The road to gender diversity at leadership level
We are taking action to improve gender diversity, particularly at a senior leadership level. Regional Vice-President for APAC, Katriina Öberg, and Vice-President for Commercial Excellence in the US, Cece Berger-Sharp, share their perspectives about Mölnlycke’s culture and how we are progressing on gender diversity.
I´m where I am today because of the opportunities I’ve had for development,’ says Katriina. ‘People around me have believed in me and offered me chances to grow. But I’ve also been lucky enough to be surrounded by people I can learn from – senior to me, junior to me and my peers. Mölnlycke has a genuine learning culture, where everyone is open to growth.’
Cece agrees: ‘When I joined two years ago, I could have been seen as an outsider, but my ideas were listened to and embraced. Now I encourage my teams to try new things, assess them and learn from their mistakes to get better. And that’s exciting because we are always learning.’
Formal and informal development
Both women are advocates of informal as well as formal development. Since joining Mölnlycke as Nordic Brand Manager in 1999, Katriina has changed jobs almost every three years, both learning on the job and benefiting from external training. A highlight was the Women Leaders Up course in 2015. Senior female leaders from a range of companies across Sweden spent a year exploring and developing their leadership skills.
Katriina’s working group from the course still meet every quarter to share experiences and support and challenge each other: ‘It is almost like mentoring programme now,’ says Katriina. ‘In the same way, I’ve been a mentor on Mölnlycke’s in-house leadership course and I strive to support the people in my teams with the right kind of feedback.’
Mentoring has also been key to Cece’s success. ‘It’s incredibly important because it supports you to grow and develop. My manager has acted as a mentor – giving me detailed regular ideas for improvement, and presenting me with challenges that enabled me to advance in my career.’
Nowadays, she has a mentee of her own. ‘We meet monthly to talk about both her career and life in general. I believe my role is not to give her advice but offer a perspective. My experience is one input out of many that will help her make better decisions.’
Cece considers it important for the company to be flexible and support women – and men – when it comes to work-life balance. ‘Nobody should feel that they can’t be there for vital moments in their families’ lives,’ she says. ‘When our work and personal lives don’t match up, the key is to proactively find solutions that are good for the business and allow you to prioritise those special personal moments.’
Cece herself once chose to stay home for her daughter’s fifth-grade graduation instead of going on a week-long work trip. ‘My solution was to send one of my team members in my place. She benefited hugely from the opportunity – which was great for her, great for me and great for Mölnlycke.’
The value of gender diversity
Over the last 20 years, Katriina has seen the company become much more conscious of the importance of diversity. ‘The comfortable thing is to recruit in your own image. I myself have to be careful not only to recruit passionate, extrovert people just like me! But I recognise the need for other strengths and qualities. We make better decisions when our teams are more diverse.’
What of the future for female leaders at Mölnlycke? ‘With the company’s growth comes responsibility,’ says Katriina. Last year, Mölnlycke adopted a gender diversity charter, and now ensures that female candidates are presented as well as men for senior positions. As she explains, the policy is not about tokenism: ‘You have to appoint the right person to the job – man or woman,’ says Katriina. ‘But the pool of candidates you start with needs to be broad enough.’
Katriina believes that Mölnlycke is making progress. ‘A few years ago the company had no women on the executive leadership team; from 1 March 2020 there are two. But diversity is about so much more than that. It’s about bringing different talents together to ensure that Mölnlycke continues to think ahead of the curve and make the right decisions for sustainable growth.’ says Katriina.
This story was first published in the Sustainability report 2019. Read the full report here.