Getting in the MIX

Women are still underrepresented at leadership levels at Maersk; but new initiatives such as diversity networks, mentoring schemes and workshops aimed at empowering female employees aim to change all of that.

Maersk Post 2 2017
Rachel Osikoya, Head of Diversity & Inclusion and Foluke Onasanya, Executive Assistant in Maersk Nigeria, take part in a strategy for success workshop held in Nigeria to help women at Maersk maximise their career potential.
HR Mix

Women in Leadership positions at Maersk

Figures from the 2016 Sustainability Report

“Sometimes there are things women struggle with that men don’t even think about,” says Luiza Bublitz, Head of Safmarine for East Coast South America. “In my case, it was my network. Women often don’t realise the power of networking.”

Three years ago, Bublitz took action and helped to establish MIX (Maersk Inclusion for Excellence Network), to promote diversity and inclusion at Maersk. From its origins in Brazil, the network has grown to include employees from other Latin American countries including Chile, Mexico, Panama and Argentina and is now expanding further afield – a new division has recently been launched in Nigeria.

“We are not just about gender, but that is where the biggest gap in our company is, so this is our priority,” explains Bublitz. “It’s all part of the drive for equal opportunities, and to keep up the needed support for women.”

MIX has already celebrated successes. As well as organising seminars and events, it was instrumental in pushing for better work-life balance in offices in Latin America – all employees are now encouraged to work from home at least one day a month; and introducing maternity rooms for women to breastfeed or express once they come back to work after having a baby. Today, there are 11 company maternity rooms across Latin America.

Bublitz believes gender diversity at Maersk is changing for the better. “If we compare the team we have today with that five or six years ago it’s a completely different picture. We can easily see women at job levels 5 & 6 and I’m very happy to say that. I think MIX has helped to create awareness of the fact that better gender balance leads to better business results.”

Diversity works for business

The statistics back this up. According to a recent McKinsey report, the most diverse companies in terms of gender, race and ethnicity are more likely to have higher financial returns.

Maersk has taken major steps to improve gender diversity across the company. Last year a new global Maternity Leave Policy was introduced, including 18 weeks leave on full pay, plus a phased return to work with 20% less hours during the child’s first year. The aim being to achieve a global maternity retention level of 90% (up from 70% in 2014).

Still, Maersk is not where it wants to be – particularly when it comes to those leading the company. In 2016 – according to the Sustainability Report – just 10% of senior leaders and 13% of senior executives were women. This is despite the fact that there is an almost 50/50 split between male and female employees at entry level.

For a woman to go for promotion she has to be 100% comfortable. Men step up earlier and take bigger risks. But I think it’s in our power to change that. I am optimistic that we will see a gender balance at the top – it’s not a question of if, but when.

Luiza Bublitz

Luiza Bublitz, Head of Safmarine for East Coast South America

Strategies for success

  • The Strategies for Success Programme is designed to help women at Maersk maximise their career potential.. Since its launch six years ago, more than 700 women have taken part, with more than 50 senior leaders attending as speakers. Programmes have been held in Singapore, India, Denmark, the US, Hong Kong and Panama.
  • The two-day agenda includes sessions on: Personal Brand, Executive Impact, Career Vision, Self-Belief, Social Styles, Personal Introductions, Exposure, Office Politics and Networking.
  • The programme is run in partnership with UK-based learning company Edit Development, co-facilitated with an internal senior female employee from Maersk to ensure a balance between theory and internal realities. Women at job levels 3 & 4 are the target audience. Interested participants should contact their manager and  HR partner. 

So why are women falling behind when it comes to leadership positions?

Rachel Osikoya, Head of Diversity & Inclusion believes there is no simple reason for this.

“There are many different challenges. Some lie within our industries where there is an underrepresentation of women in the fields, that we operate in. Mobility is another challenge in such a globally connected organisation, as looking after family is difficult to balance with the demands of a global assignment. It could also come down to a lack of female role models, which gives women the perception that a career in the C-Suite may not be for them. To address all of these we need a number of different solutions.”

One initiative is the Strategies for Success programme. The programme aims to provide the skills, tools and techniques needed for women in Maersk to maximise their career potential. Over the past six years, the programme has trained more than 700 female colleagues across Maersk, and this year will be running in eight global locations.

Supporting other’s successes

For Foluke Onasanya, Executive Assistant in Maersk Nigeria, who took part in a recent ‘Strategies for Success’ workshop, such initiatives have been crucial in helping to develop her confidence in the workplace.

Having a female mentor – through a regular phone call with Birgit Faustmann, Executive Assistant to the Head of Africa Region – has also been a source of inspiration. “I so much look forward to our sessions,” says Onasanya. “Birgit has been in the role for a long time and has so much experience. She gives me a lot of guidance, she’s very open and I know I can always reach out to her. I think, as a woman, it’s easier to open up to someone who understands where you are coming from. You see things from the same perspective.”

Onasanya believes more women at Maersk could benefit from having a mentor and looks forward to the establishment of a mentoring programme as part of Nigeria’s MIX network.

You are not restricted

Such initiatives are a positive step, but will only get us some of the way in the journey towards gender diversity says Rachel Osikoya. “It is up to all of us - men and women - to understand the unique challenges we may face in building a successful career at Maersk. We all play a part in building a more inclusive culture where any talented employee, no matter their background, , is able to reach their full professional potential.”

For some, it simply comes down to having the confidence to step-up when opportunities present themselves. “As women we face a natural struggle to step up in our careers,” says Bublitz. “For a woman to go for promotion she has to be 100% comfortable. Men step up earlier and take bigger risks than we do. But I think it’s in our power to change that. I am optimistic that we will see a gender balance at the top – it’s not a question of if, but when.”

Onasanya agrees: “I would say that as women we haven’t always taken our career into our own hands. We sometimes feel we need permission to do something. But as a woman in Maersk you are not restricted. The company is invested in this; they are not limiting things for you. Women need to stand up for themselves, come forward and say that they want to be a leader.”