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On the right track

How can we get more women to the top at Orkla? This was the theme at the “Women in Orkla Network meeting” conference, held in Oslo on 18 February 2010.

This conference, which gathered together some 100 female managers and key personnel from various Orkla companies in Europe, aimed to focus on how we can achieve a more balanced gender split at management level and inspire leadership by exchanging experiences.
 
“At our conference in 2008, the theme was what we can do so as not to lose talented women. And we are still dedicated to looking at how we can place more of our talented women in managerial positions,” explained Hilde Myrberg, Executive Vice President.
 
Feedback received from the 2008 conference indicated that the effect of the masculine culture and communication style on women should not be underestimated. Therefore, the environment surrounding women has a major impact on whether or not they wish to remain with the company.
 
Measures
A number of measures have been implemented since 2008 in order to increase the percentage of women in top managerial positions:

  • The requirement to put forward at least one female candidate for every managerial position has been reinforced.
  • The mentor programme - which has existed since 2000 - is still ongoing and has had 91 female participants to date.

And the Brands business area is a high point:
“In Brands, we have never had as many managing directors and women on the management teams as we have now,” said Myrberg.
 
More profitable
But she underlines the fact that it is not enough to just have one woman on the management team: research shows that a management team has to involve at least 30 per cent women in order to make women feel comfortable and remain in their positions.
 
It seems that companies with the most women in managerial positions are more profitable than those with the fewest. But talent is the most important criterion, regardless of gender. By only employing men, companies are missing out on a lot of very talented managers.

And talent is not the only consideration. Companies also need customers: women control 80 per cent of decisions to purchase in the consumer market, and represent 60 per cent of graduates in Europe and North America.

Leadership versus management
Dag J. Opedal, Chief Executive Officer at Orkla ASA, talked to us about leadership versus management.
“Effective leadership is no mystery. The essence of good leadership involves developing people and creating value,” emphasised Opedal.
 
As regards the uneven gender split at Orkla, he does not feel there are any quick-fix solutions and that there are many different reasons as to why women are failing to make the upper echelons.
 
Both genders are responsible for women failing to make the top levels; men often select other men from their own networks, and women have to be more motivated to take on managerial positions. But experience has shown that very few women would turn down a managerial position if they were offered it.
 
Take chances!
Kristin Skogen Lund, a Board member at Orkla who has recently left her position as Managing Director at Aftenposten to take on the position of Executive Vice President at Telenor, challenged women to take more chances.

“Do not be so afraid of making big mistakes. Big mistakes are pretty rare!” she said.
She felt that women often give 100 per cent in everything they do. This is not necessary, she felt; the important tasks have to be given priority.

“Moreover, managers should communicate more with their staff, not just sit behind a keyboard all day. Leadership is all about setting a course and encouraging staff to follow it by giving them motivation,” said Kristin Skogen Lund.