Creating Innovations and Capturing Market Growth Through Diversity

April 28, 2021
3 min
Kaisa Savola
CEO and Founder

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are terms that are increasingly three of the most talked about topics in HR and in today’s organizations. And they should be because they do define
- How interesting the company is for new and existing employees?
- How innovative the company is?
- How well the company is in capturing market growth?

To name a few.

I wanted to add to this growing conversation for two reasons:
1. To educate. Because some of the many recent conversations on diversity have been along the following lines: “Yeah, we have the same number of women and men in our executive/management team, so we are good.”
2. And to prove my point by sharing my personal story: “A privileged white woman, who can tick many diversity boxes.”

What is Diversity?

In the simplest form, diversity is who we are as individuals. It is our history, our background, all the things and experiences we have received and not received, what we have become on this journey we have travelled on, to this date.

Diversity defines us and makes us individual and very special. It is an unlimited list of things and elements for example the following:

What is Diversity?

So, if you take look at your organization and compare it to this list, how many boxes can you tick?

The more you can tick, the better because they are elements of a strong and healthy organization. According to Glassdoor, “67% of job seekers rated the diverse workforce an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers." Once you have onboarded them, retain them. According to HBR, diversity is a key element in “unlocking innovation and driving market growth”.

My two cents.

As said earlier, this topic is important to me through personal experiences. I am a white, privileged woman, living in one of the happiest countries that has done a lot to create equity for all. Yet, so many of us, I included have experienced “not fitting in” and being different.

In 1985, when I moved to Finland from Canada, Finland was more homogenous than it is today. “Go back to where you came from!” was a line I heard a few too many times just because I looked a bit different, spoke two languages and was born elsewhere. Having a religious background ticked another box in the you're different -category.

As many reports and articles state, being a female founder in the tech startup scene is not always the best match for receiving VC funding.

Last August, I married my partner, whom I am deeply in love with, and she became my wife. Something I am still not comfortable announcing in certain environments but hopefully, after this public announcement, that changes. 😉

My personal experiences have made me stronger and built resilience but have also given me a better understanding on diversity. It’s not a simple thing but I am optimistic that through learning and development, we can and will build better and more diverse organizations where each employee can feel welcomed, cherished and appreciated.  

How to start improving?

Your improvement starts from acknowledging, understanding, and learning. Here are a few intentionally simple, but useful questions that will help you get started:

1. What does your unconscious bias tell you? How does it affect your decision-making?
a. Can someone who identifies them as a female be a good software developer?
b. Can a scientist be good at designing mockups for your next product?
2. As a Tech company, how many non-tech backgrounds have you hired? Why?
3. What type of language do you use in your recruitment ads? Do they welcome a broad set of applications?
4. Will employees 50+ be more, the same or less on sick leave than employees under that age?
5. What is your first instinct, when the applicant has tattoos or piercings?
6. Do you require all your employees to speak Finnish?

Marjaana Murtomaki, an Agile HR pioneer had very good comments in her LinkedIn post (in Finnish) on diversity that I took the liberty of turning into questions for you:
1. If your company’s average age is 30, what does it say about you?
2. How do you feel about cosmetics used someone identifying themselves as he/him?
3. How about a scarf/shawl/hijab used someone identifying themselves as she/her?

Building and retaining a diverse culture, is no doubt one of the smartest things you can do. I hope this blog gave you some ideas that you can put into practice while building a stronger, more innovative, and more welcoming organization. Diversity is closely connected to equity and inclusion – topics I will post next. Stay tuned. 😊

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