Diversity and inclusion are essential for Stena from a business perspective – and a particular area of focus for Stena AB board member Vivienne Cox, who was recently appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, mainly for her work with diversity and inclusion in the business world as well as in sustainability. At Stena’s Digital Summit in April 2022, she shared her knowledge and experience in the field.

Diversity and inclusion is an extremely im-portant issue from a business perspective. As Vivienne Cox pointed out during an interview with Annika Hult, Deputy CEO for Stena AB, it is even fundamental for successful business operations. For example, there are studies showing that companies with diversity at the senior level are 15 per cent more profitable than other companies. 

“The workforce of tomorrow is going to look very different from the workforce 20 years ago, and this has major impact on our business operations,” says Vivienne Cox. “There is also a lot of evidence that diverse teams made up of different genders, people from different backgrounds, orientations and viewpoints generates innovation, creativity and better decision making. To succeed in the future, we need to find and make use of all talent that exist. But that’s not enough – we also need to create inclusive environments where people want to stay.” 

She believes there are several reasons why diversity will play an increasingly important role for businesses in the future and in the structure of tomorrow’s workforce. More women earning degrees, increased globalisation with needs for different ethnic and cultural perspectives, as well as the aging population meaning everyone needs to work longer, are among the most important reasons. 

“If we look at diversity from a gender perspective, 60 per cent of all graduates globally are women,” Vivienne Cox points out. “So, if we can attract and retain the very best, if we can allow those women to make a really full contribution to the business, then it’s an opportunity for us. The other dimension is that 85 percent of all purchasing decisions globally are made by women. They control USD 32 trillion of worldwide spending. So, if we can design goods and services that appeal to women, it’s a huge opportunity. But that will only work if the products and services are designed with women’s input, for them”

Her own commitment to diversity issues was awakened early on, when she worked at the global energy group BP. The year she started there, in the early 80s, 50 per cent of the graduates recruited were women. After 10 or 15 years, she was the only one left. The first few years in management at BP, she found it difficult to do right in the male-dominated environment. Where men were appreciated for being determined and speaking up, she was accused of being unfeminine when she did the same thing. She also noticed that it was a leadership style that didn’t suit her especially well.

“It led me to develop my own leadership style based on what was authentic and true to me,” says Vivienne Cox. “It was still about delivery, but in my own way. And I was very fortunate that BP judged me on my delivery and was very supportive of me doing it in my own way.”

Vivienne stresses the importance of understanding how an organisation can discourage certain voices. 

“A lot is about creating an environment and culture where everyone can and wants to fully participate. With this, we come back to what Dan Sten Olsson talked about earlier at the Stena Digital Summit – creating an environment of trust and confidence where people feel safe expressing themselves. We need to realise that we are different and strive to want to understand each other, learn from each other and respect each other.” 

Vivienne Cox, member of the Stena AB board.

She points out that there is much to be done in enabling diversity and inclusion in terms of systems and processes. For example, it could be a matter of looking at how to recruit, the language used when recruiting and what is valued when promoting. Other measures may include setting up supportive structures such as mentoring as well as diversity and inclusion councils, for example. But that’s not enough.

“What we really are talking about here is changing the culture and that takes time and requires constant attention and focus,” says Vivienne Cox. “But if we can change the culture and create an environment where people genuinely want to bring all of themselves to work and are able to contribute, then we can use their talents. Then we can deliver products and services that women find attractive and get that fifteen percent uplift in profitability. But it won’t come automatically. I think it’s a huge business opportunity. If we succeed, I think that the environments we create will be very attractive for everybody to work in. And that they will be environments where everybody can give everything to the benefit of the business.”

After the presentation, Annika Hult picked some of the questions from the audience. One of them was about what each of us can do to foster trust and confidence in our teams.

“That’s a great question! I think it is about respecting and understanding each other as human beings,” says Vivienne Cox. “An important part of this is about really listening. Ask yourself how you did at your last meeting. How much time did you spend listening to what others were saying, and how much on preparing your own answer? Because it’s only when we listen actively that we really understand each other and can exchange perspectives.”

“Inclusion and diversity are, for the above reasons, incredibly important for ensuring that we are successful in the long term. This is also the reason why we are setting goals for diversity and encourage initiatives for Diversity & Inclusion in all Stena’s companies. Of paramount importance is the support and expertise we have among our owners, as well as our boards of directors and management teams,” concludes Maria Holmberg, Director People & Organisational Excellence, Stena AB.


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