By Emily Szakacs, Senior Partner, Korn Ferry.


I was fortunate enough to receive some great advice from a female mentor early in my career about how to shape my own destiny. She suggested I take time to think two moves ahead and be very thoughtful about the experiences, assignments or roles you need to get there.

Since I received that advice, there have been advancements in women’s representation in business.  However, there is still a lot of work to do. The gender pay gap in Australia is 13% (WGEA) and female representation at the very top of our listed companies is woeful.  The 2023 Chief Executive Women census revealed that 91% of ASX300 CEOs are male and that at the current rate of change, it will take 50 years to achieve gender parity at CEO level.

We all have a role to play in advancing representation of women in business.  As a senior partner in one of the world’s leading people consulting firms, I work with organisations and senior leaders to assess, develop, and promote female capability.  It makes business sense, companies with more diverse teams report higher innovation, revenue, improved decision making and better governance.  How do we do this?  We develop and acquire inclusive leaders, male and female.


At Korn Ferry we have done extensive research into what makes an inclusive leader.  We can do this as we assess and develop leaders globally at a rate of 100,000 per month.   By analysing our data base of more than 3 million leadership assessments we have been able to identify the key characteristics and disciplines that enable inclusive leadership. Inclusive leaders are authentic and can connect emotionally with their teams. They are culturally agile and curious. These qualities enable Inclusive leaders to leverage the diversity of their organisation’s talent to make better decisions, to innovate and to drive growth and performance. The point is that being an inclusive leader does not just make you a good leader of inclusion and diversity it makes you a good leader overall.

Inclusiveness is the new currency of power, influence, and effectiveness.  By harnessing it successfully, leaders will enable their company to take the world’s opportunities by storm.  However, we know that inclusive leaders are rare, for when we benchmarked 24,000 leaders in our data base against our inclusive leader model only 5% ranked in the top 25th percentile on 6 of the 10 competencies in our model.

Australia ranked as one of the regions with a relatively higher number of inclusive leaders but that number was still only 10.8%. Based on these statistics and my experience working with multiple organisations, big and small, I would argue that we have never needed inclusive leaders more than we do now.  The journey to becoming an inclusive leader starts with self-awareness. The goal is to recognise and address your own biases, value diverse thinking, and celebrate different perspectives. Once you do that, you can encourage others to do the same.

In writing this article I reflected on the role that Korn Ferry plays in the market.  I did a self-assessment on our bench strength, here are some of tangible things that we are doing to make a difference:

  • 40% of c-suite candidate placements made in Australia by our Executive Search practice are female.
  • 50% of Board Directors we place in Australia are female.
  • 62% of our global workforce are women and 56% of our Board are diverse directors.

These results show that when you partner with the right people, we can all make a difference, as 50 years to get to gender parity is not good enough.  We all have a role to play in being the change we want to see.