In 1974, Judith von Seldeneck had a very bold idea.
A native of North Carolina, she had been working as a personal secretary for then-Senator Walter Mondale when, after marrying an investment banker, she found herself suddenly relocated to his hometown of Philadelphia. Searching for a new purpose in a new city, she bought into a small firm that specialized in finding shared jobs for women. But Judee von Seldeneck had a bigger vision—one that would eventually transform the field of executive search.
Buying out her partners, and with a tactical eye on the burgeoning women’s rights movement of the 1970s, Judee took the firm, then called Distaffers, and changed its focus to finding full-time, well-paying jobs for women. “We kind of snuck up on the boys unexpectedly,” Judee once relayed in a speech. “We had no game plan—we didn’t really know what we were doing except we wanted to work, use our brain, make some money, and have fun. We didn’t mind that we were women—never occurred to us that we were anything else.”
In 1982 she changed the name of the firm to Diversified Search, a reflection of its growth into a full-fledged executive search firm finding leadership positions for plenty of high-powered women, but also finding them for men, too. Over the next several decades the firm would blossom into a formidable competitor in the highly competitive world of executive search.
Today it boasts nine offices in major cities across America, and, through its global partnership with AltoPartners, it is part of an elite alliance with offices in over 30 countries that identifies and places C-Suite talent around the world.
A commitment to diversity remains a cornerstone at Diversified Search, and a reflection of the firm’s core values of trust, integrity, goodwill, and respect. Diversified Search prides itself on being comprised of diverse, seasoned professionals who are committed and dedicated to their clients and their candidates.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.
— Steve Jobs
In 2013, Judee assumed the role of Chair, and announced the appointment of Dale E. Jones as Diversified’s new CEO. In the ensuing years, the firm has experienced a dramatic expansion. In 2016, Diversified Search acquired life sciences search firm BioQuest; in 2019, the firm acquired both Koya Leadership Partners, the nation's premier search firm dedicated to mission-driven leadership, and Grant Cooper, a St. Louis-based firm specializing in healthcare C-suite recruitment. In early 2020, the firm acquired Media, PA-based Storbeck Search & Associates, a leader in higher education executive search. These five firms now comprise Diversified Search Group, a new model in the executive search industry. Koya founder Katie Bouton now serves as Diversified Search's President. Today, this team continues to lead the firm in both year-over-year growth and a mission moored in a deeply held belief that great leadership transforms people, organizations, and the world. So ingrained is this credo into the fabric of Diversified Search Group that it is inherent in our corporate motto: Cultivating new leadership for a changing world.