Startups set the tone for innovation and a collective future. But how are they addressing diversity and inclusion? We invited the Oslo startup community to join us at a workshop during SHE Conference, on March 5th, to find out what is the real situation behind the coworking doors, investors meetings, recruitment and daily office routine. And most importantly, what are they doing to make things better.
“In 2016, we at StartupLab realized that we had 65 companies from 44 different nationalities but only 8% of the entrepreneurs were women,” said Head of the Lab, Lauga Oskarsdottir. “We needed to take some action. We needed to start with ourselves, so we took on the ‘show don’t tell’ strategy”. StartupLab took a series of actions on working to avoid entrenched structure, including helping companies understand the value of diversity, implementing a code of conduct and a buddy system responsible for introducing and making new teams feel welcome. “Men also need female role models, more women on boards, more investors and partners,” highlighted Lauda.
Unconscious bias was a present topic in the room. The audience and speakers highlighted how important is to break the comfort zone on hiring someone with the same background and network. TheFactory was founded in 2016 by two men with FinTech experience and when they hired the first woman to the team, they felt there was much more to be done. “It was a more diverse process already, but we were not fully there,” remembered CEO Ingar S. Bentsen. “We started looking at diversity not only on gender but on background and cultural experience, now we have a team of 12 people, including 7 women and 6 nationalities.
Norway’s largest coworking for creatives industries, 657 Oslo started with a woman and a man founding team. That itself sends a powerful message, explained Anniken Fjelberg: “You need to mirror your community for role models and gender is not irrelevant, it must be balanced.”. The co-founder and partner of 657 Oslo suggested a solution related to the busy event calendar in the startup community: “We need there are many activities, and we need to make sure they are inclusive by design and culturally sensitive.”.
With a room filled with 40 people willing to roll up the sleeves, Oslo Business Region together with Innovation Norway facilitated a group discussion around two main points: identify problems and work on solutions. The goal was to produce a list of actions that everyone in the startup community can work with to ensure a more inclusive work space.
Check the list here.
Overall, the attendees were satisfied with the workshop, giving an average score of 4.5 (scale 1-5, where 5 is the best). In total, 74% said they got valuable contacts and 100% answered they got valuable ideas and insights during the workshop.
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