Gender imbalance at Orkla

Why is the number of women managers at Orkla still low when 50 percent of all new staff that are recruited are women? The question was discussed at the Orkla Women’s Network Meeting on 10 January in Oslo,  which was attended by around 60 women from various Orkla companies in Europe.


Orkla’s top management is focusing on this issue because it pays to make the most of the female talent in the company. “Talent is the most important factor – regardless of gender! Management positions at Orkla must be filled by the best qualified people, whether they be men or women. The fact that the percentage of women managers at Orkla is low means that we are missing out on many capable, talented leaders,” said Group President and CEO Dag J. Opedal, who promised to follow this issue up in a wide range of forums.

Certain international studies show that companies with women in senior management positions are more profitable than companies where all the senior executives are male. But at least 30 per cent of senior managers must be women in order for this effect to be achieved.

Many different reasons

At the conference, participants discussed the various reasons why too few women are given management positions and the type of measure that can be implemented to remedy this situation. Both women and men are responsible for women not making it to the top. For instance, men often choose men from their own network, and assess competence on the basis of a masculine framework of reference. And women usually want to be 120 percent certain that they can do the job. But experience shows that very few women say no if they are asked.

Business issue

“This is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. It’s advisable to have a gender balance  in companies,” said speaker Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, who gives presentations on leadership and gender issues all over Europe.

“It’s not up to women alone to solve the problem of achieving a better gender balance. This is absolutely an issue that men too must be concerned about,” she emphasised.

Women account for over half of the world’s population and university graduates and must be treated accordingly; in other words, they’re not a minority group.

Equal but different

After several decades of efforts to get the message across that women and men must be treated equally, it is interesting that Wittenberg-Cox emphasises that women must be treated both in the same way and differently from men.

“Women and men are different. After all, we don’t treat different nationalities the same way, we take account of cultural differences,” she pointed out

Her business card reads ‘Half the Talent, Half the Market’. Read more at

Text and photo: Marit Mosnesset