French Dominique Reiniche expects more women to follow hear lead as the first female Chairman of the Board in among the most popular listed danish company.

Foto:  Thomas Arnbo
03-01-19 DI Business News

French frontrunner will inspire danish women

Dominique Reiniche is setting new standards in danish business as the first female Chairman of the Board in a top-listed company, Chr. Hansen. She expects more women to follow.

Dominique Reiniche has in her more than 30 years as a leader raised the level for female executives internationally. Now she is doing it Denmark as Chairman in the Board of Chr. Hansen, which is part of the top-25 listed danish companys.

After five years as a member of Chr. Hansen’s Board of Directors, she was at 29. november 2018 elected to take place at the head of the table. While she is of course delighted on her own behalf, she really hopes to be a trailblazer for more women.

- I enjoy breaking with traditions and smashing the glass ceiling. I have managed to do so on several occasions by being the first woman in a leadership position in various organisations, she says.  

Domnique Reiniche points out that it is not just about being the first woman, but about creating momentum for other women to join her, adding:

- It’s my way of opening a door. I find it very exciting, because it marks a new beginning. There is no doubt we will be seeing more women in these roles in future.

Dominique Reiniche (aged 63) has been on the senior management teams of giant global corporations such as Coca-Cola Company and Procter & Gamble. According to Fortune magazine, the 30 years have turned her into one of the most influential female leaders in the world, and with each career change in those 30 years she has positively challenged a world dominated by male executives.

See also: The rise of Danish women in corporate leadership

Be ready to be a minority

She is happy to pass on her experiences to others, because going the whole hog places very particular demands on women.

- It’s essential not to be afraid of being a minority. Because basically that’s what you are to start with. You have to break the ice, and that takes energy and positive thinking. You always need to tell the team that the glass is always half full - never half empty. This is particularly important for women, because things don’t always get off to a perfect start, and initially some people find it hard to accept a woman sitting at the head of the table, says Dominique Reiniche.

She adds that it is important to sort out family logistics. You can’t accept a top job with huge responsibility and lots of travelling without the support of your family. A third factor is will power, because it means saying no to some things. 

See also: Opinion: Three ways to get more women into leadership positions

Men today are more conscious about creating diversity. There’s also a generation factor involved. Younger men are more used to female leaders. Dominique Reiniche, Chairman of the Board, Chr. Hansen

What keeps you going as a leader?

- One of the things that keeps me going is opening doors for women and helping them just as people helped me. But I’m totally opposed to excluding men. They have to be involved, because along the way, they play a vital role as mentors. And I will never promote a woman simply because she’s a woman. That would be a huge mistake. Diversity must be fair and inclusive – not aggressive,  stresses Dominique Reiniche.

What do men need to do if they are to get more female leaders?

- Men today are more conscious about creating diversity. There’s also a generation factor involved. Younger men are more used to female leaders. At Chr. Hansen, we always ensure that there’s at least one female candidate for all manager positions and for global specialist jobs, she explaines.

How will you apply your background, for example as President of Coca-Cola Europe?

- I can use my experience to ask the executive board the right questions, so that I gain a thorough understanding of the business and also coach them on the basis of my own experience. Personally I’ve always been in the front line, where there’s no other choice but to lead.

What changes will we witness with you as Chairman of the Board?

- I won’t be making changes just for the sake of change or to make my mark. It’s important to build on the legacy and on the strengths of Chr. Hansen. But of course some things will be different. If you compare me with Ole (Ole Andersen, former chairman, red.), there are three obvious differences: gender, nationality and, unfortunately, I don’t speak Danish. But one thing that we absolutely have in common is the ambition to see Chr. Hansen reach its full potential.

See also: More women at the top in Danish companies

Similarities and differences

Dominique Reiniche sees a number of similarities between Chr. Hansen and her former companies. They are all global companies with a focus on performance, customers, quality and ethics, aiming at a broader societal agenda including sustainability. The main difference is size, where Chr. Hansen is a smaller company. That makes prioritisation even more important for both the Executive Board and the Board of Directors.

- And the Board is pretty fascinating too. I really appreciate the people, the culture and the products. Here there is a willingness to take responsibility and make the world a better place. I look forward to leading the Board as Chr. Hansen looks to achieve its full potential as a global bioscience, says Dominique Reiniche.

Diversity in gender, age and nationality

At Chr. Hansen there is a range of objectives aiming to create diversity in terms of gender, age and nationality. This has Dominique Reiniche’s total support, because it benefits the business.

- We measure the growth in diversity, and it’s increasing more rapidly than we first expected. The Board will focus on that evolution with a great level of attention, she explains.

In a broader perspective hopes for a better balance between male and female chief executives, but it will take time.

- Changing that sort of issue takes time, and it will require a critical mass before we get the snowball rolling. But, even though we’re very ambitious, we’ll probably never reach the 50-50 mark, because I don’t believe that there are as many women who are willing to pursue this type of job. Some have other priorities, and I fully respect that. But they should at least be given the opportunity, the new chaiman of the board in Chr. Hansen expects.  

See also: Danes: Foreigners are a boon for our workplaces

My biggest career highlights:

·          Breaking the glass ceiling thus opening the way for more women and more diversity in top jobs. Examples, first female Country General Manager for Coca-Cola in 1998 and first female European President for Coca-Cola in 2002

·          Being recognized by external stakeholders for promoting sustainable employment and investment and being a voice of the business community. Example: Appointed “Officer of the Legion of Honour” in France in 2014.

·          Promoting fast innovation in tune with consumer trends and demands. Example: Launch of Coca-Cola Zero in Europe in 2006 thanks to effective teamwork

·          And of course, being elected as Chairman of the Chr. Hansen Board and the first female of a C25 company on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange in November 2018 after building my Board experience with key companies listed in Europe and in the US.

Career, Dominique Reiniche

·          French, 63 years old.

·          2013 - : Member of the Board of Chr. Hansen, vicechairman in 2015, Chairman of the Board 29.november 2018.

·          1992-2014: 22 years at Coca-Cola Company, Country General Manager for Coca-Cola in 1998 and European President for Coca-Cola in 2002

·          1986-1992: Director of Marketing and Strategy, Kraft Jacobs Suchard.

·          1978-1986: Marketing Manager and Associate Advertising Manager. 

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