Diversity and inclusiveness in Danish businesses

Competencies are not defined by gender

What makes a company diverse? What defines a good leader? And how do we push for competency-based approaches?

These are important questions that not only change and diversity managers, but every employee should ask themselves and reflect upon.

A closer look at Danish businesses allows us to gain a better understanding of how differently diversity can be interpreted and thus implemented. We know of strategies involving calls for different nationalities in the recruitment process and have heard of the idea to introduce gender-blind applications. It seems like there are several approaches on how to make the Danish business more diverse.

Diversity enhances growth

Statistics show that diversity enhances economic growth. In fact, BCG finds that companies which reported above-average diversity on their management teams also reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity.
Pie Chart Diversification

The Nordic Council of Ministers announced just recently (March 3rd, 2019) that the employment rate of women in the Nordics has increased from 55 to 72% over the past 50 years.
While this clearly is a positive trend, we need to challenge these numbers and make sure we see the whole picture.

Think about the definition of a CEO in a Danish company. What is it that runs through your head? Is the person experienced or a young top talent? A dane or an expat? Male or female?

Debates about diversity often circulate a lot around gender. For a reason. Not only do women still have less opportunities in moving up the career ladder; they also have to work harder in order to stay in managing positions. Research shows that 65% of women in top-management positions leave because they don’t get involved in decision-making processes and lack recognition. And they still earn 7% less than male leaders. This is clearly an issue connected to gender, but would it not be time to move forward and talk about competencies instead?

If you just entered the job market or were to change your career path, how would you want to be perceived? Would you not want to be judged based on your skills and competencies, rather than your gender? Or age?

Inclusiveness as a company culture

Scouting for cases, where inclusiveness forms part of the company culture, ISS appears to be on the forefront. The globally operating facility service company, with headquarters in Copenhagen prides itself with its “diverse DNA”. In order to prove that incorporating inclusiveness into the agenda is beneficial, ISS has invested in a study that looked into the effect that diversity has in financial terms. Lotte Hjortlund Andersen, who works as the People and Culture Director, tells us that the study predicts a 3,7% -point higher revenue, due to diversity in teams. This amounts to a total of 100 mil. DKK every year if all teams have the right combination of diversity.

Rather than targeting specific groups of people, the company strives for an inclusion-focused approach. ISS tries to go against the trend of “grouping people and putting them into boxes”. Because “this is not the way forward”, explains Lotte.

The perfect fit and the benefits of being different

In fact, we have to acknowledge that today’s society or business environment has created a culture of the ‘perfect candidate’. And even though it is a long stretch, we continuously make an effort in trying to fit in and match the desired roles that companies advertise on the job market. Because who would not want to strive for success?

Looking at the statistics, we know that diversity is beneficial for a company. Thus, our task is to explore the benefits of being different and looking at diversity as a strength, not a weakness.

ISS’ success in recruiting a wide range of nationalities could be reasoned with the industry it is operating in. And yes, we understand that companies working in different industries are running a very thorough recruitment process in search for like-minded people, because companies are pressured to deliver at a fast pace. But what if we encourage everyone to think alike; where will the creative thinkers, the artists have room to challenge and innovate?

A call for mixed leadership styles

If we want the business culture to change and open-up to empathic and creative leaders, we need to find a way to communicate this message.

Tina Moe is a Danish board professional, executive advisor, lecturer and author, who recently published a book called ‘Leadership of the future’. She has translated brain research into leadership-styles and aimed at providing a new language about leadership styles that leaves out the gender-talk. Having worked in top manager positions at amongst others Novo Nordisk and NNE, Tina has a unique insight into the corporate culture and decision-making processes.

Peoples leadership styles are different but can be simplified to a small list of leadership approaches that helps us work together”, says Tina. She refers to these leadership skills as blue and red. But this does not mean that one style is better than the other. In fact, this is what makes a company thrive: managers who are in the middle of the spectrum and can combine blue and red leadership styles. We both need leaders with quick decision-making, rational mindsets and at the same time a high degree of self-esteem, empathy, long-term thinking and creativity.

Allowing to be different

If we want businesses to survive in this quickly transforming, digital age, we have to reinvent the wheel and think outside the box. We need those creative and innovative minds to get up to speed with developing new ideas. Allowing to be different and take pride in that can only create new genuine role models.


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