It’s All About the Culture - Jais Valeur

‘It’s All About the Culture’

By: Jais Valeur, CEO, Danish Crown

At a meeting in England with Danish Crown’s British subsidiary earlier this year, I noticed something striking. A third of the executives in the room were women. “Extraordinary,” I thought, wondering how we could make that happen everywhere in Danish Crown.

We Scandinavians regard ourselves as the world champions of gender equality, and there are many good reasons why. Women outnumber men in our universities, we have access to generous and affordable childcare, long maternity and even mandatory paternity leave policies are in place to help women in the workforce, while statutory quotas are used to help ensure that women are also able to reach the top of the workforce.

However, through years of working internationally, my own observations are that while we may be frontrunners in terms of thinking and implementing gender policy and legislation, we can still learn a lot in terms of practicing it and really making it work. Which brings me back to the meeting in England.

Researchers have pointed to a “gender equality paradox” in academia, which shows that the more gender equal a society becomes, the less women can be found in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I have experienced a similar paradox in management. Especially when I see more women in management in countries that do not support working families or have gender-equality programmes to the same degree that we do in the Nordic countries – like I did that day at my meeting in England. The numbers bear this out.

In Denmark, where Danish Crown is headquartered, women make up 27% of management positions. That is not only the lowest in the Nordic countries, it is also below the 31% average for all OECD countries. Sweden and Iceland just creep into the top 10 – at number 8 and 10, respectively – in terms of the number of women in management, according to a 2017 OECD report.[1] And this is in spite of the fact that Scandinavian countries make up 5 of the top 10 nations with the largest number of active women in the labour market.

So, yes, we have succeeded in opening up the labour market to women across Scandinavia, but getting more women into the decision-making ranks of our companies is the next challenge. I do not believe, however, that this challenge can be solved with quotas or legislation. Instead, it will require an even sharper focus on building more inclusive cultures in our Nordic companies that do business all over the world. And it is imperative not only for the sake of fairness – it is good business, too.

Short and Long-Term Change

Creating an inclusive culture is not rocket science, but it is hard work. It requires attention to detail, and it takes time.

At Danish Crown, we have reassessed the language and metaphors we use in job postings, and this has already led to a large increase in women applicants to new jobs. The importance of cooperation and culture are being stressed as much as the importance of responsibility and results.

We have implemented new requirements for recruitment companies that at least one of the three final candidates for any job must be a woman. We believe that this is important, because many recruiters are men, and we must constantly challenge their natural biases to choose candidates who resemble themselves or the people we already have. And we are working with our existing women leaders to find and create role models and culture bearers who can help us create change.

We are also working on longer-term initiatives to increase diversity. Recently, we launched the group’s first ever graduate programme, which will take on a 50/50 split of men and women and a 50/50 split of Danes and non-Danes each year. This will help us create a pipeline of management talent for the future. This autumn, we will launch an entirely new corporate identity that will help us tell a more nuanced story about Danish Crown and be an important step toward helping us build a more inclusive employer brand.

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