Is educating men the best way to combat unconscious bias?

SYSCO is known for being one of the Nordic region's leading technology companies specialized in the energy sector. Now they are making waves in becoming one of Norway’s top-rated places to work. We had a virtual Q&A session with SYSCO's CEO, Dagfinn Ringås, where he shared strategies that the company has put into place which have helped land SYSCO a top spot on Equality Check's rankings.


What are your diversity representation goals and KPIs? How do you set them?

We currently have 20% of women and 80% of men in the workforce, which is too low. In 2019, we doubled women recruitment. We went from 0-2 women in group management. We have a DPI on the company scoreboard for recruiting, 40% should be women. The second metric is that all new recruits should have an average age of fewer than 35 years. If we hadn’t set these numbers, we would not have these results. If you have a scoreboard, and these things are not there, nothing will change.


Who in your company is responsible for these initiatives?

It has to be me. HR is of course a part of it, but it has to owned by the CEO and the group leadership team. With so many priorities, and everyone running in the hamster wheel, this responsibility has to be held by the same people that carry the responsibility for the business results.

Do you have any examples of how your team is combating unconscious bias?

It is one of the most difficult areas. The most important thing is the Women at the Sysco program we have. It is for both men and women. We have found that the best way to combat unconscious bias is to learn from each other and educate men in areas that men and women often experience differently.


How can I have the biggest impact on the future of my daughter? It’s the values I teach my son about treating, respecting and understanding women.


This is what I am most passionate about. You need to include both men and women. If we are to change things, we need to learn more from each other. We are also fostering a culture of safety in SYSCO by encouraging people to speak up. Having a zero-tolerance rule and consequences has helped us define the ‘grey areas.’ This has been crucial for combating unconscious bias.


On a personal note, I have a 14-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son. How can I have the biggest impact on the future of my daughter? I believe it’s the values I teach my son about treating, respecting and understanding women. I also don’t think we will get far if men and women discuss these subjects in their respective camps. We have to come together and more men about how women see, feel and experience these subjects every day.


What advice can you give other companies regarding creating a more diverse workplace?

You need to plant a hard flag on hard targets. Otherwise the organization will fall into the habits of easy. That means recruiting people who are similar to ourselves. You’re reading diversity posts on LinkedIn every day. What type of feeling are you left with? Is it genuine? If you are not genuine about the change, you will be exposed. You need to mean it. If you mean it, you’re leaning in and participating. You are spending time on it, trying and fighting for it - that becomes visible. You need to do that as a CEO.

How does your workplace handle unconscious bias? Let us know by leaving a review at