gap between where we are and where we want to go.

Anyone who has ever worked hard to achieve anything knows firsthand the improbable journey to success. Yet in a world that shines a spotlight so brightly on celebrity — highlighting the quick rise from one point to a fantastical other — this middle territory rests largely undervalued and in shadow. Even though we all know that great athletes aren’t simply born, politicians aren’t elected from one day to the next, $1M of new sales don’t happen for businesses overnight, and famous musicians, actors and visual artists might subsist on dry ramen for years before stardom— it is not until we dive deeper behind-the-scenes that we learn the ‘true story’ of what success really takes. Indeed, behind every great (or even tiny) success for anyone anywhere, there is a hard road traveled to get there.

Muddling our way through the global health pandemic of COVID19 right now, the world at large is living a very messy middle. The start point (“business as usual”) is but a recent memory — and right now, we’re surviving day-to-day, moment-to-moment unsure of what is to come- medically, environmentally, socially, or economically. 25% of the world’s seven billion people are currently in lockdown, with ‘shelter in place’ orders extended across the US and Europe, while first-hit Asian countries are just now beginning to navigate a slow reopening of life as they knew it only a few months’ back. Australia, Africa, and South America too are deep in the messy middle.


In my work as a business strategist and brand builder, I help organizations move from a point A, B, or C (where they are) — to a future point X, Y, or Z (where they want to go). At the outset of any engagement, we work together to define the current state of the business and set a measurable goal for a desired future. From there, we build the strategic roadmap for success — layering on tactics to help move us forward. Like success stories of celebrity and fame, every growing business must also pass through a period of change: a messy middle, the gap between here and there. This concept is equally applicable to individuals, families, communities, organizations, nations, and societies. If we want to change, grow, and succeed — we must bridge the gap between where we are and where we want to go. Inevitably, this means navigating a period of uncertainty, muddling through.

The path to success as a growth curve, bridging the gap between here and there (LVG & Co. website)

As I’m sure you are too, I’m consuming tons of content these days — podcasts, news reports, webinars, articles, and studies. The reality I’m deducing is simple: there’s a lot of information out there. But amidst the statistics, speculation, pre-planning and game theorizing — none of us- not even our industry or government leaders- actually KNOWS where we’re heading. Because until the scientists and medical doctors can uncover more about this novel coronavirus- and be certain how it is fundamentally transmitted, treated, and inoculated- we cannot begin to KNOW a timeline for when the world reopens for ‘business as usual’. This is yet one more unprecedented aspect of this unprecedented historic experience — the answer to the most basic strategic question of all: from here to where…is UNKNOWN.

This moment in history is unique (to put it mildly). Unlike most other major global upsets- wars, famines or economic disruptions- we’re operating largely without hard facts, or precedent. We can’t set measurable goals for our future, because for now- it is neither clear WHEN we can begin trying to return to ‘normal’, nor indeed WHAT a ‘new normal’ might be as a result of the time away… In addition, HOW we open to a new normal will be an ongoing experiment, and WHERE success takes hold will depend upon luck, mitigation and real scientific progress. All we know for sure, is that the path out of this will not be linear. As Belsky’s book states, “the middle is extraordinarily volatile — a continuous sequence of ups and downs, flush with uncertainty and struggle”. This is already playing out; this week alone- we’re seeing continued chaos in the global stock markets, EU policy asunder, American voters forced to choose between risking their health and partaking of an essential civic duty, the British Prime Minister admitted to ICU, and millions of Chinese citizens using mobile health apps to enable Wuhan’s reopening. Not one of these examples represents an end point in the story; they’re all just aspects of being smack dab in the middle of this very messy middle.

I’ve described to friends my growing sense of some existential middle gap between the mindful ‘here & now’ and my ability to intellectually philosophize about what comes next. Sure our modern world is a changed place, but how changed will it be once it eventually reopens? That is the ambiguity of the messy middle: all we cannot know or anticipate on the pathway to success. But in our current case, a lot of the answer will depend upon the actual time it takes to reopen — a timeline that itself will/should depend on hard scientific evidence we don’t yet have…that, or a vaccine. Of course, both the timelines and the eventual outcome will be significantly impacted by our actions during this time: economic stimulus and fiscal policy, capital investments and social welfare, consumer behavior and supply chain decisions, corporate and international cooperation, for starters. Overall though, success will ultimately be determined by our individual and collective ability to weather this unprecedented storm, embrace this messy middle that usually stays hidden in shadow, and bridge the gap between where we are and where we aspire to go.


