Caroline Lee

UK Group Head of HR at Masonite International

The thoughts and perspectives from Caroline Lee, UK Group Head of HR at Masonite International

March 4, 2022
Mar 8, 2022
International Women's Day
Introduction and Biography

Caroline Lee is the Group Head of HR for Masonite International Inc’s (a NYSE listed company) European based companies; she is based in Barnsley. She has HR responsibility for around1,300 staff across manufacturing operations and central support functions.

It is approaching thirty years since she took over her first HR leadership role and she is one of the most highly regarded HR leaders in the region. Masonite has the very highest standards for their strategies across DE&I (Diversity, Equity &Inclusion), ESG (Environmental, Sustainability, Governance) and employee engagement – we were delighted that she agreed to share her perspectives and experiences with us.

Recent government reports show that UK businesses have improved the gender diversity in leadership roles over the past year, but these figures have been criticised by many as not good enough. What are your views on the current state of play?

Throughout my career I have worked for large multi-national companies and UK plc’s and I am proud to say that women have held key roles in areas of the business which were in the past traditionally male dominated. This has included the CEO of the Global Division, European MD, Operations Director, Engineering Manager, Project Engineers, Technical/R&D Director, Sales Director, Head of Customer Experience and Finance Director. However, in my discipline of HR the leadership role has been male for about half of this time. I currently have a team of fourteen a ten to four balance in favour of women. At Masonite I believe we are on the front foot with our diversity policies, we have a good split across the leadership team, central functions and across operations. Our Gender Pay Gap has favoured women for the last 3years.

When it comes to recruitment, there is a misconception that you can either “aim to recruit the best individual for the job” or “promote a positive DE&I strategy”. It is really important to do both – the two areas complement each other and are not contrasting options. Every recruitment campaign should be conscious of DE&I – it needs to ensure that everyone can be considered for the opportunity and that the advert, process and job description invite a diverse group of candidates to feel comfortable to apply. 

DE&I should not be about statistics and ticking boxes we need to be intentional in our approach and never see differences as a barrier to recruiting the best candidate.

Why are there so many more leadership positions held by males in business still?

Balancing a career in a leadership role and raising a family is challenging. Many women will want to take time out from their careers for maternity leave and to focus on their children – this to me is the most important job that a male or female will ever do.  However, things have changed and are continuing to change for the better. The opportunities for women to have a more equal platform for their careers after starting a family have improved over the past fifteen to twenty years. There is no single action that could address the challenge of balancing family and career but the recent concept of hybrid working as a result of the pandemic has certainly helped to move this in the right direction. Businesses can play a key part in shifting the balance by ensuring that female candidates are actively targeted for their leadership positions.

As an organisation we are intentional in our approach to address the balance across the whole of our business. We are welcoming female Apprentices in Engineering roles and we have an increasing number of female operatives making our products. Working with local schools in our communities and attending career days I hope opens the female students’ eyes to the many career opportunities that are available within our business. A business that not long ago would have been viewed as a very traditional male dominated environment. DE&I is not all about board representation, but also about making sure every department has a positive mix of people.

What have been the lessons for business during the pandemic?

I can see quite a few positives resulting from the pandemic already:

TIME – so many people have been trying to cram so much into their working and home lives, while travelling across every site and meeting colleagues in person. We have all learned that this is still valuable but not essential to do quite as much.

PATIENCE - “Instant gratification” and the reduced gap between wanting something and having it have defined so much about the millennial generation. We have all had to ask ourselves “Do we really need that?” and “Do we need it now?”

COMMUNICATION – We have all changed the way we communicate and it is so much better. Sending 1,000 plus staff home within a day at the start of the pandemic was a major feat, challenged further by the fact that we did not have personal email addresses for around 200, I had to write to these 200 (with the help of my teenage son to pack the envelopes!). We also set up onsite lateral flow testing on one of our sites and asked for volunteers across the business to administer these for the day, night and weekend shifts. As challenging as this was, it has brought so many of our people together – talking to colleagues who you would not ordinarily spend time with and this gives us something to maintain and develop for the future. It is great to see the team lunches, and regular check in calls that started in the pandemic continue.

Tell us a bit more about Caroline

I have been very fortunate to have a husband who is so supportive of my career. Throughout my career I have often had to travel internationally, and this would certainly not have been possible without his support. I firmly believe that behind every career woman there needs to be a supportive and understanding partner. Being able to build a career and raise a family is not easy and requires teamwork.

My colleagues would describe me as being loyal, committed to complete the task and valuing a sense of fun at work.

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