Bitten Clausen was born on 20th October 1912 and would have turned 110 today.
Bitten Clausen was the first female chairman of the board of a large private company in Denmark, and she founded Bitten & Mads Clausen’s Foundation in 1971.
A pioneer on many fronts
Bitten Clausen was ahead of her time when she secured the future of Danfoss with the founding of Bitten & Mads Clausen’s Foundation in 1971. She became the Foundation's first chairman and later said: ‘A decisive factor for this decision was the desire that the joint life's work that had been created through Danfoss should remain in Danish hands and continue in the spirit of my husband and myself.’
Today, she is remembered as a pioneer for women leaders and for social responsibility.
From the very first years of the founding of Danfoss, Bitten played an important role as a confidential sparring partner for her husband, Danfoss' founder, Mads Clausen. After Mads Clausen's sudden death in 1966, Bitten stepped forward and took over as chairman of the board of Danfoss.
Bitten Clausen was the first woman in Denmark to become chairman of the board of such a large private company as Danfoss. The women who had been chairmen before her were typically not chairmen for private companies, but for women’s associations, e.g. YWCA, women’s residential colleges, Christian organizations, etc.Jytte Nielsen, Information Specialist at the Royal Danish Library
During the five years that Bitten Clausen was chairman of the board of Danfoss, sales increased by 75 percent and the company grew from approximately 7,000 to more than 10,000 employees. However, Bitten Clausen is especially remembered for her great social commitment.
In the early 1970s, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) was a largely unknown practice in Denmark, but Bitten Clausen had already been a pioneer for social responsibility since the first days of Danfoss, and she was one of the first business leaders to create a link between the company's strategy and social activities.
Bitten Clausen managed to combine the significant growth of Danfoss with an inclusive culture which, among other things, led to the establishment of welfare schemes for the employees, better opportunities for sick leave, reduced working schemes, education funds for the employees, etc.
In 1975, Bitten Clausen was appointed Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog and in 1990 she was appointed Knight 1st Class. She was also appointed honorary citizen of Nordborg.
Bitten Clausen died in 2016, aged 103, but her attitudes and commitment are still part of Danfoss and Bitten & Mads Clausen’s Foundation today.