Pandora’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer Minna Philipson reveals what it’s like to be the only female on the brand’s board, and shares her top tips for bolstering your career.
When Minna Philipson joined Pandora at the beginning of last year as senior vice president and chief marketing officer, she became the first and only female member of the jewellery giant’s board, something she has taken in her stride.
As the only woman, Philipson is extremely welcome and her voice is treasured by the wider team, who value her input on how to make Pandora become “the world’s most loved jewellery brand”.
While the jewellery giant will often favour recruiting from within, the company couldn’t help but head hunt Minna Philipson, who prior to joining Pandora had worked her way up the ranks at Adidas.
Starting with a brief stint in finance at the sportswear company’s head office, Philipson says she was not afraid to consistently ask the head of retail marketing to hire her for his department.
“I think after a while he just caved in and said ‘fine, if you stop talking about it I will give you a job’, so I moved to Manchester and got put in charge of marketing for Adidas-owned stores in the UK,” she explains.
Philipson stayed in the UK for four years doing a variety of jobs within marketing, and then she was offered the opportunity to move back to the global team in Germany, where her last job for Adidas was senior director of global marketing for Adidas Running.
When Pandora first approached Philipson she didn’t even consider the role as she loved working for Adidas, but after a gentle nudge from her brother she met with the brand’s chief executive officer and chief creative officer for a day and got “completely hooked”.
“It was completely out of the blue,” Philipson shares with Professional Jeweller editor Stacey Hailes. “I wasn’t looking, it was not on the cards for me at all but I fell in love with the company, said yes, and haven’t looked back since.”
Philipson joined the Pandora team in February 2016 and is based in the brand’s head office in Copenhagen.
Being the first female member on the board is significant, as Philipson admits that the brand has a long term vision to have more women take a seat. This is reflected in other areas of Pandora’s business, where the gender ratio in other managerial roles swings in favour of women.
As a brand ethos, employment and promotions at Pandora must always be based on merit, and within that, Pandora is committed to working against any form of discrimination and looks to ensure gender diversity across the company’s management positions.
To this end, Pandora has set out a number of management diversity objectives, something which is reviewed by the board of directors once a year. These goals include the percentage of women in senior management positions (members of the management board, general managers and vice presidents) being at least 40%. At the end of 2016, 37% of the company’s senior management were women, compared to 33% in 2015, 34% in 2014 and 24% in 2013. In addition, by next year the brand is aiming for 35% of the board members elected at the Annual General Meeting to be women.
With no other woman joining her on the board yet, Philipson says the experience so far has been extremely positive as the team are always grateful to have her input.
“Because Pandora is a company for women, they are always so happy to have me there and my view point is always so desired,” she explains. “Maybe if you worked in a company where the product was very male dominated you would find bigger challenges, but for me they really embrace me with open arms and our CEO is such an advocate for a balanced management board and a balanced leadership across all levels and that really something that he has been driving since he got here.”
She adds: “There is a very big respect and a desire to understand women and to represent them in the best way possible, so I am very lucky in that sense. Most of the time they are just really happy to learn and happy to get a female prospective, and that said, I am a marketer, I am not necessarily our target consumer, but it is my job to be the voice of our consumer, so it is less about me personally and more about having the responsibility to speak for the consumer.”
The future is looking bright for Pandora’s vision to see more women at senior level. In the company’s last reorganisation a lot of women were promoted — for instance a woman is now in charge of the US as general manager, and since the brand started its leadership programmes in 2012, the gender split has on aggregate been close to 50/50. Furthermore, in 2016, women made up 60% of the students enrolled on Pandora’s leadership programmes.
Philipson says: “Whilst we are not exactly where we want to be from the top management respective, the next bill of talent is looking fantastic and there is a lot better balance.”
For other females looking to work their way up in the jewellery industry, Philipson says climbing the career ladder is never easy, but in every job at every level you face daily challenges, so it’s worth trying to break the glass ceiling.
Her best piece of advice would be to ask a lot of questions and do not be afraid to let other people help you or support you. She also says you should not take yourself too seriously and it’s important to have a good work/life balance in order to not let work overwhelm you.
When asked what motivates Philipson in her career, she responds: “There are really three things that drives me every day and I think these are perhaps female qualities but it doesn’t mean it is only women that display them. Firstly, I really like to learn and I like to learn from everyone around me. So whilst I might in a lot of scenarios be the boss, it doesn’t always mean that I know best, so just to be able to listen and learn and be humble around the people that I work with is one big thing.
“Then I think curiosity, just to try and enthuse and to look out for new things and to keep developing and keep trailing and not being afraid to fail – to stay curious. The last thing I would say is it goes with anything that you do, if it is your passion, you have to be prepared to work hard. Very few things come for free and whether you are a man or a woman, you need to work hard and you need to be committed to what you do.