Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2024

82 A beacon of equality, diversity and inclusion Philippe Holthof asks Stena Line’s female leaders, Marica Derenstrand, Margareta Jensen Dickson and Elisabeth Lönne, how the pan-European operator is creating a more inclusive workplace and adapting to meet evolving customer demands Since Niclas Mårtensson took the helm of Stena Line almost seven years ago, a fresh wind has been blowing through one of Europe’s leading ferry operators. His mission to transform the business from a traditional shipping company to a leading sustainable and digital ferry operator is bearing fruit, with three out of its six leaders being women – a ferry industry first. Addressing gender equality The maritime sector is probably one of the last male-dominated bastions, especially at senior leadership level. However, during the 2017 London International Shipping Week, the UK’s then Maritime Minister, the Honourable John Hayes, addressed the topic of gender inequality in maritime, which led to the establishment of Maritime UK’s Women in Maritime programme in early 2018. “The entire room at the session was full of men in suits,” says Margareta Jensen Dickson, Stena Line’s chief people and communications officer. “In the wake of Hayes’ call for action, Stena Line walked the talk, signing a gender equality pledge to address the shortage of women on a group level.” Marica Derenstrand, chief financial officer at Stena Line, adds: “The maritime industry’s initiative built on the work by the finance and other sectors, which had earlier struggled to find female managers.” According to Jensen Dickson, Stena Line also used the technology industry as a benchmark for its ambition to reach 30 per cent women in management positions by 2020. “The technology industry is probably in the lead when it comes to a gender balance in decisionmaking,” she explains. Stena Line recruited “many” female managers between 2017 and 2020 but when Covid-19 hit, the brand was “almost back to square one with 1,400 layoffs”. “Most of the redundancies were in the onboard sales and services team, which typically has many female leaders,” says Jensen Dickson. “The female-dominated marketing and sales departments were also hit hard. Despite the Covid-19 setback, our ambition to reach 30 per cent of female staff in managerial positions remains, but with 2026 as the new target date. We are currently at around 21 to 22 per cent. In certain departments, this will arguably be a challenge. When I recently met with the officer’s unions, I didn’t see a single woman. The same goes for our operational port staff, although in late 2022 we recruited our first female port operations manager in Poland. A second female port operations manager has since joined us.” Improving diversity and inclusion Gender equality is part of a bigger strategy at Stena Line. “Our focus on gender marked the start of a bigger transformation,” says Elisabeth Lönne, the brand’s chief commercial officer. “We’re also focused on diversity and inclusion. Obviously, you can never move away from finding the right person with the right competence for the right position, but it is paramount to be an inclusive workplace, regardless of sexual orientation, age, disability, gender reassignment, religious or spiritual beliefs, ethnicity, and more. “This is also something that customers have come to expect from us – as an FEATURED INTERVIEW