Norway has truly become a phenomenon in the world arena. This small Scandinavian country has jumped over the heads of the countries-leaders and keeps strengthening its position. So what is the mystery behind this democratic socialist country? What is the driving force behind its progress?
Besides all the obvious benefits that Norway is offering, like social security guarantees, the country brings up progressive attitudes towards women in the workforce. As a former minister of finance Sigbjørn Johnsen insisted: “High female participation in the workforce has a decisive effect on a country’s performance”.
Women’s employment is stressed at all levels of government, and can be clearly observed in the legislature. The Gender Equality Act, the Sexual Orientation Anti-Discrimination Act, Gender Equality in Education, the legislation on representation of both sexes in boards – are just some of the acts on gender equality.
A lot of the companies in Norway have been taking progressive steps towards adding more women to their workforce, as well as putting women into their boards. Unacast is among those companies that strongly support the gender balance attitudes and are striving towards bringing the gender balance into the workplace.
Getting into the market only a year ago, Unacast made a good showing in March 2015 as a brilliant tech startup company. It is the Best New Company at the Nordic Startup Awards, the Best Location-Based Campaign at the StreetFight Awards in NYC, top 1 on the “next to watch”-list by Startup Norway and Innovation Norway. Unacast is among top 24 companies in the Nordics by Business Insider and top 10 companies in Norway by StrategyEye.
In his interview, Kjartan Sletter, the Co-founder and COO of Unacast, provided valuable points on the gender balance strategies in the company.
M.D.: What is the total number of staff in Unacast?
Kjartan Slette: At the moment there are 10 people working in the company. Only one of the employees is a woman.
M.D.: So, the ratio of women and men is 1 to 9.
Kjartan Slette: I know, it does not quite sound like a gender balance. But we do want 50% of our workforce to be women. The main obstacle here is that there are a priori not a lot of women in the tech industry and engineering.
M.D.: Are you planning on increasing the staff of the company?
Kjartan Slette: It has been only a year that our company stepped into the market. However, our team has already made a tremendous progress within the field. Hence, we are planning on hiring 20 more people in the next 6 months. Ideally, it will be 10 men and 10 women.
M.D.: Why do you emphasize 50/50 representation within your company so much? It is obvious that there are less women in technology and engineering, and despite all the acts on gender equality, even legislature can do nothing about it.
Kjartan Slette: 50/50 will always be our goal. The reason for this is very simple – our audience is 50% men and 50% women. As a result, it would only be reasonable to keep balanced perspective and vision in Unacast. However, almost no women applied for engineer positions in our company so far. On the other hand, 50% of those who applied for positions in the commercial department are women.
M.D.: So what kind of steps can you, as a company, take in order to boost a female factor within the workforce?
Kjartan Slette: I held a talk with a professor of one of the best universities in Norway, and he was very straightforward when he told me that we will not get women involved in our company. He explained that, first, very few women get education in engineering. Second, those women that are educated are normally picked up by large companies way before graduation. That is when I realized we should make our company known more actively. Hence, starting from next semester we are going to launch introductory campaigns at the universities. We will be telling about our company, and will encourage everyone to apply.
M.D.: But don’t you think that work in a startup company does not sound too promising for a student with big ambitions?
Kjartan Slette: Fair point well made. That is exactly why we should get better at telling about all the benefits that we offer. Our goal is to demystify the phenomenon of a startup.
M.D.: What would you tell me if I were an engineer, a potential applicant for your company?
Kjartan Slette: Every woman who applies for our company should understand that traditional jobs are not the only way to accelerate career. There is a huge potential of personal growth in our company. Moreover, we do not only work in Norway.
We are already making very confident steps at a global level. What is more important, we provide flexible schedule, which is so significant for modern, sophisticated and adventures people of today. As a result, Unacast is extremely family-friendly. We do not want our employees to sacrifice family for the benefit of having a job. We totally eliminate the sacrifices by providing flexible job for both men and women.
M.D.: You have just destroyed all the general fears that women have towards a job. I truly believe that with such a strong message it will not take long for the 50/50 balance to take place in your company. Is there anything else you would like to emphasize for our audience?
Kjartan Slette: I do want all women to understand that 99% of the future companies will be technology-based, in one way or another. As a result, it is of vital importance for women to realize that engineering is a secure job of the future. And Unacast is doing its best to put a profession of an engineer on that level.