A step towards increasing diversity

One hundred women at ten large Swedish companies have joined forces in the initiative known as “Battle of the Numbers” with the aim of increasing the percentage of women in executive managerial positions.

The project will run until November 2013 and will produce concrete plans for the way the Volvo Group and Swedish trade and industry can ensure greater gender equality. “There is always room for change!” says project participant Christina Evans.

It was a warm day in June when Global News met Christina Evans, senior vice president and the person responsible for new vehicle inventories, delivery processes and invoicing for Volvo Group Trucks’ commercial organization in Europe, Middle East and Africa, to talk about the Battle of the Numbers project. The roof of the office in Lundby in Gothenburg was boiling hot, but neither that nor the fact that it was windy on top of the building appeared to worry her. 

Christina Evans is one of the ten women from the Volvo Group who were selected at the beginning of the year to take part in the project. She and the others currently have leading positions and they will be working with Group management to find the decisive factors that will make it possible for more women to advance within the Group.

The project is a collaborative venture between ten of the largest companies in Sweden. Using open discussions and an exchange of ideas, the participants will be able to share experience from companies including IKEA, H&M, Scania, Ericsson and the Volvo Group.

For many years, the Volvo Group has been working actively to increase diversity, both in Sweden and globally. According to Kerstin Renard, head of corporate HR at the Group, the results are positive. Following the reorganisation, the Group has increased the number of female managers significantly as a result of a recruitment process focusing heavily on diversity.

The Battle of the Numbers is seen as an opportunity to speed up developments. Kerstin also adds that the Volvo Group was initially somewhat unsure about participating in the project.

“We seldom involve ourselves in diversity-related initiatives that don’t have a global perspective, but we realised that this was a unique opportunity to learn from other large international companies in Sweden. There is no question that what we learn is going to benefit the Group.”

A number of studies demonstrate that there is a clear connection between balanced gender distribution at management level and profitability. It is also clear that mixed teams generate greater efficiency and energy – and thereby improve results.

Peter Karlsten, member of the Group Executive Team, is in total agreement. He is a member of the core team associated with Battle of the Numbers and he has many years’ experience from North America and Brazil, for example.

“I strongly believe in diversity and I have such positive experience from working with diverse teams. Gender is of course one of the most important elements when creating a well-functioning diverse team,” he says. 

So what findings have emerged during the project? The results will be presented in November, but Christina is already able to divulge a couple of points that may be included in the Volvo Group’s action plan.

“We are going to recommend that women in challenging operational functions are made more visible than they are at present. The question of clearly defined targets and follow-up when it comes to appointing managers will also be key.”

Compared with the other companies, Christina thinks that the Volvo Group’s work on diversity is at the cutting edge. The Group has had processes and tools in place for many years, while other companies feel that “corridor decisions” are made, as formal structures are partially lacking.
 
Global News also had the opportunity for a short chat with another participant in Battle of the Numbers: Kristina Nilsson, senior vice president and the person responsible for following up strategic objectives for the trucks business. When asked what the Volvo Group can learn from the other companies in the project, Kristina replies that we can primarily learn to take action.

“I am convinced that most things resolve themselves if a woman is appointed to one of the company’s highest positions and other women see that it is possible.”

She ends by banging her hand on the table and saying emphatically “Just do it!”.

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