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New McCormack + Kristel Recruiting Partnership: Diversity Recruiter Adds New Nonprofit Expert to its Team

PALM SPRINGS – July 18, 2016: Joe McCormack, a pioneering and nationally recognized diversity recruiter in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, is announcing the formation of a new business partnership with Michelle Kristel, a former nonprofit executive and associate with the firm since 2013. The new partnership will be known as McCormack + Kristel, LLC, with offices in Palm Springs, CA and New York, NY.

Michelle Kristel is the former executive director of In The Life Media, producers of the acclaimed PBS series, In The Life. Currently, Michelle serves on the board of CenterLink, the national association of LGBT community centers; the advisory board of Quorum, an organization working to increase LGBT presence on corporate boards; and the steering committee of the Publishing Triangle, an association of authors, readers and publishing professionals.

“McCormack + Kristel will build upon our 23-year reputation for excellent service and continue to expand our national recruiting practice,” says Founder and Managing Partner Joe McCormack. “Michelle’s experience as a nonprofit leader is a great value-add for our clients. Because she has served in and managed many of the positions our clients seek to fill, Michelle has great instincts for finding talent and making successful placements.”

In 1993, in a series of firsts, McCormack & Associates, the first openly gay-owned retained search firm, was founded with the mission to recruit leadership for the nation’s burgeoning HIV/AIDS service organizations. The firm later expanded to serve LGBT movement organizations and is proud to have been the first retained search firm to embrace the transgender community as a source of talent for their clients. “Being a pioneer is a core value for us, not only as a business practice, but as a reflection of our commitment to social justice,” said McCormack.

Since its founding, the firm has completed more than 400 searches for CEO’s, board members and C-suite executives for nonprofit and philanthropic organizations across the country. Clients include amfAR, the ACLU, the California Endowment, Chicago House, Compassion & Choices, Los Angeles LGBT Center, National Minority AIDS Council, the National Breast Cancer Coalition, Planned Parenthood, the Tides Foundation, the Weingart Foundation, and scores of other public health, human service and social justice organizations.

“I am thrilled to be in partnership with Joe McCormack,” said Kristel. “Great hires make all the difference for mission-driven organizations. Having the right players in the right positions is essential to advancing strategic goals, increasing program impact and engaging donors and constituents. Together, Joe and I will continue the firm’s tradition of advancing social justice by supporting our clients to strengthen their teams and enhance their capacity.”

McCormack + Kristel will continue its strategic venture with New York-based Wesley, Brown & Bartle, one of the nation’s leading minority-owned retained search firms. The two firms have partnered as WBB+McCormack to recruit leadership and C-suite executives for Amnesty International, AIDS United, the Chicago AIDS Foundation, the New York LGBT Community Center and other high profile clients

Op-ed: What’s Wrong With Executive Recruiters?

The following article by Joe McCormack was featured on Advocate.com on August 22, 2013.  View the original source here.

An executive recruiter argues that education and protections are essential to combating discrimination against transgender people in the hiring process.

I met my first out transgender candidate for a corporate position 13 years ago. We had arranged to meet at a coffee shop north of Los Angeles, and I awaited our rendezvous with some trepidation. At precisely 10 a.m. a very tall and stylishly dressed woman arrived for our meeting. Ms. R, as I will call her, would not have passed easily as a woman. She had the broad shoulders and height of an athlete and a resonant voice. Before our meeting I had assumed that she would likely be a confused and unhappy person. But I found that she was confident, at peace with her decision to transition, and eager to go back to work. After an hour-long meeting — which often brought tears to my eyes as she described the struggles with her former employer, her family, and the community in which she had been a youth and civic leader — I had a new respect and admiration for her determination and courage. It was also clear that she was highly qualified for the position and deserved every consideration. I received a very important lesson about transgender people that day.

Many executive recruiters have never knowingly met a transgender person, so they have all the negative stereotypes I had as a gay man in April of 2000, and possibly more. I was once told by a trans woman that there is a deep-seated suspicion about executive search consultants like me because a great telephone interview is often followed by a personal meeting where they are suddenly disqualified, no matter how strong their credentials. Of course no recruiter who wants to stay out of court would ever tell someone that s/he is disqualified for any reason not related to the job requirements, so there is always some plausible excuse provided for eliminating the candidate.

Is this simple prejudice, or is something else at work here?

A search consultant needs to measure two things to be successful: job-related skills and degree of fit with an organization. The first set of criteria represents the science of recruiting. The second set represents the art. Fit, chemistry, and cultural compatibility are all intangibles, but essential to ensuring a successful and sustainable match. For example, a hard-driving, ruthlessly competitive candidate from a Wall Street investment banking firm would probably be a poor fit for a children’s burn center. While that may seem like an extreme example, I think you can see my point.

What is wrong with many executive recruiters is that they are uneducated about transgender issues, and, as gatekeepers, they often make assumptions about whether a transgender candidate is a good fit for their client. Yes, prejudice is a factor, but a lack of awareness about their client’s human resources policies regarding transgender employees is an even bigger one. In the briefing process between the hiring authority and the recruiter to define the requirements for the position and the characteristics needed in a successful candidate, it rarely comes up. When diversity is discussed it’s almost always in reference to gender, race, or ethnicity. Sexual orientation is seldom at top of mind, even if the company is gay-friendly, let alone gender expression or gender identity.

How do we address this? First, we have to educate and train every recruiter about the transgender talent pool as a valuable resource for their searches. Thirty years ago, the mere hint that a candidate could be gay or lesbian was often enough to eliminate them from the hiring process. Today, even the largest search firms have some openly gay search consultants. In 10 years or even sooner, we may have openly transgender search consultants as well, but until then, we have some work to do. Participation at panel discussions and training sessions for members of the Association of Executive Search Consultants, the National Association of Executive Recruiters, and the International Association of Corporate and Professional Recruiters would be good places to start. Second, as a community, we need to ensure that corporate human resources departments include gender expression and gender identity as a protected characteristic on every position description they write and that they make it clear to the recruiters they hire that this is never a reason for disqualifying an otherwise excellent candidate.

Like the LGB community of 30 years ago, the transgender community is beginning to come out of the professional closet and demand its place at the table. The more visible the transgender community becomes, the more acceptance that transgender professionals will have in the workplace, and so on in a virtuous circle. It’s difficult for most fair-minded people to stereotype or dislike people they work alongside every day, especially if they are good team members and skilled at their jobs. As a recruiter I’ve found that transgender candidates are often overachievers, and they are certainly determined or they would never have undertaken their difficult and sometimes painful personal journeys.

JOE McCORMACK is the managing partner of McCormack+Kristel, the first openly gay executive search firm, established in 1993. He is also one of the cofounders of the Association of Transgender Professionals.