Maureen Kline admits that she has a tendency to fill up her schedule too much, but that she enjoys being busy and furthering the cause of sustainability.
Kline, the Vice President of Public Affairs and Sustainability for Pirelli Tire North America, is also on a number of boards such as the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC), the US Tire Manufacturers’ Association as well as many other boards and groups.
She’s been with Pirelli since 2006 and started out in the Milan head office. As a college student, Kline had visited Italy and fell in love with it. “I didn’t expect to live half my life there,” she chuckles. “One thing led to another, I had a great career and a great family.”
Kline came back to North America in 2012, setting up a public affairs practice in Pirelli. At the same time, she was appointed by the sustainability department in the headquarters to be responsible for implementing the sustainability strategy in the region. At that time, the sustainability department in Milan decided to appoint a person in every region to be in charge of implementing sustainability, and it was always someone with another role. “I was excited about sustainability and knew I could weave it into the public affairs work very nicely,” notes Kline.
Sustainability is very often about thinking collaboratively, which appealed to Kline. “We’re looking at how to solve problems that are sometimes greater than what one person or one company can do,” she explains. The same goes for boards. “In TRAC, we’re tire companies, rubber companies and related value chain companies. We may have different interests but we’re always working collaboratively.”
And collaboration is a traditionally feminine trait, Kline believes. “I really like the idea that both men and women have a spectrum of traditionally feminine and masculine qualities,” she asserts. Much of her professional career has been in very traditionally male environments, where Kline had to find a happy medium of bringing in some of her perspectives and more nurturing focus into an environment that may have been missing those components.
She grew up with parents who shared strong male and female sides. “My father had a lot of feminine qualities, as an educator, whereas my mother had a strong masculine side and was good with details,” Kline recalls. She’s felt privileged to have these two parents and works on integrating all those qualities. For her, leadership is most effective with a diversity of lenses, and worldviews and not only mixing up men and women but also people of different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds, for more productive outcomes.
Her vision for the business is based on a healthy sustainability practice, which means growing within planetary boundaries like climate change while bringing more people into the economy.
Kline envisions a workplace that is less focused on competition and making money to think about growth within those planetary boundaries and providing nurturing solutions to more people. Leaders need talents and skills that aren’t traditionally associated with their gender but can find within themselves if they dig deeper. “It’s a real cultural shift,” she notes.
She also believes anyone with leadership ambitions should travel, to broaden their horizons and think about other perspectives. “It’s very formative, it gives you resilience from being exposed to different situations.”