Building networks to drive women to the top

With its Signature leadership course and the new Danish Diversity Council, the Maersk Group is forming cross-industry networks to tackle gender diversity.

The Maersk Group is looking beyond its own walls when it comes to closing the gender gap in the senior ranks of the organisation.

Combining forces with three other large companies – Coca-Cola Enterprises, Cargill and TE Connectivity – the Group has sponsored a new leadership development programme, Signature Select, which focuses on cross-industry, cross-company networking to accelerate the progress of women in the middle ranks of leadership.

What’s more, the Group has joined McKinsey & Company and the Danish Chamber of Commerce (Dansk Erhverv) in a new initiative, the Danish Diversity Council, which aims to bring CEOs from different companies together to share experiences and ideas on how to get more women at the top.

Building networks to drive women to the top
Initial partners of the Danish Diversity Council meet with Denmark’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kristian Jensen, at the Womenomics conference in Copenhagen. From left to right: Rachel Osikoya of Maersk Group; Kim Baroudy of McKinsey & Co; Kristian Jensen; and Tine Arentsen Willumsen of Above & Beyond and Womenomics CPH.

It’s good to go outside the boundaries of the Group. The opportunity to learn goes up when you broaden your network of people to collaborate with.

LUCIEN ALZIARI, GROUP HEAD OF HR

LUCIEN ALZIARI, GROUP HEAD OF HR

Diversity: The numbers

The Maersk Group sets targets for the share of women and nationalities in management, which drive its activities to increase workplace diversity. In 2015, the Group set new targets due to an internal restructuring process and therefore concluded on the previous targets set in 2013. The Group achieved two of the three previous targets for women in management and now has five new targets for 2018“

They are not outlandish targets that people think are unattainable or that would encourage people to make bad decisions. It’s a long-term journey, and we’re committed to steady progress,” says Lucien Alziari, Group Head of HR.

The organisation also introduced a diversity dashboard in 2015, which helps the Maersk Group and business units better track progress in meeting targets, as well as identify current and future challenges.

Diversity - Targeting the full talent pool

Shipping and oil have never topped many lists for women looking at potential career opportunities. This is changing and Maersk is pushing the development.

“Virtually every company deals with a tapering off in the representation of women as you go up the pyramid. There’s no single solution for that. Trust me, we’ve looked,” says Lucien Alziari, Group Head of HR.

Tapping the power of networking

The Group’s approach has been to surround women with as many specific enablers as possible, from the internal development course Strategies for Success, for example, to improved global maternity benefits introduced in April.

Now, the Group is tapping into the power of networking across companies and even industries to tackle gender diversity.

“Different industries may start from different places in terms of readiness and capacity. But the challenges are not that different. It’s good to go outside the boundaries of the Group. The opportunity to learn goes up when you broaden your network of people to collaborate with,” says Alziari.

Peers in other companies

On the evening of May 12, around a dozen Signature graduates gathered for a reunion and networking event at Esplanaden in Copenhagen.

Rebecca Roes, Vice President and Global Head of Accounting at Maersk Line, who hosted the event, welcomed the attendees, who hailed from various Maersk Group business units as well as Cargill and Arla.

“It’s the only leadership programme for women where I felt we didn’t spend any time talking about gender. I found that very refreshing,” she told the group. Instead, the course focuses on the challenges all leaders face.

Roes was selected in 2015 to attend the original Signature Program, which is tailored to women entering executive leadership levels. Now, the Maersk Group – together with Coca-Cola Enterprises, Cargill and TE Connectivity – is extending the programme to mid-level managers with a sister course, Signature Select, to bolster the middle of the talent pipeline.

Building networks to drive women to the top
The Signature network holds periodic reunions, providing a forum for ongoing connections and relationships across different companies.

 It really creates a sense of competition to do well in this area, but more importantly, it actually creates real change and learning among our CEOs as well.

RACHEL OSIKOYA, GROUP HEAD OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

RACHEL OSIKOYA, GROUP HEAD OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

Why Signature?

In addition to giving participants practical skills to strengthen their personal leadership brand, or “signature,” the Signature and Signature Select programmes have a strong focus on broadening women’s external network of peers.

That was a main driver in the Maersk Group’s decision to choose Signature, given programme founder Carol Seymour’s wide network of senior talented women in different industries, says Lucien Alziari, Group Head of HR.

“In my view, it’s the best out there. It gives women exposure to different companies, leaders, industries and cultures,” he adds.

To date, 23 women from the Maersk Group have gone through the Signature programmes. Nominees for Signature Select are high performers at level 5 identified in the Group’s talent review process.

The network continues and grows beyond the course, with periodic networking events for all Signature alumni, providing a forum for ongoing connections and relationships across different companies.

Zhanar Dreisig, Senior Legal Counsel in Maersk Oil, attended the first Signature Select course in London in March.

“You realize the challenges you’re facing are not unique to Maersk. And it helps to come together with women from different companies and industries to share insights and experiences and to provide support to each other. It is great to see that the Group is taking active steps to address the gender gap,” she says.

A forum for CEOs

In addition to Signature, the Group is also working to harness the power of cross-company networking at the CEO level.

Along with McKinsey & Company and the Danish Chamber of Commerce, the Maersk Group is a co-founding partner in the new Danish Diversity Council, launched on May 18 at the Womenomics conference in Copenhagen.

The council, which aims to recruit additional companies, will be anchored in top management through the CEO Committee, which will meet twice a year to discuss experiences and strategies for improving gender diversity.

Rachel Osikoya, Group Head of Diversity and Inclusion, was part of a similar CEO forum when she worked on diversity in investment banking in London.

“One of the things I noticed is it works. It’s the only time you get CEOs knocking on your door saying, ‘Can you give me some stats on how we’re doing with women?’ It really creates a sense of competition to do well in this area, but more importantly, it actually creates real change and learning among our CEOs as well,” she says.

Building networks to drive women to the top
On the evening of May 12, around a dozen Signature graduates gathered for a reunion and networking event at Esplanaden in Copenhagen.