Name: Anne-Catrine Preskou
Date of birth: 1983
Title: Senior Product Manager, Logistics and Services, Maersk.com
Degree: BA in Psychology at Roskilde University (RUC) and Masters in HR at Copenhagen Business School (CBS)
Fun fact: Bought her first car for a beer (in Australia)
Who has inspired you?
My grandfather, who was HR director at Danske Bank, and had a knack for taking care of people. I came to his office as a child and learned early on that being a decent person is paramount. Since then, I have looked for female role models at home and abroad, and I am fascinated, for example, by Margrethe Vestager’s drive to make the world a better place. I am looking for female managers who succeed professionally, whilst taking care of their family.
Who is your role model today?
It is necessary to have one in your own organisation, because we speak the same language and have the same overall goals. In the past I have had male mentors, but after becoming a mother, I needed to talk to a female manager about the challenge of seeking a leadership career and having a full personal life at the same time. The focal point of our conversations is this: how can I further develop the ability to prioritise by opting out of certain things, and by focusing on what delivers the most value and results to Maersk.
Does having a female mentor make a difference?
Having a child was a life-changing event for me and, therefore, having a woman, mother and manager as a mentor does matter. There are still only few of them, and I would like to work with someone who is striving to change the statistics. As a personal challenge, I have deliberately chosen someone who is very different from myself.
Why do you think there are so few female managers?
We must honestly acknowledge the structural challenges we face. When women move up the ladder, there are often only white men over 50 in the appointment committee. So, we have to challenge the promotion of a man over a woman who has delivered identical results. Time and again, I wonder how this still happens given how many smart and impressive women there are; often it all comes down to culture and history.
How can we make this diversity challenge more visible?
It should neither be out of “pity” for women nor about quotas, but it would be great to raise awareness of diversity. For example, this could be managed via visual reports showing how many men and women are employed and at what level.
We can also use networks to find common traits of female managers and develop statistics. Above all, I believe in the honest dialogue about why men are more often promoted than women. For example, I have this conversation with my – male – boss, and that is indeed motivating.
What advice would you give to women?
My own mantra is “Work hard and be nice to people”. The first part is about staying focused on the ball, being passionate, and delivering. Think in terms of goals and set sub goals. The first step is always the hardest, but if you set goals, you can show concrete business results. Nothing is as compelling as achieving results.
The next thing is about being a good team player. Even when new members join or there is something you don’t like very much. Be a decent person and do not step on others, even if you are an ambitious person. Make demands, but do so sensibly and favour direct conversations.
How important is the salary for you?
Of course, human relationships matter most, but money can provide a freedom that is also very worthwhile. Besides the fun, excitement, and challenges that a global business delivers, pay and bonus schemes also provide financial freedom. While a demanding job slightly worsens my work-life balance, I can contribute to other things thanks to my good salary.
I just bought my dream home with a sea view, and when I get home from a hard day of work, I can relax watching the sea, taking walks in the woods, or going sea kayaking with my husband and son. The house and the area offer an optimal environment for a good childhood, and being able to give my son this and having a decent work-family balance is the most important of all.
In Denmark, we often refrain from speaking up because of our great position relative to other women around the world, but it is important not to be naive about it. For this reason, I am part of a network with other women I trust, where we share pay levels, so we avoid being blue-eyed and can track ourselves at whatever level is appropriate.