For support in thinking practically about how we actually do this, let’s briefly apply the model my company, LVG & Co. uses to help brands successfully grow. As highlighted in the chart below, we present six key actions required for successful growth.

Namely, the following:

  • Accept where we are right now; identify the starting point.
  • Set clear goals for success; in this situation, I’d think a basic success premise would include: a) as little negative human impact as possible, and b) a return to some semblance of ‘normal’ vs. a total breakdown of our current systems of economy and government (seems obvious, right?).
  • Consider the underlying culture; for broader society, as in any organization, this is determined by the style and capabilities of leadership, but more impactfully by the shared ethos (or values) of the group.
  • Rely on data and insights to outline a smart strategy and practical tactics for execution; in this current COVID crisis, as in organizational change initiatives for businesses of all sizes — this is all about systems-level planning and committed action; it is about setting a clear course, then moving ahead step-by-step along it; it’s about infusing implementation at every level with a shared sense of purpose.
  • Accept the inevitability of change; be flexible and adaptable generally, but also ensure continuously evolving tactics by relying on new insights, learning and information; the ideal destination is a fixed point, the way of getting there must remain somewhat fluid.
  • Ensure strong leadership to guide the journeyas I wrote previously here— effective leadership (especially in crisis) demands essential qualities of authenticity and calculated risk-taking for growth and success.


Like never before in history, we’re all in this together; it’s disruption at mass scale. But if we recognize and accept that behind every great success story is a hard road traveled, a messy middle — then we free ourselves to consider the path we’re on right now- and the story we will eventually get to tell about successfully combating the global crisis that is COVID19. Personally, I’m optimistic the story will be one of a collectively realized need for change that pushes us from an imperfect past into a much brighter future. But that is really the important question before us: How do we transform this crisis into an opportunity for growth — helping us move from where we are to a better future? How do we work together to bridge the gap and move through this messy middle?




Gender and COVID-19: Let’s Make Better Decisions

By Katarina Uherova Hasbani & INSEAD IWiB Global Executive Committee

10 April 2020. 1,484,811 recorded cases. 85,538 deaths. 185 countries affected.  That is the sobering, current statistics of the COVID-19 outbreak. We need all brains in the business to innovate our way of the current crisis. Addressing the gender dimension of the outbreak will be critical for making sure we collectively, as a global community of  leaders, develop an informed view and better decision-making. Let’s do things better now. 

Gender statistics are not systematically available. The world is in a fire-fighting mode and resources are scarce. Some available data indicates that women are less affected than men in terms of number of deaths. Although, the good news ends there. Overall, women could be affected  by the ongoing crisis disproportionately compared to men. Women are already starting from a position of inequality in terms of their economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. As a reminder, the world’s top 10 countries based on the World Economic Forum – Gender Gap Report 2020, achieve only a score from 0.87 to 0.78 where 1 is full gender equality. 

This article outlines some of the gender dimensions that have been raised to the surface since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak at the beginning of the year. 

  • Women are on the frontline of the healthcare workforce treating COVID-19 across the world. As an example, in the US, women hold 76% of healthcare jobs. For registered nurses, this number could be as high as 85%. Their lives, health and families are disproportionately impacted given the high spread of virus among treating personnel in
    hospital. Available data from Italy shows that 9% of the country’s COVID-19 cases are nurses.
  • Women are shouldering more responsibility at home with closure of schools in Asia, Europe and most recently in the US. They are also taking responsibility for caring for the  elderly who have been encouraged to stay home ahead of country-wide lockdown measures given their health vulnerability. This limits women’s availability to continue working in their daily jobs over short to medium term. 
  • Women and their children are subject to increased probability of domestic violence with nowhere to escape. The situation was acknowledged for example by France’s Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Marlène Schiappa who also pointed at reduced capacity of facilities that usually support victims of domestic abuse.
  • Pregnant women are faced with concerns about their medical treatment during pregnancy and birth with increased strain on medical facilities across the world. The risk of transmission of coronavirus from mother to the child is not fully understood, which adds to the uncertainty. It is encouraging that several cases from Singapore indicate that mothers do not pass the disease on to their newborns.
  • All of the impacts are compounded by the situations of economic hardship, when families, women and men alike will lose their jobs and livelihoods. The situation will be serious in both developed and developing countries and exacerbated in situations where governments do not provide social security support. 


