Women in shipping - Louisa Loran, global head of business development and marketing, Maersk Line

Louisa Loran

Louisa Loran. Credit: Maersk Line

Louisa Loran offered up two people she said have been “incredibly helpful” in supporting her since arriving at Maersk Line four years ago: Michael Hansen, a manager who became head of global sales before leaving the company last year, and Vincent Clerc, Maersk Line’s chief commercial officer and Loran’s current manager.

“Both I would say [were] brought up in shipping and logistics with long careers in this area, and both are very open to learning, changing their minds, and accepting to different cultures and gender diversity, which has allowed the company to grow,” Loran told Fairplay.

Career growth is something Loran had been fortunate to experience during the 12 years at her previous company, United Kingdom-based Diageo, one of the world’s largest alcoholic beverages companies. Starting as a business manager in 2002, she progressed through five management positions, with increasing responsibility at both the company’s national and international level.

She was hired by Maersk Line in 2014 as its senior director, global head of brands and consumer insights, and promoted to her current position, global head of business development and marketing, in 2015.

Loran’s consumer marketing expertise was called upon in 2016 to help Maersk begin a fundamental change in how it approaches its customers.

“We needed to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes and, at the same time, balance their needs with what we could effectively deliver to the market,” Loran said. “We are in this business for the long run, and our focus had to be on creating value and not only competing on price. We’ve surveyed the views of the customer, and used them in our decision-making so we can build something that is win-win for them and for us. For that to happen it requires a broader understanding of cultures and having a mindset based on diversity.”

Loran explained that the liner shipping industry has, for years, been built on asset optimisation, and that the traditional way to be successful has been about capacity management and the relationship between the supply of cargo capacity and the demand for service.

Maersk sees an opportunity to play the game differently, according to Loran, who shed more light on how a company can be more valuable to its customers.

“How do you get [an] organisation internally to think in a different way when you are changing the business models? For that, I think it has been helpful to have the courage to challenge conventional thinking.”

Bringing in a female’s viewpoint has “definitely not been a disadvantage, although what matters is diversity of mindset”. As a founding member of the Danish Diversity Council, which was established to promote gender equality particularly in leadership positions, Maersk has made “structural commitments” towards that goal by setting specific targets. “We’re a major employer in Denmark, so we take an active role in this and seek to lead the way where possible,” Loran said.

The company has also committed to recruiting young female graduates, and has a strong internal programme to ensure they have equal opportunity for promotion.

“Personally, I think the strongest advice I give to women is to not be afraid to give your perspective,” Loran pointed out. “You’re not hired to be a clone of the men who sit across the hall from you. You’re hired for your skills and who you are, and to have the confidence to speak up. That’s what will help us grow diversity at all levels.”