Chapter ChairWOMEN

In the spotlight

27 Mar 2017, Johanna Bjarsch Follin

Chapter ChairWOMEN

The Chamber aims to represent and involve all its Members, regardless of geographic location. In order to strengthen the local presence all around the United Kingdom, the Chamber has four regional chapters; in Manchester, Newcastle, Immingham, and Birmingham. In this feature we want to highlight that all the Chamber’s Chapter Chairmen are in fact Chapter ChairWOMEN, with an introduction to each of the Chairwomen, what brought them to the Chamber, and their views on the importance of a local business community.

Annette Borén
Northern Chapter, Manchester

What is your career background?
I started my professional career as a Business Controller at Atlas Copco in 1996. Since then I have worked at Skandia as a Marketing and Sales Manager, I have been Finance Director at Länsförsäkringar and for the first time I became part of an executive management team and I reported directly to the CEO. The latter opened up the path to Doro as CFO and Vice President for a stock listed company. At the time, I was also part of the Board of Directors in all Doro’s subsidiaries, and also got my first non-executive Board assignment in Sparbanken Öresund. Today, I am Head of Finance for Hilti Northern Europe, operating from our Head Office in Trafford Park in Manchester, and I am also part of the Global Finance Executive Management team in the Hilti Group.

Being a woman in business – advantages and challenges?
I have a background in Manufacturing and Construction and also Banking/Insurance which have historically been very male dominated. I have since the start of my career almost only worked with and for men, from whom I have always learnt a lot. For me personally this has sometimes been challenging, but never an issue. Today I am very much aware of the fact that a diverse team is important for long term success, but then as a leader you have to manage the diverse and different thoughts in the team.

What brought you to the Chamber?
As a Swede in England I wanted to explore what Swedish business networks exist. The Swedish Chamber is the most active and well-known with a great reputation and provides a prime opportunity to meet and be inspired by other individuals and companies. Being a Chapter Chairwoman gives me the possibility to influence and shape the future of the Northern Chapter, as well as being able to promote and strengthen the ties between Swedish and English companies around Manchester.

What is currently going on in your Chapter?
Too early for me to say or have an opinion as I have just started as Chapter Chairwoman. But linking to the event that the Chamber arranged in Birmingham in November around HS2, the High Speed train links to the North, there are a lot of developments coming to the North West and the Manchester area with HS2 and HS3. Manchester starts to boom and starts to become highly interesting as a business metropole.

In what way is the Chamber network even more important outside of London?
Outside London I think we can promote Swedish companies more as well as the connection between Swedish and local companies. Swedes outside London are of course more geographically spread and might not have a natural meeting place like they have in London.

Caroline Theobald
Northeastern Chapter, Newcastle

What is your career background?
I’m a former journalist and press-officer who moved to the North East in 1989 to run an environmental arts agency. I then ran a leadership programme until I met my late husband and started my current business, helping entrepreneurs, in 2000.

What are you most proud of career-wise?
Being granted the Queens’ Award for Enterprise in 2007 and the CBE for services to business and entrepreneurship in 2016. I’m also really proud of the Creative Links programme that I’ve established with Region Västra Götaland which was led by culture and creative industries but is now moving into mainstream economic regeneration.

Being a woman in business – advantages and challenges?
When I moved to the North East I had to hire a male secretary. It was very different here to London where I had some very high profile roles. My husband died when I was 39 so running a business with two small children was extremely challenging, but I’m not sure that’s a gender issue.

What brought you to the Chamber?
The Chamber approached me in 2009 because of the work I was doing with Creative Links, and we launched the North East Chamber in 2010 with the backing of Handelsbanken and Deloitte.

What are your responsibilities as Chapter Chairwoman?
I don’t have any, it’s an honorary role. The companies are members of the London Chamber, but if they could be local members and I could take the membership fees then I could do far more with the role. I’d love to do more, but that’s difficult with no budget.

In what way is the Chamber network even more important outside of London?
It would and could be extremely important post Brexit particularly because of the links I have here with growth businesses, the North East Chamber and the CBI, but it needs to be resourced.

What are your plans and hopes for the chapter in the year ahead?
For it to become a regional force to be reckoned with representing the needs of Swedish businesses in the North East and encouraging more to have partnerships with North East England.

