Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow

International Women’s Day 2022 highlights “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” and DeLaval is proud to include Diversity & Inclusion as an important part of our sustainability strategy.

Across the corporate world, unconscious biases have historically led us to characterize empathy as “feminine” and “not suitable” for leadership—but research from our partners, non-profit organisation Catalyst, shows that empathy is a crucial leadership skill.

Hear from Valerie Binner, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at DeLaval, who after four and a half years in the company see a slow but steady improvement in gender diversity and a change towards a more inclusive leadership culture.

Valerie Binner, SVP Human Resources

Ten years ago, we had 20% female employees and 16% female managers at DeLaval. For 2021 we reported 21.5% female employees and 24.4% female managers. What actions we been taken to achieve this?

There are several initiatives that I would highlight. First, we began partnering with Catalyst in 2018 and through that began raising awareness about how workplaces that work for women work for everyone and unconscious biases that impact the female – male balance at DeLaval. We changed our recruitment policy to strive for an equal number of candidates from both genders on short lists. When we have done re-organizations and transformations, we have kept our eye on gender perspective and have challenged biases. This has particularly been helpful in increasing the number of female managers.

​​​​​​​While we are glad to see noticeable progress in the number of female managers, we are certainly not satisfied with hoovering at the 21% overall number of female employees. This matters because we must be attractive to the entire pool of talent if we are going to maximize the business opportunities we have as well as meet the challenges we face in the best possible way.

​​​​​​​We could also see that in 2021, only 22% of our new hires were female so we need to continue reviewing our recruitment campaigns, our interview processes and our referral process so that we are more attractive to female candidates.

Why are we not focusing more on other aspects of diversity?

It is very true that diversity encompasses a full range of backgrounds and experiences, some are visible like gender and ethnicity while others are not like educational background, religion, etc. When we look at demographics, we look at gender, age, tenure and country of employment.

There are two main reasons why we focus particularly on gender. The first is that research from Catalyst, who are focused on all aspects of diversity, have shown that you first need to get gender diversity on the table and “fixed” before other aspects of diversity will be able to flourish. The second, is that we recognize at DeLaval that our gender balance is not good enough to ensure that we are able to access talent from the full pool of talent available.

What actions have DeLaval taken to improve awareness around unconscious biases?

Catalyst have provided various sessions on unconscious bias for Group Management as well as open sessions globally. Additionally, they have run sessions on inclusive leadership and common myths about diversity and inclusion.

We also have three national groups focused on diversity & inclusion, Women in Blue (WiB) in the US, One DeLaval Employee Club in China, and Diversity at Work Network (DAWN) in Sweden. We are being asked about supporting initiatives like this in other countries and I am more than happy to do so! I also hear good questions and challenges about our priorities from employees at all levels. And since we have clearly linked D&I to our Sustainability agenda, there is a clear drive to understand and improve our KPIs in this area. 

What does DeLaval do to improve an inclusive leadership culture?

Research has shown for years that empathy is a key trait in inclusive leadership and inclusive teams. Interestingly, since the start of the pandemic, multiple organizations and research institutes have been highlighting empathy as a key factor for successful leadership during these turbulent times. And it makes sense. ‘We are all in the same storm but on different boats’ is a great analogy I heard and is the same for diversity – we all have our unique background and experience that we bring to the workplace. Empathy is a multifaceted skill that allows people to understand, create connections with, and demonstrate care for one another.

​​​​​​​Empathetic leaders recognize that their experiences of the workplace are unique for them and are curious and empathetic about what their team members are experiencing and are considered better managers. Being empathetic does not mean lowering demands or being soft on performance. It does mean that you try to understand another person’s perspective and from there, help to guide and coach on best ways forward. Catalyst’s latest research shows that empathy is an important driver of employee outcomes such as innovation, collaboration, reduced stress, engagement, and more inclusive attitudes.

Read more here. The Power of Empathy in Times of Crisis and Beyond (Report) | Catalyst​​​​​​​

How can we attract more women to join DeLaval?

This is such a key question and I welcome more ideas! We know that role models are important. We know that our job ads need to contain language that appeals to the full pool of talent we want to attract. We know that referrals are a great source of successful candidates and each and every one of us can think about good female candidates in our network that would thrive at DeLaval. And once we have good candidates who join the company, we need to make sure that we continue to be the very welcoming environment that we are.

​​​​​​​Our goal is to be 25% female employees and female managers globally by 2025 and 30% by 2030.