Monday, July 13, 2009

Business Forum in the Hague

Female Leadership

On June 8th IMD organized a similar forum for female leaders at Shell’s headquarters in the Hague, Holland. Close to 100 women attended and besides hearing from Professor Ginka Toegel, we also heard from Ms. Josefine van Zanten, Global Head Diversity and Inclusion at Shell. What does one do at an organization like Shell about these issues? What does success in diversity and inclusion look like and how do you measure success? Is it only hard targets or are there also other issues to consider? These were among the questions Ms van Zanten covered.

Specific examples and good ideas were shared. For example, companies are starting to respond to the dilemma around losing talented women within the organization and Ms van Zanten shared a very tangible effort by Shell referred to as “Stay in touch.” Through a lunch or phone call on a regular basis, managers were encouraged to keep a steady connection with talented women. To really understand why women left the organization, Shell always organizes exit interviews.

Ms. van Zanten also talked about how it is important for a global corporation like Shell to know and respect the differences between countries and regions. For example in the United States, often times diversity relates to treating men and women alike while in Europe differences are more often accepted and encouraged.

An interesting model called “the diversity and inclusion house framework” which is centric in the Shell diversity and inclusion strategy was discussed. And as the model showed, there is not only one aspect to consider.On why diversity and inclusion are important, Ms. van Zanten referred to IMD Professor Martha Maznevski who often says:

“marking a company for women is making the company better for everyone.” This event did, just as the one in Norway, end with an interesting discussion between the speakers and the audience. Below please find a few of the many comments:

“I feel that we are not moving fast enough. If I look at what the situation was like at my mother’s time and I now see where things stand for me, I would like us to increase the speed to make faster improvements for my daughter’s generation,” said Monique van der Meer, Managing Partner Berg & Van der Meer.

International executive Anna Maria Born concluded that: “It was a great event with excellent presentations and discussions. I do however really feel that it is only the beginning and we need to create a continuation.”

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