Diversity + Inclusion in the C-Suite

An interview with Sue Waterbury as featured in Hunt Scanlon Media. Sue Waterbury is a Managing Director of McDermott + Bull in the firm’s New York office, where she leads East Coast business development, with a practice focused on family offices, including private equity, family foundations, and the nonprofit sector. In this interview, Sue reflects on the current nature of Diversity + Inclusion and explains how McDermott + Bull effectively carries out its clients’ D+I strategy.


How important is Diversity + Inclusion in the current C-suite and board level corporate business culture and executive search process?

Both Diversity + Inclusion (D+I) and Diversity Equity + Inclusion (DEI) are extremely important across virtually every industry, and consequently, every search assignment. From the National Football League’s “Rooney Rule”, where teams now require ethnic-minority candidates for Coach and Senior Operations positions; to parity.org, where corporations sign on to commit to interviewing a qualified woman for every C-suite or board position; to CEO Action, where CEOs of over 800 organizations commit to cultivate a D+I / DEI environment; these issues are now in the forefront.

How important is Diversity + Inclusion to your practice and how does McDermott + Bull incorporate these issues as a priority in today’s marketplace?

D+I and DEI have been buzzwords within the corporate and non-profit job sectors for years. No longer catch phrases, these critical issues are now business culture imperatives. A diverse workforce drives engagement, productivity, innovation, and profitability. Indeed, in order to attract the best talent, corporations must think about D+I and DEI with regards to workplace culture and providing broader opportunity to qualified candidates. At McDermott + Bull, our clients make D+I and DEI top objectives during a search. In 2018, 57 percent of our placements across financial institutions, life science companies, and non-profits were women or people of a diverse background.

Are women being promoted to the boardroom and C-suite?

Yes, but at a slow pace. We see this through examples such as California’s Senate Bill 826, where publicly traded companies of a certain size must currently have at least one woman on their board (to increase by 2021). To 

achieve these goals, organizations now accept that they must look outside of current networks to bring in diversity. A firm like ours can help avoid obstacles throughout the search, including boards picking candidates they know may not be qualified; picking candidates who serve on other boards and are considered a “safe hire”; and limited candidate pools, as boards tend to look at only C-suite job titles.

So, are there measurable results in the current markets and what do you see happening over the next five years?

Yes, more women have been appointed to boards and C-suite roles, but their tenure is often short lived, so the statistics haven’t changed much. With a focus on women leaders and diversity in corporate America, it cannot be limited to rhetoric. Studies have shown that having a diverse workforce is critical to meeting new talent demands. In a Women in the Workplace Study conducted by Mckinsey & Company and LeanIn.org in 2019, it is revealed that companies have made progress in gender diversity and that it is a top priority for the future. Further, when employees say their company is highly committed to gender diversity, they are happier and plan to stay at their company longer.

McDermott + Bull believes organizations should re-envision their approach to diversity:

• It starts at the top. The CEO and executive team must truly buy-into an inclusive workplace and promote it unequivocally.

• Develop your internal diverse team and try to promote from within. Use tools of mentorship, coaching, and professional development.

• External hires and the approach to hiring must be overhauled to drive diversity. Making D+I and DEI front and center in a public way will set your firm apart from the competition.

Sue Waterbury

Sue Waterbury

Managing Director

Sue Waterbury serves as Managing Director in the New York office, where she leads East Coast business development, with a practice focused on the Non-Profit Sector including Credit Unions, Family Offices, and Family Foundations. She has become a trusted advisor to senior executives and trustees on hiring leaders and developing corporate culture. Prior to her career in search, Sue spent two decades in senior sales positions for Deutsche Bank and as Vice President at Goldman Sachs.