It’s wonderful that there are differences between men and women because we complement each other – Victoria Lutsenko, CEO Auchan Retail
The European Business Association in partnership with the Council of Women’s Initiatives and NGO “Modern Woman” continues a series of interviews with female leaders on gender equality in business and the role of women in the corporate top management. For this piece, we invited Victoria Lutsenko, CEO of Auchan Retail to share her experience.
Victoria, please tell us about yourself and your role in the company.
I am a representative of Auchan, an international company, and I work as the CEO of Auchan in Ukraine. It’s unbelievable, but I’ve been working in the retail industry for over 20 years. I started my career in Hungary as a perfume manager, then I worked within the FMCG, then moved to the management realm – I was the controller of two stores, store manager, and later the controller of the entire company – Auchan Retail Hungary. Before my appointment to Ukraine in early 2018 as CEO, I worked for several years as Director for Innovation and Customer Care at Auchan Retail Hungary. I am inspired by the people I work with and the results we achieve together.
What does gender equality in business mean to you?
Gender equality is about women and men having equal opportunities in everything: being hired, getting the desired position, building a career, having the same working conditions, and the same pay.
In your opinion, are there areas to which only women or only men are eligible to work?
There are such areas, but their number gets fewer each year. For example, areas, where hard physical work is needed, are more suitable for men, it is logical.
In your opinion, are there positions that can be held only by women or only by men?
I am generally against categoricalness in the 21st century. There are great cases where men work as kindergarten teachers or bakers, and women work as taxi drivers or security guards. Of course, where physical labor and strength are required, the advantage will be for the man. However, we live in a world where everything is changing, and stereotypes, fortunately, are constantly breaking down and leaving room for more open views in society. I work for a company where the employment of people under the principle of equality and diversity is the norm, and I am proud that Auchan is an example of non-discrimination in Ukraine. More and more companies are interested in our experience, and we are happy to share it.
Can a woman be a top executive?
Of course, she can. I am a woman and a CEO. Equality implies that the conditions are the same for everyone and gender is not a criterion for choice, regardless of whether it is an employee of the trading floor or a commercial director. At least in Auchan, it is so. In my team, more than half of the top managers are women. Sometimes we even joke about it. Each Auchan employee signs the Charter of Ethics, which is 5 sections that form the norms and rules of conduct of employees concerning all stakeholders: colleagues, customers, shareholders, external partners, and communities. That is, an understanding of inclusion, equality, and diversity has been part of our policy since the company’s inception.
According to your observations, does gender affect the quality of decisions made?
No, gender does not affect decision-making. Of course, there are some common trends and differences. But it’s wonderful that there are differences between men and women because we complement each other. Somewhere you need more logic, somewhere more empathy, the principle of diversity is necessary for everyone, and business is no exception. In my experience, 2 factors are important to me. These are expertise and team motivation. People have to be passionate about their job, then it will positively affect their well-being, business efficiency, and decision-making. For example, in Auchan Ukraine, 84% of employees feel involved in the strategy and satisfied with their work in the company. This is a very high figure, higher than the market average. This KPI is the result of all the well-being initiatives we implement for our teams.
How many women work in management positions in Auchan and in what areas?
In Auchan more than 200 different professions, so it gives the chance to grow horizontally and vertically, to change the professional way in the company. In 2020, our staff had 563 female and 297 male managers. We do not keep detailed statistics on how many male executives we have in accounting or female executives in marketing, as we believe that it is a discriminatory approach. However, the company’s general demographic data can be found in our annual non-financial reports, they are publicly available on our website and in other communication channels. Auchan’s top management consists of 7 directors, including 5 women and two men. Thus, our performance director and commercial director are women, while the finance director and the innovation director are men.
How long does it take women and men to be promoted from deputy director to director on average? Is there a difference in wages?
As I mentioned at the beginning, what is important is motivation and professional competencies, not gender. Each position has its job description and a list of competencies and skills that an employee must possess. On average, at Auchan, one can be promoted from the position of deputy director to the director in six months. Over the past year, we have appointed both men and women as directors. There is no difference in the salaries of women and men. Remuneration is formed following the grading system. That is, there is a “grid” with the level of wages and bonuses, it is tied to the profession, not to a particular employee, their gender, age, or other criteria.
Auchan Retail Ukraine has been supporting the professional growth of both men and women since its foundation in Ukraine. We are recognized by our employees, customers, and other businesses as a non-discriminatory company and an example of an inclusive responsible employer. Therefore, we will continue to work in this direction, and we will inspire other market players to introduce such an approach in the field of human resource management.
How do you see your company in the future? What values will it profess?
Auchan Ukraine in the future is a fidgital leader and a favorite brand of Ukrainians! These are our priorities and our strategy, which is shared by all employees. Our values remain the same – trust, openness, and perfection.
What steps can you take to make these changes?
I came to Ukraine in 2018, and we started to change Auchan’s strategy – we became a multi-format fidgital retailer and doubled the company’s growth. Now we continue to move towards our goal – to be the fidgital retail leader in Ukraine. As you know, the strategy does not live on paper – it is done by people. Therefore, our main steps are to continue to take care of our employees, to make sure that they are involved, to provide them with all the necessary comfort and support, so that they enjoy their work and irradiate this satisfaction to our customers.