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Ms. Cecilie Blydt Heuch,
EVP and Chief People & Sustainability Officer at Telenor

“Advocating and pursuing diversity is like being on a journey that is continuously evolving, from setting strategy and goals to constant development of initiatives and  supporting policies encouraging inclusion.”

In Norway, one of the key governmental policy directions focuses on promoting gender equality at all levels of the labor market, including executive and non-executive management responsible for the governance of public and private organizations. Since the 1980’s, Norwegian women have taken up senior positions including those of Prime Minister and Supreme Court Justice, which impacted the whole labor market and helped to improve the gender balance considerably. Under the first female Prime Minister, Ms. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the government set a policy objective to achieve a minimum of 40 percent women and men in both private and public sector boards of governance. The goal was reached in public organizations and partly in the private sector organizations already in 2003.

Norway is a base country of our next GDI 2019 Best Practice Leader – Telenor. Telenor Group, an international provider of tele, data and media communication services, is currently operating in 9 markets, with over 180 million subscribers worldwide. Telenor scored among TOP 20 out of STOXX600 companies in the EWoB Gender Diversity Index 2019. It is our great pleasure to introduce to you one of the leading ambassadors of gender balance in Telenor Ms.Cecilie Blydt Heuch, EVP and Chief People & Sustainability Officer, who shared her extensive experience and valuable insights in pursuing gender balance globally.

“Rooted in Norwegian values, Telenor prioritizes diversity and inclusion as a business imperative for a business that reflects the customers it serves.”

Norway was among the first countries in Europe to introduce gender quotas. Thanks to preceding discussions across the Norwegian society, there was a general consensus on the direction, even in the political spectrum that traditionally opposed such regulation (the conservatives). Interestingly, no measures were introduced to positively motivate companies to reach the quota targets, on contrary, a wide range of repercussions was adopted (e.g. fines or even company closures in case the targets were missed), yet a failure to succeed was inadmissible by the society. 

“It is not even a question what happens if we don´t make the quota. It’s 40% and that is it! It is simply unthinkable not to comply with the right thing.” 

Telenor’s path to become the best practice leader

It all started in 2014 by raising awareness of the subject within the company and communicating the benefits of diversity  across the organization . As a next step, Telenor adopted country-specific initiatives to address different challenges across various countries and cultures (Nordic Europe and Asia). 

“Setting global standards and ambitions towards gender balance” was the theme of 2015. Telenor introduced a 6-months maternity leave as a universal global standard (incl. Asia): “At that time, in Asia, the idea of having any maternity leave was unheard of. It made a huge difference.”

Telenor is continuously taking specific actions to set the right tone at the top of the company. To emphasize the importance of gender balance for the leadership, a  People Committee was established, with a direct participation of CEO, CHRO and head of recruitment of the global leadership pool. The purpose of the People Committee is to periodically review all changes in positions, both long lists and short lists. A special principal applies to the short lists on all positions (both external/internal). One candidate from each gender is always to be considered, if not, then a thorough review is required to justify a different choice.

In January 2016, Telenor announced the foundation of Women Inspiration Networks (WIN) and since then all business units had successfully activated the local WIN networks. The purpose of WIN was  to strengthen the leadership pipeline in Telenor and prepare more women for top management roles. More than 200 women leaders had been invited to run the local WIN networks.

Furthermore, in the subsequent years, setting global and local gender balance targets in leadership levels in 2017 helped Telenor to make their diversity agenda instilled  across the organization in whatever country of operation. 

The most recent goal is to increase the share of women in senior leadership from 30% at the end of 2019  up to 35%, and from 37% to 40% in the total workforce by 2023. In some areas it takes more effort to reach the goal – e.g. in Bangladesh in order to meet the goal, more  than 75% of last year’s recruitment were women.

Having settled the groundwork for pursuing gender balance across the organization, Telenor broadened the D&I agenda at the end of 2018 and outlined a global action plan. To ensure delivering on the ambitious D&I targets, various measures were taken, e.g. a periodical follow up of the D&I action plan via global HR reviews. 

Telenor’s approach involves not only setting targets internally, it crosses the boundaries and aspires to influence the company surroundings, i.e. business partners, society or even the entire Nordic region.

Telenor believes that its business practices are not sustainable unless they are based on relationships respecting basic human rights with and between employees and appreciate diversity, cultural and other differences. Telenor is an equal opportunity employer and diversity is imperative to its way of doing business.

Let us conclude with the final thought shared with us by Ms. Cecilie Blydt Heuch,: “Advocating and pursuing diversity is like being on a journey that is continuously evolving, from setting strategy and goals to constant development of initiatives and  supporting policies encouraging inclusion.” 

In the name of EWoB and its followers, thank you, Ms.Cecilie Blydt Heuch for your inspiring insights.

Congratulations, Telenor, for scoring among top 20 out of STOXX 600 companies,
it is an exceptional achievement.