Boyden's Joost Goudsmit talks diversity in the boardroom, placing women in executive roles, and advancing the diversity & inclusion agenda in this special interview with

This interview was originally published on Topvrouwen's website. Click here to view the original article. 

More and more executive search agencies sign the Executive Search Code and thereby commit themselves voluntarily to an active role in the appointment of women in top positions. gives these agencies a platform: how do they contribute to a better man/woman balance in the top of the business world, how do they deal with dilemmas and what are the successes they make? This time speaking: Joost Goudsmit, Managing Partner & Global Co-Leader of Financial Services Practice at Boyden.

Why did you find it important to sign the Executive Search Code? How do you contribute to the success within the boardroom as an extension of this?

Goudsmit: Boyden was one of the first executive search agencies to sign the Code, years ago. For us it was a no brainer. The diversity & inclusion agenda is in the Boyden DNA. It is not for nothing that we ourselves have a female CEO who directs our global organization and proactively promotes the diversity agenda internally and externally.

How does Boyden differentiate itself from other agencies?

Goudsmit: I do not know if Boyden is so drastically different from other top tier agencies. I cannot judge that. We only look at ourselves. For example, we have had our own top women's database for many years, divided over functions and sectors, both for permanent positions and for supervisory functions. Through this database we serve many clients with balanced longlists and shortlists, with a proportional representation of both female and male candidates. This regularly results in successful appointments.

Today almost all clients require a certain percentage of female candidates on long and shortlists. We often inform these clients that this is actually a superfluous question for us.

Have you been (even) more careful with the compilation of long and shortlists since signing the Code? Has there been something changed in your office since the 'pronouncement' of this commitment compared to the past?

Goudsmit: Then I fall back on what I have just said: Boyden has been working on this for years and we are very aware of the participation of talented women in executive roles within the BV Netherlands.

Susan Vinnicombe, professor of women and leadership at Cranfield University, sketched in the Financial Times a picture of the tilted atmosphere among the 'big boys' in the internationally operating search world: "The whole thing is well shaken." You subscribe internationally progressive trend, and do Dutch searchers go sufficiently with their time?

Goudsmit: I think that our colleagues have also understood the urgency of this trend. At Boyden, both worldwide and in the Netherlands, things had already been shaken up, as Vinnicombe quoted above. The old boys network thinking has never been in the DNA of our organization.

You obviously have to deal with the wishes of your clients. Not everyone is open to more women on board, some drivers and regulators prefer to choose a safe name that the shareholders do not care about, or someone with a 'classic' track record from their own network. Are you actually dealing with clients of the 'old stamp', who like to choose what jokingly male, stale and pale is called, and gives this friction?

Goudsmit: As a rule, most clients are now aware of the fact that it cannot continue this for longer. Diversity & Inclusion is high on the agenda of the majority of companies and organizations in the Netherlands. I do not recognize this.
What is wisdom in the case of that friction? Does the fist have to be on the table now and then?

Goudsmit: Should there still be a clear conservative way of thinking with our clients, then we usually make them very clear that their ideas are no longer of this time and that they will start to feel the consequences of this at some point in their business. Boyden sees it as her duty to serve as a so-called trusted advisor for her clients.

Do you consciously enter into conversation with women from your 'card box', to invest in their chances of a top job? How do you support women in fully exploiting their potential?

Goudsmit: Boyden does this in various ways, for example by inviting talented (top) women for an exploratory development and coaching conversation at our office. In these discussions, we provide sound advice on how they can take their chances on executive positions to an even higher level and success rate.

Your agency regularly participates in the speed dates organized by What is your general impression of the candidates? Can they improve their performance, do they have enough on the retina what their possibilities and challenges are?

Goudsmit: The general impression is that we have enormous potential in the Netherlands, women who can operate at the highest level. However, they themselves do not always see that potential and find it difficult to profile themselves. Here women can - or rather should - get to work themselves, in order to gain more visibility at the right levels. The fact is that at the executive level, it is not only about how good you are, but also about how you promote and promote it.

How do you view quotas or other mandatory measures to make the top more diverse?

Goudsmit: In principle, Boyden is against such compelling measures. It must, in our eyes, take place in a natural and natural way. It is of course very strange that a so-called very progressive country like the Netherlands cannot (yet) bring this agenda to a success. Boyden sees in many countries and regions around us that this agenda is no longer a problem. Not only the search agencies, but especially the companies and organizations themselves, will have to work harder and fight to develop the female potential within their departments in such a way that they get a fair chance to move to the top. If this ultimately does not lead to the desired result, then unfortunately we will not be able to implement the above mentioned measures.

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