Blog post -
“Promoting equality is something we need to work with 365 days a year”
Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality. These are three aspects that Kathrine Löfberg, chair of the board at Swedish based coffee group Löfbergs, bears in mind on International Women’s Day – and every other day of the year.
– It is certainly a good thing that there is a day that reminds us that we need to continue to pursue the issue of equality and inclusion. At the same time, it is something we need to bear in mind and work actively with 365 days a year.
Kathrine Löfberg is one of few women in the world who is chair of the board of a larger coffee company. Her great-grandfather founded the coffee roaster Löfbergs in 1906; a company that operates on about ten markets in northern Europe today. The company is still family-owned, and Kathrine took office as chair of the board in connection with a planned generational change in 2015.
– When I became chair of the board, I was surprised to see several women in the organisation coming up to me and say: “How great that you are chairman! You are really a role model. I should also bet on myself and seize the opportunities” or in other ways express that they were inspired. It felt good.
Löfbergs has initiated a major project to promote equality, and a part of it is to achieve gender balance in leading positions in the operational activities. The board already consists of as many women as men.
How important is gender balance?
– It is really important to achieve balance. It should be a certainty, but it has not always been that way. Different personalities with different qualifications and backgrounds are needed.
– I am not pro the quota system just because, and I would not want to be elected to a board or another context just because I am a woman. It would not feel good. It is important that you feel that you are there because of your personality and your qualifications. But in case of imbalance and if there is a choice between two or several equal persons, you can certainly steer towards equality.
Did you meet any resistance from the male side when you became chairman?
– No, the people I have around me and the ones I meet have always been very positive.
Have you noticed a difference in yourself after starting to promote gender equality at Löfbergs?
– I might be thinking about it more in certain situations and react on things that you otherwise overlook because you are so used to things being a certain way. It can be anything from how people are portrayed in pictures to how we treat each other in meetings or other situations. I probably think about it more since the issue has been raised and I have learned much more. We have started an important journey, but we are not ready yet. This will take time, but I think that you can see that women in the company seize more opportunities and dare to take on more responsible roles. Things are starting to happen.
– Being influential as the only woman in a male-dominated climate can be difficult, but if there are two or more women in a larger group, the whole atmosphere suddenly changes. I can tell that many men also think that it is positive. They may not have liked the previous attitude or that men sometimes trigger each other to be in a certain way in the macho culture.
– But I have also been in situations where there was just women and one man, and that can also be a problem. I believe that is important to say that we strive for balance and equality in these situations.
In conclusion: what is the status for promoting gender equality right now?
– The attitude for this matter is positive. Not only leaders are paying attention to it. We have been able to make most people understand that this is important and something we need to work on. But our journey has just begun. We have a long road ahead of us and we can never stop and be totally satisfied. But it is also important to pay attention to the progress we make, and what could be better than doing it on International Women’s Day - as well?