We will continue to monitor the developments and call for action on the gender dimension of the COVID-19 outbreak. Get in touch if you want to raise awareness about your activities around gender impacts of COVID-19 or call for volunteers. 

Contact [email protected] or reach out to Katarina Uherova Hasbani directly at [email protected]

End Notes:

1)Statista, Number of coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths in Germany in 2020, by gender, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1105512/coronavirus-covid-19-deaths-by-gender-germany/, viewed on 28 March 2020. 

2) World Economic Forum,  Mind the 100 Year, Gap,https://www.weforum.org/reports/gender-gap-2020-report-100-years-pay-equality, viewed on 28 March 2020.

3) We use information from COVID-19: the gendered impacts of the outbreak by the Members of the Gender and COVID-19 Working Group, which is available on The Lancet, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30526-2/fulltext (viewed on 28 March 2020) and other referenced open sources in this article. Data and analysis is scarce and continues to develop. This article is based on open source research by the author.

4) The US Census Bureau, Women Hold 76% of All Health Care Jobs, Gaining in Higher-Paying, Occupationshttps://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/08/your-health-care-in-womens-hands.html, viewed on 28 March 2020.

5) Nursing Times, Nurses among confirmed deaths from Covid-19 around the world, https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/coronavirus/nurses-among-confirmed-deaths-from-covid-19-around-the-world-20-03-2020/, viewed on 28 March 2020.

6) RFI, ‘Not just a health issue’: How Covid-19 is quietly eroding women’s rights, http://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20200326-coronavirus-domestic-violence-gender-perspectives, viewed on 28 March 2020.

7) UNPF, Women, girls, health workers must not be overlooked in global COVID-19 response, https://www.unfpa.org/press/women-girls-health-workers-must-not-be-overlooked-global-covid-19-response, viewed on 28 March 2020.

8) Asian Scientist, Pregnant Mums Unlikely To Transmit COVID-19 To Newborns, https://www.asianscientist.com/2020/03/health/covid-19-pregnant-mothers-newborn/, viewed on 28 March 2020.

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


Up-and-Coming Women in PE to Know: Kim Hruby

November 19, 2019

The interview below is part of a yearlong effort by McGuireWoods to profile up-and-coming women leaders in private equity (PE). This profile series complements our existing Women Leaders in Private Equity profile series, which will continue throughout 2019. To recommend a rising star for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at [email protected].

Hruby joined Council Capital in 2016 to lead the outbound marketing efforts. A top development leader in the healthcare sector, she successfully uses her 25-plus years of experience to educate business owners regarding PE and how their ultimate vision can be achieved. Hruby focuses on building executive-level relationships and a network that results in identifying partnerships that support the firm’s mission to invest in companies on the right side of healthcare change.



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


Why Investors React Negatively to Companies with Women on Boards

Despite persistent efforts to tackle underrepresentation of women on corporate boards, most boardrooms remain mostly male. The slow progress on gender diversity has frustrated policymakers, industry groups, and institutional investors, many of whom have publicly advocated for inclusion of women and minorities among the top ranks of management.

But are investors walking the walk on board diversity?

In a recent study, we examine board composition and financial data on 1,644 public companies in the U.S. between 1998 and 2011, controlling for numerous firm-specific characteristics like size and corporate governance structure. We find that companies that appoint women to the board see a decline in their market value for two years following the appointment (after which we no longer see any effect). In other words, investors seem to be penalizing, rather than rewarding, companies that strive to be more inclusive.

Why might the stock market react negatively to increases in board diversity?