Stepping up to see more women at the top

GN News

Jun 14, 2019

Despite its top ranking, Denmark’s score on gender equality is no perfect 10, and companies must step up in the equality arena to ensure their future competitiveness. That was the challenge put to 100 CEOs and headhunters, including GN’s Jakob Gudbrand, at the 2019 Womenomics Nordic Women’s Business Conference.

Get the facts on the business case for increasing the number of women in leadership roles, and see how GN is driving the agenda from the top.

At a recent Barbershop event at Tivoli in Copenhagen (read more about the Icelandic initiative here), preceding the 2019 Womenomics Nordic Women’s Business Conference, Jakob Gudbrand, CEO, GN Hearing, was invited to share his thoughts in a panel discussion to a room of approximately 100 Nordic CEOs and headhunters.
 
The Barbershop was an opportunity for the mostly-male executives and recruiters to get the facts on not only the business costs of not taking decisive action to improve gender diversity in their companies, but also to hear about the significant opportunities of having more women at the table.

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Issues don’t fix themselves: putting words into action

Just like any issue concerning company performance, improving gender diversity won’t happen by itself, and plenty of research points to the mounting costs of doing nothing. It is an issue that must be driven by company leadership, and men must be as much a part of driving the agenda as women.

From his 15 years working abroad in both the United States and the United Kingdom, Jakob Gudbrand, CEO GN Hearing, brings an international perspective to this aspect of organizational development. 

“Diversity and inclusion is a passion of mine and something I bring to the table, given it’s an area GN could benefit from improving on,” Jakob said at the panel.

We must be as diverse as our customers

As CEO, Jakob is responsible for GN’s growth and success going forward, and he is adamant that gender diversity is critical to achieving that success. 

“We must be as diverse as our customers,” Jakob insists.

GN markets our products in 100 countries, and without employee diversity, we won’t reflect the diverse customers we serve. Increasing diversity in GN must be up there on the agenda to ensure we are headed in the right direction for ensuring our future competitiveness.

“Diversity and inclusion may not make a difference in Q2, and it may also not impact the company’s success in 2019. But I don’t think we will succeed being relevant for society and our customers in 2025 and in 2030 if we don’t look, act, and behave like our customers, and become dramatically more diverse than we are today,” he says.

Jakob Gudbrand, CEO GN Hearing discussed gender diversity at the Barbershop in Copenhagen, May 2019

Jakob Gudbrand, CEO GN Hearing discussed gender diversity on a panel with Lars Rasmussen,
Chairman of the Boards of Danish companies Coloplast and Lundbeck, at the Barbershop in Copenhagen, May 2019

Key actions to be fit for the future

GN’s short and long term actions in this arena are spelled out in our Diversity Policy (read it here). Among them, we have appointed a Diversity Ambassador, tasked with ensuring we are on track towards our targets; and we share our progress in publications like our Communication on Progress report (available here), which levels up our progress on implementing the principles of the United Nations Global Compact. We promote career testimonials from men and women from various countries, and involve both male and female ambassadors at career fairs and in job ads. Since “You can’t be what you can’t see”, to quote activist Marian Wright Edelman, representing diversity in communications is essential for potential talents from diverse backgrounds to be able to picture themselves in the GN family portrait.

Gitte Lindhard, Talent & Leadership Development Director and GN’s Diversity Ambassador, speaks about responsible leadership at Copenhagen Capacity international talent conference, May 2019

The good news is that in 2018, we achieved gender parity on GN’s Board of Directors, as well as among the talents recruited for our graduate program. We have increased the percentage of women in senior leadership roles to 20% in the past three years, up from 13% in 2015, but we still have a way to go in order to reach our target of 25% by the end of the year.

Being firm on driving diversity

Getting more women into leadership roles means both developing internal talents for stepping up into senior management roles, and sticking firmly to our agenda when hiring new leaders into the business.  As Jakob told the panel discussion, increasing the number of women in leadership roles means being firm with headhunters on the need to select both gender- and culturally-diverse candidates. In GN’s audio business, the employee-led Jabra Women’s Network is focused on fostering an inclusive and innovative culture to attract and retain talented women in the business. This happens in various ways, from senior female leaders in the business blogging about the return on investment of parental leave for both men and women, to knowledge-sharing via internal webinars, and sponsoring girls’ education in developing countries.

Long-term investment reaps rewards

Importantly, as Jakob emphasized at the panel discussion, reaching gender diversity targets is not something we achieve over a quarter. It requires commitment and accountability over the long-term.
 
“You don’t make progress quarter over quarter. You make progress over a sustained period of time on this specific topic here. It’s about a pragmatic approach to attracting and nurturing the right talent, and making sure the leadership is held accountable,” Jakob said.
While this article has focused on gender diversity at GN, cultural diversity is equally important – and in both respects there is plenty more to do. We will continue to share our progress over time. You can watch the Barbershop session, including the panel discussion at 84:00, here.

Sources: Harnessing the power of data for gender equality: Introducing the 2019 EM2030 SDG Gender Index, Equal Measures, 2019
Bridging the talent gap in Denmark, McKinsey, 2018
Delivering through Diversity, McKinsey, 2018
Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups, Woolley et al, 2010
Women Matter: Ten Years of Insights on Gender Diversity, McKinsey, 2017