Sara Toustrup Kristensen, Martin Zoffmann

March 8, 2024

Let’s inspire inclusion by balancing masculine and feminine values!

On this International Women’s Day, Esther Bosman, Managing Director, and Marlene Ullum, Global Division Director and newly appointed lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Ramboll Water, share how it feels to be experienced leaders and women in a sector historically dominated by men.

Marlene initiates the conversation by expressing her satisfaction:
“It feels good! I really appreciate being a leader in Ramboll Water where we are moving towards a decent gender-balance on all levels and working on improving our culture for equality, diversity, and inclusion.”
“I agree,” Esther adds. “But things have also changed quite a bit since I was first appointed as Head of Department in my previous company with only five years of experience.”
What was it like back then?
“Well, in the beginning I felt a bit insecure. Not only due to my lack of experience, but also because many of my leadership colleagues were men who celebrated traditional masculine values such as competition, individual performance and the so-called ‘hard’ metrics.”
“I have experienced that as well,” Marlene says. “In my previous company, I almost got the impression that leadership was all about personal fights and upwards positioning.”
“It was not so bad where I was,” Esther states. “But I did feel a bit different because my focus was more on people management and collaboration, and I started wonder whether I was expected to copy the masculine leadership style I could see being practiced in other departments.”
So, what did you do?
“Having women in leadership positions in consultancy companies was not so common back then and looking back, I think I was missing some role models. So, there was some ‘trial and error’ for my part. But fortunately, I got a lot of support from both my manager and my team which encouraged me to develop my own personal leadership style. And over time, I learned how to embrace and rely on my personal values and beliefs. It still felt a bit like new territory, and, for instance, I became the first director to take maternity leave. Fortunately, that situation is not unusual today.”
“I became a leader in Ramboll Water in 2019, during a time where there were already a lot of women in leadership positions. So that was a quite different situation. But I still can’t see myself as a leader in that masculine-dominated culture I came from,” Marlene reflects.
Do you think men and women bring something different to the table as leaders?
“Well, I think we all bring different things to the table, and I really think we should strive for diversity and inclusion in everything we do. Especially in our sector where traits like creativity and innovation are crucial, and we need to get all perspectives into play and make sure that all voices are heard. That obviously goes beyond the gender-scale as we should also make sure to embrace differences in age and in cultural and socio-economic backgrounds,” Marlene states.
Esther nods: “I agree, and I see inclusion and making room for diversity of thought as a key leadership task. Furthermore, I really think we should avoid talking in stereotypes and instead try to separate the masculine and feminine value sets from the physical genders when we talk about it. Although some men mainly live masculine values and some women primarily hold feminine values, I think we all possess a mix of both traits, regardless of our gender or how we identify ourselves on the gender or gender-fluidity scale.”
Marlene nods in agreement: “That is a good point and something I can recognise in myself. Just like I didn’t thrive in a culture strongly dominated by masculine values, I can also feel out of place in settings where I experience that traditional feminine values such as the need to nurture take up too much space.
Is it all about striking a balance between the masculine and feminine values?
“It is indeed about striking that balance. Yes, we need to deal with competition. Yes, we need to perform. And yes, we need to deliver on the so-called hard targets. But that should all go hand-in-hand with a strong focus on collaboration, teamwork and shaping a culture where we care for each other and where we celebrate creativity and different perspectives. For us as leaders it means that we need to be mindful of our own masculine-feminine balances and that we aim to apply the right values in the right situations,” Esther explains.
But today we are specifically celebrating women. Do you have any advice for other women with leadership ambitions?
Esther: “Yes! Make sure to really get to know yourself – your values and beliefs – appreciate their power and stay true to all of it. Keep learning and enjoy the journey!
Marlene: “… And remember that we are all individuals who deserve a voice and have something unique and valuable to offer!”
Marlene Ullum
Marlene Ullum is Division Director for Ramboll’s division for Water Resources Management and newly appointed lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in Ramboll Water. As EDI lead Marlene will help drive this agenda in close collaboration with the leadership community in Water and with support from EDI experts in Ramboll Group.
Esther Bosman
Esther Bosman is Managing Director in Ramboll Water, a global group of nearly 1000 consultants who help clients make positive and long-lasting impacts within water infrastructure & climate adaptation, water & wastewater treatment and water resources management.

Want to know more?

  • Marlene Ullum

    Global Division Director

    +45 51 61 78 85

  • Esther Bosman

    Managing Director, Ramboll Water

    +45 51 61 35 11