Five minutes with… Diana Niu


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Diana Niu is senior vice president of HR at Volvo Construction Equipment

On building a successful career in a male-dominated industry…

"I am very curious. I understand and appreciate that everyone is unique and has diverse talents. So instead of seeing myself as a middle-aged Chinese woman, I know there are many other elements within me that can help me contribute. For me it is important not to label yourself or others. If you do you risk losing sight of people’s potential and undermine the power of inclusion. As a leader this labelling attitude makes it difficult to engage everyone in the organisation and treat them consistently.

I work to align my personal beliefs with our company’s corporate values. To me the two sets of values shouldn’t be separated. This helps me become a better individual and colleague, a better daughter, wife and mother. As I get older I also realise that it is more important to be respected than it is to be liked. Being ethical is one of my core values. It’s the North Star guiding my decision-making, and in professional and social interactions."

On firms becoming more gender-diverse…

"At Volvo Construction Equipment we still have challenges in becoming more accessible to women. We have not yet achieved our gender diversity goals, and while we have made big strides forward there is still much to be done. During the last couple of years the number of female leaders has increased by two percentage points in a total population of 14,000 employees. I see a great opportunity to achieve a 35%/65% gender distribution in the foreseeable future.

Our employees are ambassadors in many parts of the world and through them we can build awareness of the Volvo Group among potential employees. We also invite school children to attend our safety and other programmes.

When we hire new leaders we strive for gender diversity and equality by making sure at least a third of the candidates are from the underrepresented gender. A similar principle is applied in selection panels, where both males and females must be represented.

To expand our talent development portfolio we matched 100 pairs of mentors and mentees in 2017. The objectives of this mentoring programme are to support our younger leaders to grow by having access to experienced leaders and to remind our leaders that mentoring younger talent is part of a leader’s obligation."

On encountering discrimination as a woman in a male-dominated industry…

"My husband has been accompanying me on my international assignments in Europe since 2014. I sometimes get reactions and remarks such as ‘it must be boring for him, he has to find a job’, or ‘it should be him that is working, not you’. These comments make me uncomfortable. They show a lack of understanding and respect.

A couple of times I have encountered situations where female candidates are concerned about the company’s attitude. They ask whether it’s a problem if they join the company and soon afterwards have a baby. My response is: we welcome you regardless of your stage in life. It’s your attitude and performance that makes the difference, not your personal status. We do not discriminate because someone is pregnant and will become a mother."

On creating a high-performance organisation…

"We have made great efforts in improving efficiency by rightsizing the company. We take time to select and appoint the right leaders. An integrated talent review process has been implemented throughout the company. The performance and track record of the candidate is an important element, but there are many other elements we look deeply into, such as ability to engage and inspire people and leadership effectiveness.

We set high standards by benchmarking with the best in class – not just the average – but the high-performing norm financially, operationally and culturally. And to be the best we always need to push ourselves to perform better than we did the day before. Personally I value authenticity and courage. You cannot be afraid of constructive and healthy debates. I believe that it is only through debates and listening to each other that the team is able to leverage diverse perspectives and reach a higher level of inclusiveness, ultimately achieving best-in-class performance."

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