Back in 2014, Heidi Aven co-founded SHE Community, to inspire more women to become leaders and entrepreneurs. This initiative ultimately led to launch of SHE Conference in 2015, which is now Europe’s biggest conference focusing on gender diversity. Our EGC Ambassador engagement surrounding diversity and equality started after Aven began working on IT and Telecom sector, and also the military.
“It’s been a lot of men and a few women. At the IT business meetings, for example, only 20% are women. I also started an IT company and saw fewer women investors. It is hard to find female investors. The only money I found was from men,” explained Aven.
Aven brought her own story to the forefront in order to make a move towards change. “I took this from my own perspective, being the only female leader, the only female entrepreneur. I wanted action and I wanted to tell women to “face your fears”, that “you can do it”, it’s very important to work together,” Aven recalls. She emphasizes that the current urge is to work for gender equality across industries, “While the health sector has more female representation in IT and finance, you can see the numbers differ substantially.”
Aven gives us a clearer overview of how SHE Conference operates today:
“We work to get more female leaders, entrepreneurs and investors. Why do we do that with 3 targets? It is about balance and power in business. We need more diversity in investments, and more female investors in the company. For example, 14% of the Oslo’s stock market is female-owned.”
SHE Community has seen some developments this past year. At first, it was solely rooted in being a source of inspiration. Now, it has turned into a meeting point to create profitable businesses. To keep the ball rolling, Aven quit her job as Sales Director at Crayon to work for SHE conference full-time. Today, SHE has global partners such as EY & Microsoft to launch the SHE Index Globally this week (March, 6th) in Oslo, within one of the world’s most male dominated industries: Maritime. The project is supported by UN Global Compact, the Indian & Norwegian governments, and some of the world’s largest shipping companies, including Maersk, CMA CGM and DP World in India.
“It is not a Norwegian company initiative, it is a global initiative. The ambition is to make Norway the center of equality in business”.
Currently, there are various role models in Oslo striving for sustainable change. They are taking responsibility as individuals and as a companies to bridge the diversity gap within business. With these measures being ushered in, more profitable solutions are being created.
Aven’s describes her biggest role model, her father, as a “down-to-earth person, always thinking about building companies and doing good”. She is also motivated and inspired by the people she gets to work with on a daily basis.
“We have so many volunteers with the same passion and putting a lot of their time in this project. I could say Michelle Obama, and other big names, but to me, it is any person with passion for doing the good.”
As for diversity in Norway, Aven believes there’s still a way to go.
“Globally, Norway ranks number 2 in regards to nurturing a diverse society, but in business, we are number 63. We can do more. Norway is such a small country, and so many people wants to change this. We need female owners, boards and leaderships in companies. Onboard women. Take the stage. Together, we can do this.”
She Conference is taking the stage of Oslo Spektrum on Wednesday, March 6th from 9 to 19. More information at https://www.sheconference.no
About Green Stories: Oslo Business Region is leading the business program during Oslo European Green Capital (EGC). The European Commission awarded Oslo the prestigious European Green Capital title for 2019. Being the European Green Capital in 2019 is a great recognition and an opportunity to showcase Oslo as a truly Green City linked to innovation, both in the international context and to Oslo’s population. In 2019 we will invite the world to Oslo – to share and to learn. Read more about EGC here and about the Industry Challenges here.