May 3, 2017
STOCKHOLM - Swedish IT developer, HansaWorld, is a global company with a focus on equal opportunity and diversity among its employees. A clear strategy from the beginning has resulted in the ability to profit from the inherent benefits equality and diversity bring to a company.
HansaWorld was founded in 1988 and was early in pushing for equal opportunity within the organization. It has always been a part of the company culture which is one reason why Daniela Elmgren feels at home in the company. She has worked at HansaWorld for 12 years and has held several roles before becoming head of HR.
"One positive effect is the satisfaction in working with different types of people. It is exciting to discuss each other's cultures and learn from our different ways of thinking," she says.
When HansaWorld expanded globally at the beginning of the millennium, there was a conscious decision in that the company should not only be equal, but focus on creating diversity as well. It was a strategic decision with the understanding that diversity gives a competitive advantage in the global market. Ms. Elmgren is from Austria and started her career with HansaWorld in the Oslo office. Subsequently, she moved to Tallinn to learn some programming before translating the software to German.
"I was made responsible for the German product which was an exciting challenge. Getting the chance to develop within the company and using my language skills was a great opportunity," she explains.
After the German product was launched, Ms. Elmgren moved to Stockholm to work in the company's headquarters. She discovered there that no one had full responsibility for skills development within the company, prompting her initiative to coordinate all internal training. She was offered the opportunity which led to the next step in her career, becoming a part of the top management team as the head of HR.
"I feel that I am consistently evaluated on my competence and potential. As a woman in the IT business, that is quite unusual," she continues, "If I compare it to the work environment for women in Austria, there is a considerable difference. Austria is 20-30 years behind Sweden in the fight for gender equality."
Although there are a lot of women in male dominated sectors, the IT industry for example, where they often occupy so-called "female roles" in their respective organizations. It's common for women to work in finance and HR departments. HansaWorld, however, employs many women in those positions that are typically taken by males, such as programmers and technicians.
"It can be difficult to find quality candidates when recruiting as there are fewer women with a technology based education. Nonetheless, many reach out to us after learning about our company's inclusive culture," explains Ms. Elmgren.
HansaWorld's equality policy states that all people in the company should have equal opportunity and equal obligations. Everyone should be offered career development based on talent and merit, not on social networks and nepotism. Ms. Elmgren emphasizes that, if you want to invest in equality as a company today, you first need to have a deep analysis of the current situation and set decisive goals for the future.
"Find out if women are primarily in perceived 'female roles' or is there a genuine balance throughout the entire organization. It can appear that a company offers equal opportunity but, if you dig deeper, you might discover that there are too few women involved and working with core operations," she says.
Outline both broad and specific goals for the organization. How parental leave is handled and administered, for example, is an ideal place for many companies to create a professional environment conducive to equality and diversity. It is important that these parental leave policies do not differentiate between men and women.
"We offer accommodating opportunities for all types of parental leave. I was at home in the mornings and my husband, who works for the same company, was home in the afternoons. It worked well for us. If an employee decides to be at home for a year, which is a long time for the fast-paced IT industry, they will receive training when they return providing for a smooth transition back into the office. Having a structured plan in place ensures women aren't left behind," Ms. Elmgren explains.