Report on Diversity in Compliance Teams

Compliance officers often talk about the importance of building diverse teams, but a fresh report from an executive search firm shows how difficult that push for diversity can be — including the significant portion of legal and compliance teams that don’t use any diversity recruitment strategies at all.

The report comes from search firm Barker Gilmore, which recently polled 88 chief legal officers at large U.S. companies to ask what strategies they use to recruit diverse candidates for their legal and compliance teams. We have a few findings worth contemplating.

First, the most common diversity strategies are those that you’d expect: intentionally searching for diverse candidates to add to your candidate pool (cited by 23 percent of respondents); and having an actual policy requiring that every search must include a diversity candidate (cited by 15 percent). All other recruitment strategies trailed behind in the single digits. See Figure 1, below.

Source: Barker Gilmore

Second, an alarming number of legal and compliance teams don’t use any diversity strategies at all. The good news was that 42 percent of respondents said their companies use one diversity strategy for recruiting compliance and legal employees, and another 21 percent use multiple strategies — but 37 percent said they use no such strategies at all. 

Third, using multiple strategies works best. Among companies that used no diversity recruitment strategies, 55 percent still said they had minority employees on their compliance and legal teams. Among those that use three or more diversity strategies, however, that figure was 69 percent.  

Why Care About Diversity in Hiring?

Foremost, we should care about diversity because it’s the right thing to do. Minorities got the shaft in this country for far too long, and often still do; and on those grounds alone Corporate America should take steps to leave its historical shortcomings behind

From a more self-interested perspective, let’s also remember that a diverse compliance team leads to better performance of your team. We have a diverse workforce in this country; employees will feel more comfortable speaking up about harassment or discrimination when they know that people who look like them, and have lived the same experiences as them, are on the receiving end of the misconduct allegation weighing on their mind. There’s also the risk of groupthink when you’re surrounded by people who look and live just like you. Diverse teams can help burst those bubbles and tell clueless managers that they’re missing a big thing. 

Obviously Barker Gilmore has a commercial interest in talking about the importance of diversity in hiring, since the firm makes its money helping other companies with those recruitment needs. So what? Its findings are still good food for thought for chief compliance officers who want to build better teams, and that goal of building a diverse team is worth pursuing unto itself.

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