Gender Walls are coming down at Samsung

December 6, 2013

15 females, 12 foreigners promoted to executive posts


By Kim Yoo-chul

Despite its remarkable corporate growth over the last few decades, women and foreigners have taken a back seat inside Samsung, the nation’s most-powerful industrial conglomerate.

But finally, the “glass ceiling” is gradually being broken at Samsung Electronics, the world’s top technology company, as the conglomerate is giving more authority to female executives and foreigners.

In its recent executive level reshuffle, the company promoted a total of 15 women to executive and senior executive positions from 12 this year and eight in 2012, according to a statement issued Thursday. Out of the total, 12 come from within Samsung Electronics.

“Samsung Electronics fared well in corporate growth despite a challenging market situation. This is the reason why we’ve promoted more women from Samsung Electronics to executive positions,” said a spokesman.

Samsung said it will strive further to achieve real gender equality by promoting more women to higher positions regardless of age.

One of the noticeable points in this year’s reshuffle is the promotion of four women to executive levels who joined Samsung after it removed gender discrimination in its recruitment in 1992.

So far, Samsung prefers to hire women executives from outside entities such as marketing, consulting and foreign companies.

Samsung Electronics Chief Marketing Officer Sue Shim and Senior Executive President Lee Young-hee are examples of the company’s steady shift towards hiring women executives from outside. Shim previously worked at P&G, while Lee was scouted from L’Oreal.

“Those four new executives who joined Samsung right after the declaration of New Management initiatives by Chairman Lee Kun-hee will lead Samsung’s corporate growth. Women are getting more powerful,” said the spokesman.

After the declaration, Samsung shifted toward pursuing corporate growth focused on product quality not quantity and the chairman ordered executives to hire more women, a move aimed at diversifying strategies by utilizing strengths that women have.

While the portion of female executives is very small currently less than 3 percent, the company says it plans to increase the portion to 10 percent by 2020.

“The one thing I can tell you is that Samsung is trying hard to find innovative ways to change its corporate culture. Considering Samsung’s steady progress toward women, the day that Samsung will see its first female CEO isn’t that far off,” said an employee by telephone.

Chairman Lee regularly holds lunch meetings with female workers to listen to their views on pending issues. Recently, the chairman expressed his personal hope to see the first female CEO at Samsung.

Foreigners powering

This year’s elevation also includes a record promotion of foreign workers.

Twelve foreigners were promoted to executive or senior executive positions from 10 this year and 8 in 2012.

In the reshuffle, Wang Tong has become Samsung Electronics’ second corporate senior executive vice president after it named Tim Baxter as the president of Samsung Electronics America last year.

“Wang significantly helped expand Samsung’s mobile business in China. As an expert to develop telecommunication systems, Wang has been consistent in leading key projects such as the development of customized mobile devices in China,” said the statement.

Wang will handle all marketing strategies at Samsung Electronics’ mobile business in China.

Jim Elliot has become a vice president at Samsung’s memory marketing division in the United States, and Keith Hawkins, head of Samsung Austin, was also promoted to senior vice president, according to the statement.

Elliot is now tasked to develop better Exynos-branded processors and stabilize key features of its logic chips to function as the brain in computing devices.

“When you see this year’s reshuffle, Samsung Electronics had 226 promotions, followed by Samsung Display, Samsung SDI and Samsung Electro-Mechanics with 29, 15 and 13, respectively. The group’s technology affiliates accounted for 60 percent for this year’s year-end promotions,” said a Samsung official by telephone.