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VIDEO: Can we wait around for gender parity? No, says NSC top exec

Renate Larsen reflects on gender diversity in the Norwegian seafood sector -- and whether or not change is happening fast enough.

Like so many Norwegians, Renate Larsen was born with fish in her blood. But her skill and ambition over a 19-year career in the industry was unique -- it drove her to the top of the world's largest seafood marketing organization.

As CEO of the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC), she's already seen a difference in the gender make-up compared with her previous roles, which include being CEO of Leroy Aurora.

"I've grown used to being the only woman in the meeting, the only woman at the work dinner, but now that I'm working with the market, I'm not the only woman anymore," Larsen said.

Larsen reflected on the changes in the sector -- and whether or not those changes are happening fast enough.

"Let me tell you this: there is still no queue in the ladies' room in conferences like this," she joked.

Larsen said conferences in particular are an important area to put focus on gender diversity and parity.

More women, or more leaders?

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"We have to address that those who are making the program have a responsibility to get more female speakers," Larsen said. "It's OK to be impatient."

Larsen's work -- like for so many seafood executives -- has taken her all over the world, and that has sometimes given her a window into how women are perceived at seafood companies in other cultures.

One experience with a Japanese executive visting Norway was particularly telling.

"When he met me, he was shocked. Meeting me, a young woman, blonde, managing men older than me? He thought that was hilarious," Larsen said. "'For me, it was science fiction,' he said. 'I come from an old traditional company, and I'm not used to it.'

"We talked about how culture needs to change, and that changing culture takes time. That's the truth in Japan, and that's the truth in Norway."

As many speakers noted, the obstacles placed in the way of working mothers in particular have to be knocked out of the way, and that includes perceptions about what is and isn't OK for a working mother to take on.

Larsen, a single mother since her teenage son was three years old and an executive since he was nine, said she and her son "made it work" with the support of family, and that today, "He's my biggest support, and my biggest fan."

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