DHR International and its acquisition target CTPartners have a lot in common including track records of alleged discrimination.
A former Principal in DHR's Silicon Valley office, is suing DHR International for discrimination. According to her suit, she alleges she "performed her services for DHR in an exemplary manner" however Pravesh Mehra (global leader of the Business & Professional Services Practice) "stopped working with [her] and told her that she would have a hard time in the consulting market because she was a Caucasian female without an MBA". This is the second gender discrimination complaint in the same small Silicon Valley office.
CTPartners sexual discrimination has become a cause célèbre. According to an article in the New York Post:
"[CEO Brian] Sullivan, who stepped down amid the scandal, also subjected his employees to lewd behavior, including stripping naked at a boozy company event in 2012, workers alleged in the complaint filed with the EEOC.Boards and management are and should be focussed on diversity. Diversity should be a critical consideration of every board search and executive search.
In the amended shareholder complaint, five former employees describe a den of discrimination where men did little work and saw few consequences, while women were let go when the company didn't want to pay them.
One former employee claims that top executives would muscle into women’s assignments in order to get a portion of the finder’s fee even if they did no work.
An unnamed male managing partner would read the newspaper during client calls and disparaged a woman to a client while they were both on a call — and still he got a 65 percent cut of the fee, according to the complaint.
When the woman complained to human resources, she was told, “It’s going to be wasting your breath if you talk to Brian [Sullivan] about it,” the suit said.
Another former employee claims she was the 13th woman over the age of 40 to be let go in 18 months. Men who hadn’t made billings in three years stayed on the company’s dole while women who brought in $500,000 were let go without the pay they had earned, according to the suit."
However, at DHR International, "Diversity" is not a value but a separate Practice Group, like "Sports" or "Financial Services". See the DHR web site, which says DHR "treat diversity assignments with the same level of professionalism that characterizes all of [their] work." Diversity assignments are a different class of assignment to DHR's other assignments.
In other words, for DHR diversity is a marketing tool. Over the last few years, DHR has had a number of "Heads of Diversity" but they don't tend to last long. Recent Global Heads of Diversity at DHR include Dwain Celistan and Ted Gregory, Carolyn Oakly Lowe and Susan Medina - three out of four left the firm. Diversity should be about attracting and retaining diverse talent.
There are currently seven members of DHR International's "Diversity Practice". Only one is female!
Another example of DHR's lack of understanding of diversity is the "roster" of six new directors they are proposing for election to the Board of Directors of CTPartners. See the DHR International press release, timed to coincide with the resignation of CTPartners CEO, Brian Sullivan.
In 2015 in the US, any half-decent search firm would ensure that a "roster" of Board of Director candidates has a diversity of gender, race, age, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, etc. If DHR International are truly "international" and global, then they should also be thinking about foreigners.
Guess what? The DHR International "roster" are six white male Americans. The ages include 75, 72 and 67. In fact, three of the six are called "William"! That ain't diversity.
The six are William Perez, William Farley, William Smithburg, John Jastrem, Daniel Connors and Geoffrey Hoffmann.
The lack of gender diversity of this "slate" is particularly an issue given the continuing sexual discrimination claims made against CTPartners. At least their Board currently has one female: Betsy Morgan.
At the end of the press release, David Hoffmann is quoted as saying, "We are confident our slate will be welcomed by the Board of Directors. The collective expertise of our board nominees will help drive maximum value for shareholders while fostering an employee centric environment.” Really? If DHR International truly cared about CTPartners' employees given the claims of sexual discrimination and "boys club", DHR International's "slate" would include some diversity. Instead, DHR International are pushing a "boys club" of their own. And, as at least one lawsuit suggests, DHR itself is being accused of discrimination against women.
Given some of the allegations of discriminatory behavior at DHR, CTPartners will be a great cultural fit. The CTPartners boys club will do fine in the DHR locker room.