In the media

Why isn't the manager called Ali?

Ali Rana

By Ali Rana


27 June 2023

Why isn't the manager called Ali?

There are hardly any managers with a multicultural background in Norwegian business. Both private businesses, the public sector and minorities themselves have a responsibility to change this.

The results of PA Consulting's recent survey of the management teams of the 50 largest companies in Norway raise real concerns. The report reveals a shockingly low proportion of just 0.22 per cent or 1 in 459 managers with a multicultural background in Norwegian management teams. This is an alarming figure that indicates that developments are going in the wrong direction when it comes to diversity and inclusion in Norwegian business.

An earlier survey carried out by PA Consulting in 2019 showed that the number of Norwegians with a multicultural background in management teams was three. That we have seen a decline from an already low proportion is not only surprising, but also very sad. Especially so at a time when diversity and inclusion are topics that are receiving an increasing amount of attention and are recognised as important factors for success and sustainable growth.

The position in the public sector is no better. In the survey's selection of the 100 largest organisations in the public sector, none of the top managers have a multicultural non-Western background. In their management teams, only 1.02% had a multicultural, non-Western background, and all of these work in directorates.

Diversity in management teams is important for several reasons. Firstly, today's businesses, both in the private and public sector, need more innovative power and new perspectives to be able to adapt to the changing needs and desires of customers, users and target groups. Research, such as that by the consulting company McKinsey, has shown that companies with greater diversity in their management teams also achieve increased innovation and profitability.

The diversity of input, thoughts and viewpoints in a management group can lead to a better decision-making process and more comprehensive solutions. Where there is the same type of thinking, there is often little thinking. At the same time, the lack of diversity can have a negative impact on employees, who may feel less connected and less represented in the workplace. This in turn can affect productivity and commitment among employees.

What can be done to improve this? The start of a change always begins at the top, and that means in the boardroom. In Norway, we have had an exemplary focus on women in boardrooms. But is it now time to expand our approach to diversity? In countries such as the USA and England, people have come much further. There they talk to a much greater extent about diversity based on both gender and cultural background. In the US, they are also in the process of implementing a proposal from Nasdaq, which requires all boards to have at least two board members with a diverse background. At least one member of the board must be a woman, and at least one must be an underrepresented minority.

It is also important to increase awareness in management teams. Top management in Norwegian companies should set clear goals and show commitment to increasing diversity in their own management. This can help create a culture that values ​​diversity and inclusion.

It is also crucial that the businesses in the public sector act as good examples and better reflect the population in leadership positions. There is a need for a clearer focus and direction from both the Ministry of Culture and Gender Equality and actors such as the Directorate for Integration and Diversity.

Responsibility lies not only with management and the authorities, but also with minorities themselves. A bit too often, the so-called ALI studies, i.e. lawyer, doctor or engineer, are chosen when minorities decide what to study in Norway. It is important that people from a multicultural background dare to challenge traditional education routes and take opportunities when they are presented. It is necessary to think more broadly and choose subjects such as finance, management and strategy to gain the relevant skills for management positions.

Finally, I want to call out to senior management in Norwegian companies. Inclusion and diversity must be seen as important. Today, there is a little too much talk without the necessary action being taken. The time is ripe for action.

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