Increasing diversity in technology

Working with the almost impossible goal of going from 13% to 20% gender diversity in Technology in one year.


Picture of three female developers in FINN

Where to start?

In FINN we know there are many aspects of diversity, but trying to solve them all at once seemed like an impossible task. Therefore we decided to begin this task by increasing our gender diversity. This wasn’t a problem that suddenly dawned on us. FINN has focused and talked about diversity and gender for several years, but we haven’t really been measuring to see if we got any results. This needed to change, but where should we start?

In the fall of 2018 we launched a new project to focus on diversity, and at that point the ratio of female to male employees in the Technology department was only 13.2%. In FINN as a whole the percentage is better with 37,6%. To start with, we set a goal of increasing it to 20% by the end of 2020, but going forward we obviously want to increase it even more. Our goal was benchmarked based on the percentage of IT-graduates that are female.

Gathering data

When we started the project, we made sure to include people from all over the organization, and we tried to make it as diverse as possible to be able to attack this challenge from different perspectives. We know that this isn’t something we as female developers could or should solve by ourselves. As with everything else in FINN, we need to have the data backing us so we can make precise decisions. The first thing we wanted to do was to gather data.

We looked at every recruitment process going back two years to see how many men and women had applied to different positions, the number of interviews they went through before either we felt they were not a good fit for us, or they decided we were not a good fit for them, and the degree in which FINN was turned down when we offered contracts. In that way we could easily see what parts of our recruiting process could be at fault and what needed tweaking.

In addition we wanted to see how the female employees thought it was to work in FINN compared to their male coworkers. We have been a part of the Great Place to Work assessment for a long time, but this was the first time we asked to get a separate assessment for women in technology. Overall we saw that the results were more or less the same, but there are definitely aspects of the results that surprised us, for instance different experiences regarding involvement and fairness. Therefore we chose to take a closer look at those. We chose some parameters and had more in depth interviews with every woman in Technology (this was of course optional), to understand what was behind the numbers, and to get input on what and how we could fix it.

Implement actions

We were now in a position where we had tons of data, both quantitative and qualitative. It was time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. After some workshops and weekly meetings we had come up with a long list of actions we wanted to do. We divided them into three categories;

1. Employer Branding — Getting more female applicants

2. Recruitment — Keeping more female applicants in the recruitment process

3. Turnover — Reducing the number of women leaving FINN Technology

We started prioritizing actions. Turnover amongst women in FINN Technology was extremely low, but we still implemented a lot of actions there, which we will speak more about in a later blogpost. In this blogpost we will focus on what we did with regards to Employer Branding and Recruitment.

To begin with we had to put diversity on the agenda and communicate internally what we were doing. Therefore we presented our findings to managers and teams in technology to increase their awareness of this issue. We were also in the process of making a new Tech-strategy at the time and we made sure that diversity was well represented there. Going forward we encouraged the management group in FINN and Technology to talk about this frequently and to make sure to communicate our challenges, goals, KPIs and achievements to get everybody on board.

To attract more applicants we decided to start cooperating even more with female developer networks, both for professionals and students, such as ADA, ODA, Women in technology, GirlGeek and many more. This would make us more visible and give us an arena to tell women that we were looking for them, and give them a chance to get to know us and ask questions about how we work. We also focused more on showing our female employees in employer branding and marketing material. We wanted to offer different programming courses both to those already working in tech, but also to those who were considering entering the field. Since the competition is fierce, we had to look for those who wanted to change fields and motivate them to become developers in the long run. This also included younger girls, trying to motivate them to choose technology as a career path early on. We of course sponsored and helped out at externally arranged summer camps, but we also made our own, where kids of employees at FINN could learn how to code during the summer.

When it came to recruiting we also made some changes:

  1. Overall we started with focusing on unconscious bias. Even though most of us think we don’t have them, we do, and it is important to be aware of this. This was put in motion for everyone involved in recruiting in any form, and has since been a part of the courses we want all employees to take.
  2. We saw that we needed to increase the percentage of female applicants. We started rewriting our job ads, double checking with female developers internally and partners externally to make sure we were moving in the right direction. We started tracking this percentage closely to see if the changes made any difference. We had experienced that especially younger women were anxious to apply because they had misunderstood our recruiting process, thus we started communicating more around this to improve the understanding of our process.
  3. We introduced a Graduate program, to appeal more to the younger demographic and to make sure that students would have a smoother transition from school into FINN and the job market. Furthermore, we made a new technical test so applicants could have more room to choose what they wanted to show us. We also wanted to make sure that the applicants met with at least one male and one female interviewer.
  4. To use our internal employee network, we also started a referral program as a pilot, and looking back we can see that this is one of the actions we put in motion that haven’t given any fruits as of yet.

We had a really long list of potential actions. Of course some were discarded for different reasons, and some are still pending a decision on whether we want to do them.

What’s next?

When we looked for research on what to do, we found research both supporting some of the actions and other articles advocating against them, thus we chose to do it our way. We don’t expect everyone to approve all the actions we have implemented thus far. However, since we did not come across resources that asserted on “the best practices”, we went on to do it in a way that worked for us. We will keep iterating on the work and improving it as we go along.

Now in the fall of 2019 we have increased the ratio of women in Technology to 18,9% and counting. So during the first year we have come a long way on our journey and we will keep on tweaking our approach as well as following the numbers closely and growing our diversity in the long run.

We know that for most of the actions we have implemented we will see the effects more long term. This isn’t something you can change overnight. We also know that part of the challenge is that there in general are more men working with technology, though we happily see that the percentage of women studying IT is increasing. There are still plenty of talented women in tech, but turning their heads towards FINN also takes time and we understand that the timing of a job change is not always perfect. Under no circumstances did we consider lowering our recruitment standards. Instead we have focused on identifying all the unconscious ways the bar might not be leveled for everyone. Going forward we need to be patient, keep rigorous attention to our data and keep motivating more female developers to apply, because we are in this for the long haul.