Each year, the Swedish weekly magazine Veckans Affärer lists the 125 most powerful women in Swedish business. Lena Olving, Chief Operating Officer at Saab, made it to the top position this year.
“I’m honoured and proud to be on a list of such successful women,” says Lena Olving, Chief Operating Officer at Saab and this year’s most powerful woman in Swedish business. “If I can be an inspiration to other women, I feel I have accomplished something.”
This is not the first time Lena Olving has made the list. Last year, she made it to the top ten.
What gave you the top position this year?
“According to the jury, being chief operating officer for Saab makes me the most powerful women in Swedish business. They also say that I constantly have advanced on their list. Behind those words is a lot of hard work, and many joyful moments. I believe in having fun,” says Lena Olving.
The list is based on four criteria; position, financial responsibility, type of industry and potential. Gunilla Fransson, who heads Saab’s Security and Defence Solutions business area, climbed from the 16th position to number eight on the list this year.
Image: Lena Olving, Chief Operating Officer at Saab. Photo: Peter Karlsson, Svarteld.
“I’m glad to see two such skilled and capable women from my management team in these positions,” says Åke Svensson, President and CEO for Saab. “I hope that Saab’s purposeful work can be an inspiration to others.”
Diversity and profitability
The Veckans Affärer list draws attention to an ambiguous truth – that although there is an abundance of qualified and skilled women, female representation in management teams and on boards of directors is still low.
“This puzzles me,” says Lena Olving. “Research shows greater profitability for companies with female representation, and to me it’s so simple: business benefits from diversity!”
“People do not necessarily understand what a woman can add to the business, just by being a woman. I believe women have less of a tendency to take risks and that women demand more basic data for decision-making.”
“Nature has given us a source of multi-faceted brain capacity, and as it is today, we don’t make use of it. As a member of senior management, not only do I want to surround myself with skilled people, I also need the right mix of experience and qualities to bring out the best in the team and our business.”
The way to change
Lena Olving has ideas on how to change the fact that men are overrepresented on management teams and boards of directors.
"As I see it, there are two challenges: we need to create a base of women to choose from for the top positions, there needs to be a critical mass; and we need to have recruiting managers who understand the added value of diversity.”
Can you give some concrete examples of how to get more women to the top positions?
“For a start, we need to build a long-term recruitment base that includes women by giving attention to and supporting capable women in the early years of their careers. When recruiting management staff, we should make sure there are always both female and male candidates for a position. We can do this by widening the networks and including both women and men in them, as well as searching for candidates outside the networks we usually consider.”
30 percent females in management by 2015
The connection between diversity and profitability is widely accepted at Saab, and consequently, Saab is investing in becoming a fairer company. One example is the 8-year programme of increasing the portion of female managers. By 2015, 30 percent of Saab's managers in Sweden are to be female.
“Clear goals indicate that this is important, and it creates a driving force for the organisation to reach the target. All business areas within Saab report their development to group management once every quarter, and there is no doubt that this is both important and a priority!”
In order to achieve the objective, it is crucial to create a long-term internal recruitment base for management positions. Saab operates in a male-dominated industry. At present, the combined percentage of women working at Saab in Sweden is 22 percent. The percentage of females in management is around 18 percent today. A lot of the work is done in influencing attitudes, identify and highlighting female role models and training them at an early stage in their careers.