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Looking at gender balance in management

VP Corporate Responsibility Ellen Behrens

VP Corporate Responsibility Ellen Behrens

Orkla and five other companies are conducting a survey to identify factors that promote and prevent a good gender balance in management.

Orkla has initiated a research project that is being carried out in collaboration with Norsk Hydro, Statkraft, Deloitte Norge, Telenor Norge and NSB. The Administrative Research Fund of the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) has been chosen as research partner. Work on the survey will begin at the end of May.

Ellen Behrens, VP Corporate Responsibility at Orkla, explains that the purpose of the project is to gain greater knowledge of the factors that promote and impede a good gender balance in senior management, and highlight expedient action to achieve a better gender balance.

“It’s about ten years since we last conducted a broad evaluation of Orkla’s efforts in this area. Since then, we have achieved a significant increase in the proportion of women in senior positions. Through this project, we are focusing on understanding the factors that have played a key role in promoting the positive trend in the past decade, and on what we should do to ensure that this favourable trend continues,” says Ellen Behrens.

“Do you have any hypotheses as to why Orkla has experienced a positive trend in gender balance?”

“The most important measure that Orkla has taken in this respect is to introduce the requirement that there must always be at least one female candidate when staff are recruited for management team positions. The purpose is to contribute to the identification of competent female candidates. We have seen an improvement in the percentage of women senior managers since this requirement was imposed, and it is therefore our hypothesis that the measure has been effective. However, we have adopted a broad-based approach, where we consider individual, organisational and industry-related factors, states Ellen Behrens. 

According to Ms Behrens, information for the research project will primarily be collected by means of a web-based survey of management personnel of both sexes, in addition to some in-depth interviews.

“At Orkla, the survey is to be carried out among management staff at Group and business area level, among managers of selected companies and managers at Orkla’s corporate centre. The project will provide us with insight into general factors that apply to all six companies as well as findings that are specific to Orkla.”

Why is it important for Orkla to have an even gender balance?

“First of all, it’s a question of promoting equality and avoiding discrimination. Secondly, we believe that diversity of experience offers a wide range of perspectives, which can help to ensure better decisions. Thirdly, it is important for Orkla to utilise the leadership potential inherent in both female and male employees,” explains Ellen Behrens.


  • Women accounted for 47% of all employees in Orkla (excluding Sapa) in 2012.
  • The proportion of women in management positions at Group, business area and company level in Orkla was 28.6% at the end of 2012 (excluding Sapa).
  • The proportion of women in management positions at all levels in Orkla was 34.7% at the end of 2012 (excluding Sapa).