CEO who used to be once a man brings gender-equality outlook – sex and relationships


Caroline Farberger, the chief executive of a Swedish insurance company, remembers how she conducted meetings when she used to be a man.

“I would unthinkingly turn to my favourites in the room, the ones I knew shared my views, and suddenly we were three people in agreement,” she said. “Then I’d glance at the others and ask whether there were any other opinions, and naturally there weren’t. I could just say ‘great we have a decision’ and move on.”

Farberger, 53, who in 2018 underwent a gender correction and this week published a book approximately it, says she sees now that as Carl — as she used to be then called — she just had “equality on paper.”

The head of ICA Forsakring AB, the insurance arm of Sweden’s grocery giant ICA, is the first commerce chief in Sweden — and possibly among very few, whether any, on the planet — to go through a gender transition. She says it has provided her a singular take on gender-equality issues in commerce.

The executive’s book, titled “Jag, Caroline, yrkeskvinna och familjefar (Me, Caroline: businesswoman and circle of relatives father),” lays out her transformational journey, showing how it gave her new insights into gender affairs and changed her leadership style.

Until September 2018, Farberger used to be a man who had fathered three children, topped military service class, used to be a Freemason and at one point used to be a McKinsey consultant.

Undercover man

“I’ve been undercover as a man for 50 years,” she said in an interview. “I know the way men talk to one another and how they reason. I realize that I wish to talk with regards to commerce value with the intention to get through to them.”

Many men “disconnect” when they hear words like patriarchy or feminism, she said. “They immediately think, ‘it is a person who doesn’t understand anything approximately commerce.’”

Farberger says her transition has made her more inclusive. She seeks out different points of view before you decide. She now holds fewer management meetings that end after 6 p.m. because it precludes having circle of relatives dinners.

“Men will likely just see it as a cost of doing commerce, while many women would see it as too high a price for a career,” she said.

Unequal representation

In the months following her transition, women came to her with their stories. She used to be told approximately a case of sexual harassment at an earlier place of work. Asked why the person hadn’t approached her sooner, she said she used to be told, “because you were a man. Whether I had told you every time it happened, I would have turn into the problem.”

Farberger says she’s now more aware of how few women there are in positions of power in Swedish commerce. A recent outline by Allbright showed that only one in 10 listed companies in Sweden is headed by a woman. Only 15% of top operative positions — heads of commerce areas — are held by females.

“That’s where you create the culture and where decisions are made,” she said, adding that “so long as it’s men who are heads of P&L units and women get to be in HR and communication, you haven’t achieved anything.”

The commerce community in Sweden has in large part accepted her transformation, Farberger said, noting that while it raised some eyebrows, she had no negative feedback.

“She obviously has an interesting perspective on things, but from my commerce perspective, I see her as the same person,” said Marie Halling, the CEO of ICA Bank, who’s Farberger’s boss. “I would say she’s more self-assured now.”

Decision time

Farberger says it took her a very long time to make the leap.

“I had this idea of a transsexual person as an old man in a dress, some tragic and ridiculous figure,” she said.

With improve from his wife, Carl determined to go for it. A reporter from Sweden’s leading commerce day by day, Dagens Industri, followed the transformational process.

Her story made the paper’s front page on the day she stepped into her office as Caroline for the first time, in a dress, make-up and high heels.

“It helped a lot that a respectable newspaper said, ‘this is a part of the new normal, end of discussion,” she said.

In 2019, she used to be awarded Sweden’s LGTBQ person of the year.

“My insights from comparing living as a man and living as a woman is that we still have a very long way to go,” she said.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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