Business leaders: “We women have been allowed to stab ourselves bloody”

Charlie Taylor

“One hell at a time” is the picturesque title of the business profile and former governor Cecilia Schelin Seidegård’s memoirs. She openly talks about being the only woman in the boardroom, daring to make big decisions and being treated with silence by male colleagues. “We women have had to fight bloody,” she says. Updated: 26 June 2022, 19:05Published: 26 June 2022, 19:02The year is 2000 and Cecilia Schelin Seidegård has been named the most powerful woman in business by the magazine Veckans affärer. She gets place one on a list where the 125 most powerful business women in Sweden were listed, a list that is published today by Dagens industri. When Cecilia Schelin Seidegård wins, it is the second year that the prize is awarded. She has climbed to the top after finishing in tenth place the year before. Surprise is mixed with pride. Cecilia Schelin Seidegård is in charge the opportunity to join the pharmaceutical and biotechnology company Astra Zeneca’s AZN + 1.40% Today’s development management team after having a doctorate in biochemistry and working within the Astra Group for eleven years. When the award is announced, she is met with nothing but silence by her male colleagues and bosses. “I was sniffed at the confectionery. Nobody said anything and I could barely talk about it. Therefore, it is incredibly fun to see how the women who are appointed today are treated by their male bosses. They are proud, “says Cecilia Schelin Seidegård and continues:” My bosses should have put their foot down and beaten down my colleagues’ jealousy. ” And even if the award is only touched on in one of the chapters in her memoirs “One Hell at a Time”, equality and female power are a recurring theme. She places great emphasis on highlighting the change when women rebelled career-wise and took up more and more space in business and the public sphere. She describes how boardrooms were dominated by men, just like the activities that took place outside of work. Nothing is beautified, Cecilia Schelin Seidegård rather wants her memoirs to describe the raw truth as much as possible. “We women have had to fight bloody. But it has been a fantastic journey to be part of, even though it has been far from easy. And I want to tell you that. It is difficult to lead an organization and it comes with a lot of criticism. ” She left Astra Zeneca 2003 and instead stepped in as CEO of Huddinge Hospital. She soon became hospital director for the new giant that was formed when Karolinska University Hospital merged with Huddinge Hospital, a reform that has been debated to say the least. The decision was voted through in the county council with only a majority of votes. There were 15,000 employees from two clearly divided camps would now coexist under one roof. “It was special to come from the business world into public activities and experience what it is like to be criticized by large groups in society. Not everyone wanted it to go well and even though I still think the merger was the right decision, it is probably the most difficult thing I have done in my career. ” Cecilia Schelin Seidegård points out that it was fantastic fun at the same time. She is not afraid of power or tough decisions and emphasizes that as a business leader you must dare to tell the truth. She describes it as one of the ingredients for success and highlights it as one of her top 20 leadership tips in her memoirs. And both power and decision have since the years at Karolinska continued to shape her career. Her leadership instincts became visible as early as 1981, when she was vice chairman of Sweden’s United Student Unions. Thereafter, chairmanships meander like a red snake throughout her career. Today she has about ten board assignments, including as chairman of Samhall AB where she took over the club in 2019. She has also been chairman of both the Royal Institute of Technology and Systembolaget and has been governor of both Gotland and Kalmar. “I must admit that I like to decide. In addition, you have to be brave to dare to take on such tough positions. ” How did you find the strength to dare to make tough decisions?
“I have worked according to the 80/20 rule. 80 percent of all decisions you make should be good, the remaining 20 may be bad. It’s okay, as long as you go back and learn something from it. ” Although the assignment as governor of Kalmar was only a short temporary position, the years on Gotland became all the more numerous. Between 2010 and 2018, she worked as a head of government on the island where she herself grew up, an assignment that she looks back on with great joy. When asked why she chooses to write memoirs, she answers that it is something she has always wanted to do. The title is a direct quote from her professional life, where she often used the term “one hell at a time” to sort through crises and deal with them one by one. The pandemic accelerated writing, as did a feature on morning television in which three men wrote works in the same genre. “One man after another told about what assholes they had been, but that at least they have now become better people”, she says and continues: “Then I felt that, why is no one writing about what it is like to be a woman? To ball two children as a single person while trying to make a career and fight against old age? ”

Cecilia Schelin Seidegård

Age: 68 years.Bor: In Visby, on Gotland.Family: Two sons, Joakim and Viktor, and a grandson.Makes: Chairman of Samhall AB and about ten board assignments.Background: Vice chairman of Sweden’s United Student Unions, Astra Zeneca for 14 years, including as vice president. Chairman of the Board of both the Royal Institute of Technology and Systembolaget. Governor of Gotland and Kalmar.Current with: The book “One hell at a time” (Kaunitz-Olsson) which will be released on June 27.Photo: Jack Mikrut Julia Hoffman


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