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Equality Has Moved Further up the Top Management Agenda

Speeches and solo efforts had no effect. It is now a strategic goal for Spar Nord to be a diverse workplace with more female managers. That makes a huge difference, says Jannie Skovsen, local branch president, and Kim Kastrupsen, Head of HR, who are presently paving the way for a broader field of future managers.

5 min
English / Dansk

Spar Nord has spent decades cheering for more women in management and has launched initiatives to achieve just that, but, all the same, the gender distribution among the management did not change.

A few years back, it was clear that more needed to be done.

“It must be tone from the top. The individual manager or HR department cannot solve it,” notes Jannie Skovsen, President of Finansforbundet Spar Nord Kreds.

The survey and conference organised by Finansforbundet and the Danish Employers' Association for the Financial Sector gave us the kick up the backside that we needed.

Today, it is in our strategy that Spar Nord must be a diverse workplace that reflects the general composition of the population at all managerial levels.

“We will eat the elephant one bite at a time and focus on women in management as a start,” says Kim Kastrupsen, Head of HR.

“Diversity touches on so many other aspects than just gender. It is important to bring different skills into the management room. The fact that we see things differently makes us stronger – as a corporation and as colleagues,” he continues.

“The two of us are good proof of that”, adds Jannie Skovsen:

“Kim has a background in military and different industries after that, and I have worked at Spar Nord for almost 40 years. We are very different, we see completely different things and are genuinely curious about why that is”, she points out.

A shot at managerial tasks

Major banks are required by law to publish target rates for the gender representation on the boards of directors and in senior management.

“Of course, it matters that these rates are to be printed in black and white. But we are not just chasing the rates. It is more important to have the best possible composition of managers and to select the best man or woman for the job. We'd rather spend a little more time to get to the finish line,” says Kim Kastrupsen.  

“But our tone has changed when we speak about it. The board of directors says it out loud. All managers say it, and our CEO has put it into words at a conference for all employees”, says Jannie Skovsen.

“You obviously have to be competent in your field and capable of generating business, but leadership has a lot to do with being good at guiding others. And it is a myth that you need to work 80 hours a week to be a manager”
- Jannie Skovsen, president of Finansforbundet Spar Nord Kreds.

When Spar Nord recently appointed five new executives, three were women and two were men.

However, we often lack female candidates from within our organisation when vacant senior positions in Spar Nord are to be filled.

“We are therefore starting the development from the bottom. We are mapping out the skills and obstacles that may prevent women from going for a management position”, says the Head of HR.

One of the challenges is making more female trainees pursue a career in the business area. Spar Nord has built strong relations and has great latitude locally. For that reason, competences in the credit and business fields are key to local bank managers among others. But not so many women are working in this field.

“You obviously have to be competent in your field and capable of generating business, but leadership has a lot to do with being good at guiding others. And it is a myth that you need to work 80 hours a week to be a manager,” says Jannie Skovsen, explaining that Spar Nord focuses on work-life balance and flexible working options. 

“If you possess the basic values required, you can learn the rest,” finds Kim Kastrupsen, pointing to the bank’s development programme for managers at different levels.   

“But we have no leadership programmes just for women. It is not the way forward,” he maintains.

He considers it a great plus that the bank has a large number of management positions compared to other industries.

Among Spar Nord’s 1,700 employees, about 200 are managers at different levels. It gives employees good opportunities to try out small managerial tasks before – perhaps – moving on to a leadership position.

Spar Nord’s goals for the underrepresented gender at management level:

  • 33% for the Board of Directors by 2025.

  • 25% for the Executive Board by 2030.

  • 20% for the Bank’s executive team by 2026 and 30% by 2030.

  • 35% for other senior managers by 2026 and 40% by 2030.
  • Among the applicants for management positions at the bank, at least two out of five qualified candidates must be women.

The bank is also putting together a mentor programme in which male managers will be mentoring female talents.

“We do this because the male competitive gene will make them do everything for their talents to succeed! And just as importantly to provide insights both ways. It is not about making women do what men do, it is about joining their competences,” explains Kim Kastrupsen.

Away with traditional thinking

The Head of HR and local branch president would like to break with the industry’s habitual way of thinking that might dull people’s appetite for a career in leadership.

They agree that talents come in all ages – not only the twenties.

“We are going to be working until somewhere in our seventies. So, why shouldn’t we consider a management position in our forties,” continues Jannie Skovsen. 

Before Spar Nord launched its strategy for more female managers, eight of ten employees replied in an internal survey that, to a high extent or a very high extent, they found the bank to have an open and unprejudiced culture that allows the individual to exploit their skills regardless of gender.

Asked if men and women have the same possibility of making a career and being considered for management positions in Spar Nord, 66% indicated this to be the case to a high extent or a very high extent.

“Going forward, we will also monitor if the experience is the same for advertised jobs,” says Kim Kastrupsen.

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