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Why women in banking mismanage headhunter calls

Women, take the call! From many years’ experience as an executive search consultant, I know I can call a male executive about an opportunity and, almost without exception, he will take the time to listen. Even if he ultimately is not interested, he will generally try to be helpful and, if asked, will suggest names of friends or colleagues who might be interested.

Most men are also open to meeting for a coffee so that I can better understand their background for roles that may come up in the future. Women, on the other hand, will often respond to a call by saying they are too busy to talk. A woman will say that she is happy where she is, sometimes without being willing to even listen to what the opportunity is about. If she does listen but not interested in the role, unlike her male colleagues, she is rarely willing to take the time to suggest others.

To a woman, the concept of meeting with an executive search consultant just to get to know her better often seems to be a preposterous suggestion because she is, after all, “too busy”. In my experience, the difference between a male executive and a female executive with equal education and ambition, is that the former is goal-oriented, while the latter is task-oriented.

Women believe they will be rewarded by excelling at their current role, which they may or may not be. Alternatively, men keep their “eye on the prize.” They have already developed a view of the role and/or level to which they aspire. For this reason, they are rarely “too busy” to pass up the chance to review an opportunity that might get them one step closer to their goals.

In general, men hold themselves in much higher esteem than their female colleagues. As a result, they more easily become frustrated at what they perceive as their lack of progress. They believe they have more of a “right” to move ahead and therefore are willing to invest time into moving up, either in title or money.

It is critical for women to actively prepare for future opportunities by building their networks. Professionals who don’t do this will not have a network when they need one. All executives have tasks to complete but female professionals must get clear on their goals and must decide which of their tasks gets them closer to their goals. Ladies, you don’t need to get an A+ on every task, especially if it causes you to lose sight of the goalpost.

Always take the call; the guy in the next office certainly will.

Christine Houston is founder and managing director of human capital consultancy, Executive Strategies Group International. 

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AUTHORChristine Houston Insider Comment
  • Su
    19 May 2022

    As a women who worked in the financial services industry for many years I find this article to be very interesting. I worked for the same company for many years since I was never hired by any of our competitors. When I first started in the financial services industry I would be contacted by headhunters and did take their calls only to be rejected for any position that I was submitted for. Additionally, I always referred my colleagues and friends. I only hope that I have helped some of my former women colleagues to advance in their careers.

  • Ly
    25 March 2022

    I am not in finance but I see a lot of myself in this article. I used to believe that if I excelled at my job, I would be recognised and given the position I deserved. Alas, I now realize it's just not true. People who have a goal and aggressively work towards it are more likely to get there.

  • Wh
    25 March 2022

    Is this really true? I’m a woman in finance and have done exactly the opposite of what the author describes women do. I’m quite certain that my female counterparts also do the same.

    I always take the call and read the job description, even if I’m not actively looking. I’ve even referred colleagues and friends to recruiters that I like. It’s all just part of networking.

  • WT
    25 March 2022

    These are really backward views about women, their work and their time. Women are generally busier than their male counterparts because of ERGs, panel participation and general office housekeeping that otherwise wouldn’t get done. I get calls and emails from lots of recruiters and frankly don’t have time for all of them. Some of them I do. Maybe you’re just not one of them.

  • LG
    24 March 2022

    So sexist ...

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