Camilla Carlbom Flinn
Humber Chapter, Immingham

What is your career background?
I moved back home to Lincolnshire 9 years ago to take over as Chairman of the family ships agency, Carlbom Shipping Ltd, based at the Port of Immingham. Prior to returning to Lincolnshire, I had worked in financial PR and telecommunications, from which I developed a passion for journalism. These two careers took me from the financial heart of London, to New York and the South Bronx, and back to the UK working with Arab Television and the Press Association, before returning to my roots and the shipping industry.

What are you most proud of career-wise?
Every new job has been a proud moment – a new challenge, a new adventure, with each bringing its own rewards and special moments. These defining moments have not necessarily been winning new business contracts or successful completion of projects, but meeting extraordinary people who inspire and encourage you.

Being a woman in business – advantages and challenges?
I think every day in any business is a challenge! Sometimes being a woman is an advantage – in a “man’s world” you sometimes stand out, and people remember you. Sometimes people underestimate you because you are a woman - but that can be to your advantage... However, ultimately, the important thing is to be remembered for excelling at your job, for looking after your customers and for attention to detail, regardless if you are a man or a woman.

What brought you to the Chamber?
History brought me to the Chamber – I am the 4th generation of the family to work at Carlbom Shipping, founded by my Swedish great-grandfather in 1897. He was one of the founding fathers of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in London and cared passionately about building trade relations between the UK and Sweden. As did my father, Anthony Carlbom, who founded the Humber Chapter and was its Chairman until he died in 2008. At that point, I moved to Lincolnshire to take over the helm at Carlbom Shipping and was asked to continue in his footsteps at the Humber Chapter, which I was honoured to do. I feel incredibly proud of continuing my family tradition; promoting the links between Sweden, London and the Humber.

What does the Swedish Chamber mean to you?
The reasons the SCC was founded in 1906 are just as important today – to encourage and develop trade, business partnerships and build bridges between our countries and our local regions. It is still vital to build those bridges and make new connections today.

In what way is the Chamber network even more important outside of London?
London is naturally the epicentre of the Swedish business community in the UK and offers an incredible cross section of events and networking opportunities for its members. If we can replicate that (although on a much smaller scale!) it benefits member companies who have local branches, and helps promote the Chamber in the less well known parts of the country.

Birgit Hartelius
Midlands Chapter, Birmingham

What is your career background?
I have 25 years of experience from working at IKEA in different countries and positions, ranging from working with suppliers in China, in store in Prague, purchasing in Berlin and product development in Älmhult. Today, as Store Manager in Coventry, I work with developing our co-workers and leaders in the Midlands, and I also have the possibility to work closely with the customers which is one of my favourite things about working at IKEA.

What are you most proud of career-wise?
That I have been able to combine bringing up my children and being dyslexic with pursuing a great career. I was one of the first part-time managers in IKEA UK in 1998 when I worked in Warrington, which gave me confidence in the company and the possibilities. Further, being a woman in purchasing in China - meeting our suppliers and working together with them on the factory floor to develop products that will be sold all over the world - was amazing. When I walk in the store and look at the products, I see the whole supply chain behind it.

Being a woman in business – advantages and challenges?
When it comes to gender equality, we’ve come a long way in adjusting mindsets and stereotypes in society to achieve equal representation for women, but there is still more to be done in this area. In my opinion, we must not take female leadership to only supporting those at the top or in the boardroom, but we need to work from the bottom up as a long-term solution to increase confidence in women and close the gender gap.

How come you joined the Chamber as Chapter Chairwoman?
I have for many years been the IKEA representative in the Chamber. When I swapped jobs and moved to the Midlands as the Store Manager for the Coventry store, Ulla Nilsson, the Managing Director, suggested that I could contribute on this position. It gives me the opportunity to be part of strengthening the Midlands and the connections and growth for Swedish connected business in my region.

What does the Swedish Chamber mean to you?
It is a fantastic organisation to connect and to grow your business in. I believe in the brand Sweden and I love all the personal connections and the great people I meet and get inspired by.

In what way is the Chamber network even more important outside of London?
UK is very London-centric. With Birmingham being the second biggest city and located in the Midlands with a strong production and innovation sector, it is important for Swedish businesses to take the opportunities and strengthen their presence in the region.

Anette Borén

Anette Borén

Caroline Theobald

Caroline Theobald

Camilla Carlbom

Camilla Carlbom

Birgit Hartelius

Birgit Hartelius

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