October 9, 2018

A truly inclusive working culture is not created with hashtags but with conscious choices

Hanna Vuorikoski

Head of HR, Finland , Tieto

In the technology industry, success requires a mix of different skills and people from different backgrounds. Diverse teams with a wealth of perspectives create better products and services, achieving higher goals than homogenous ones. At the same time, inclusion – making that mix of people thrive together – drives engagement and success, allowing individuals to feel appreciated for who they are.

Somewhere in the world this week a company will have kicked off its new social media campaign promoting gender equality and diversity – and in all probability, there’s a pithy hashtag to go with it. While raising awareness through social media is a must, the under-representation of women in tech development is a real problem requiring real commitments. Barely one in five tech workers is female, and just using a hashtag to promote diversity is not enough.

But why should we care about diversity in the tech industry in the first place? Well, diversity is not just about fairness; it’s about ensuring that companies are bringing in the talent they need to thrive. According to a recent report by the Technology Industries of Finland, the Finnish tech industry will need to recruit another 53,000 tech workers skilled in fields such as data analytics and artificial intelligence over the next three years. To avoid a shortage in key positions, we must widen the talent pool to the whole population. As employers, we simply cannot afford to miss out on all that brainpower. 

We create better products and services when we’re more diverse and inclusive. Evidence shows how bias in product design harms technology development – for instance, the first speech recognition technology didn’t recognize women’s voices.Similarly, studies illustrate that diversity increases innovation since people with different backgrounds and experiences often come up with different solutions to a problem. So, clearly we should foster diversity in the homogenous tech industry. But how can we attract more women into tech and inspire them to succeed? 

Role models show that tech isn’t just for boys 

Girls use phones, tablets and other technology as frequently as boys but it somehow doesn’t translate to careers in tech. It’s easy to think women’s career choices depend on individual women. However, when it comes to gender segregation in the tech industry, the problem is structural. Research shows girls develop an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics around the age of 11 and lose it at 15. A key reason for that is the lack of role models. Girls need inspiration and encouragement from family, friends, teachers and society in general to maintain their interest in natural sciences and technology.

What role can tech companies play in this equation? In my view, we can and should encourage young women to consider technology as a career option. Through collaboration with schools, enterprises can support young women’s ambitions and interest in tech by introducing them to women leaders and innovators who feel a strong sense of purpose and meaning in their work. Beyond that, we need to retain new talent and offer them an environment where they can prosper. All this calls for truly diverse and inclusive organisations where everyone is valued and respected for who they are. This kind of environment does wonders for self-confidence and creativity in the workplace.

Fostering diversity and inclusion at Tieto 

Creating Better Life at Work is one of the mains focus areas at the Tieto Operating Plan, and we have adopted a set of practices to foster diversity and inclusion. We have established programs such as Leadership as a service and TeamWorks to develop diverse teams and foster an ethical working culture. For example, Tieto’s network of young professionals gets acquainted with various female role models from different industries, and female leaders at Tieto offer mentoring to young female professionals taking their first steps in the industry. We also collaborate with different partners to increase digital equality. For instance, in Finland, we work with Startup Refugees to improve refugees’ and asylum seekers’ digital skills, and offer workshops that are targeted especially for women. Moreover, our annual IT Woman of the Year award in Sweden allows us to highlight inspiring women and create new role models for the future. 

As a result of our systematic work in this area, Equileap this year ranked Tieto among the top 25 of companies globally in gender equality. The ranking measures how well public companies with a market value of more than USD 2 billion do in offering equal opportunities to both genders. We’re encouraged that Tieto was the highest placed technology company on the list.  

As leaders and recruiters, we must tackle unconscious bias in hiring and promotions, and at Tieto we make sure each decision is based on competence and potential. We monitor pay grades closely to ensure equal pay for equal work, and offer benefits, flexibility and coaching to support each individual’s wellbeing through various life situations. Additionally, we have created models for developing diverse teams.

Tieto’s open source culture means our values are interwoven with our everyday work and interaction: our open doors enable collaboration, open ears facilitate transparency and curiosity, and an open mind drives us towards innovation. However, fostering an open, diverse and inclusive culture requires concrete, open actions and leading by example – even small changes can lead to big results in narrowing the gender gap.

Read more on the topic: 
How female networks have helped me – and how they can help you
Equality is not one-time project, it is a process

 

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