Alejandro Castro Pérez talks about his personal experiences with women in leadership positions during his career path. His workplace IKEA in home solar shows that diverse teams are not only more successful but create a positive energy.
Alex is heading IKEA Home Solar, the business area on a mission to accelerate the global transition to affordable clean energy. He also leads sustainable innovation & corporate business development, related strategic investments and partnerships.
Before joining IKEA, Alex headed global functions across R&D, Engineering and Supply Chain for leading multinationals in the Food Processing & Packaging, Medical Device, and Automotive industries. His experience also includes seeding and advising start-ups in different sectors.
Following a passion for sustainability driven business development, innovation and entrepreneurship, Alex enjoys investing in and engaging with organisations driving sustainable growth and positive impact.
Closing the Gender Gap
Having moved across a few countries and industries, I have had the chance to experience the effects of having (or lacking) sufficient women representation in different environments. I have seen how higher gender balance results in better performance over time; lifting levels of engagement, resilience and innovation. The gender gap is one of our greatest challenges and opportunities.
“We need to act now to close the gender gap sooner, and share stories on how progress towards doing so can help us shape better businesses and societies.”
It is alarming that, despite positive development in some regions and industries, the differences between women and men in key areas like economy and politics are growing. In fact, at current pace, it will take us over 200 years to close the global gender gap according to the World Economic Forum. We definitely do not have 200 years to get our act together. We need to include and harness female energy; all the skills, ideas and perspectives needed to deal effectively with some of the most important challenges and opportunities of our time.
Christiana Figueres, who orchestrated the 2015 Paris climate agreement, nicely explains in a recent interview how the fluid and organic nature of female energy can help balance the more directional and linear nature of male energy, to achieve better results. Male and female energy exists in all of us; truly diverse and inclusive societies or businesses simply nurture and benefit from a better, more balanced mix.
Gender Balance at IKEA
When I joined IKEA I noticed a good energy balance with visible benefits in many aspects of the business. Gradually I realised this was a result of systematic efforts to encourage gender balance through our values and policies across the world. Nobody is perfect, and IKEA is no exception. However we have managed to go a long way towards gender balance; 49 percent of leaders across the company are women. As an example, we have introduced paid parental leave for mothers and fathers across many countries.
The benefits of all this became even more evident to me through strategic initiatives like home solar, the business area on a mission to help democratise affordable clean energy. A mission that requires exactly the resilient and innovative mind-set that inclusive and diverse teams have.
Since the beginning Home Solar has benefitted from high levels of women participation. From our global executive board to the country teams; half of the people involved in the business are women. Remarkably also, the first five markets to launch the business were led by women CEOs. They all share the motivation and urgency to develop a business to inspire many people to live in a more sustainable way. To make an investment with significant positive effects on customers’ daily savings, and to help co-create a better future for next generations and our planet.
Future Potential and Opportunities
I keep thinking about the potential we can unlock by closing the gender gap quicker. I keep asking myself how to make a bigger dent so that more women around the world, including my eight year old daughter, can find a more inclusive and even playing field in whatever they decide to do.
“Many women leaders continue to impress and inspire me every day through their resourcefulness, ability and determination to drive positive sustainable change in business and society.”
There is no silver bullet, but part of the answer is to act every day in our own circles of influence, both privately and professionally. We need to help others see the opportunity of change and become agents of change through our actions; from recruitment, promotion and reward, to purchasing, investment and advocacy choices. We need to be impatient and voice our concern with institutions, teams, meetings or initiatives where there is a disproportionate amount of men. We need to engage in policy development and mentorship opportunities. And we need to use the power of good examples; sharing our stories on gender balance progress and how it drives higher social and business value.
Our choices define us. Governments, non-profits, businesses or individuals – we all have roles to play and opportunities to help empower more women to help us power a better world… lets get moving!