Finland needs more diversity in top management

You will recall an earlier column where the writer lamented about the lack of women in top management of companies. The same can be said about politics.

Diversity in its many forms appears to be missing at the CEO level in all but a few companies. A small group of men appear to hand on for dear life in banking and in pension companies. Nordea Bank ,OP Bank and Ilmarinen, the largest banks and the other one of the largest pension companies have seen their CEO’s interchange positions as if this is some given equation! Using the same approaches they have surrounded themselves with like folk from CEO’s of the other large stock exchange companies.

They all dress alike, have the same background and wear dark suits, white shirts and silk ties… Hardly any of them have worked abroad in senior positions. It is all very domestic. They also pay themselves huge salaries, bonuses and pension benefits.

Yes, some women, trade union members and a few top civil servants are admitted into this cosy club but they are far and few between. Most of this group bear a striking resemblance to the men in power, and have been in some way connected to the machinery of that business before being appointed.

Readers will also recall Risto Siilasmaa’s book about Nokia. In the first part of this book Siilasmaa, as the youngest and newest independent board member, recalled how the former, Mr. Ollila, the CEO and later Chairman of Nokia ran his ship, or perhaps flaming oil platform. It was like his own private fiefdom where he set the agenda and steered the meetings without much open discussion on strategy. He ignored those who disagreed with him and viewed dissent as mutiny. We all know what happened to Nokia – the total lack of diversity brought about its downfall. But what happened to Mr. Ollila? He has held onto board positions at home and abroad because he is part of that system.

The last government here in Finland, like governments in the UK, France and in the USA, also lack diversity in the broadest sense. They are great examples of single-minded attention to self-interest rather than to how to run a country in the best possible way. They all have leaders who are best described as bullies. A person who does not listen to others and knows best.

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

It would be sweet to think that the last election here in Finland would have solved that problem but it appears that the election may have just ploughed the same old field rather than making radical changes. The Social Democrats, the Conservatives and the True Finns were all given c. 20% shares of the vote, while the disgraced Center Party ended up with some 16%. 

The problem in politics, as in business is that it appears that few in top management are willing to give up their positions or allow diversity to breed. Even when the parties bring in new young blood, they tend to choose their own offspring or ones that replicate the party elders. The same thinking is rife in the political appointments of senior civil servants, and this rotten practice is promised in most of the party manifestos at election time!


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