This start-up wants to give meaning to employee opinions on diversity

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Increasingly, companies are under pressure to disclose the diversity of their teams, but collecting and making sense of this data is easier said than done.

Large companies like Google, Apple and LinkedIn publish reports showcasing the diversity of their employee base. This practice is increasingly becoming the norm, but it is also dictated by regulation.

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority is consulting on new requirements for financial services companies to disclose the composition of their board of directors and management teams.

Earlier this year, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, called for greater representation of women on the boards of the companies in which it invests.

In Norway, companies are required to report on their gender balance. It is in this context that Isabelle Ringnes co-founded Equality Check.

The Norwegian start-up is building a platform for reviewing and analyzing employer data to improve equality and inclusion in the workplace.

“We were very passionate about equality and wanted to tackle the unconscious biases that are very difficult to pinpoint,” Ringnes told CNBC.

She said it’s one thing for companies to use technology to signal warning signs of a lack of diversity, but many companies are still struggling to find ways to act effectively on this data. .

The roots of Equality Check lie in the campaign around gender equality in the workplace. Ringnes, former product manager and analyst of the media group Schibsted, alongside co-founder Marie Louise Sunde, doctor, a few years ago led a social awareness campaign aimed at combating unconscious prejudices and inequalities between the sexes in Norway.

“We saw that there had been a change in society in which we saw that companies now agreed that diversity is something that we have to prioritize, but the problem was that they didn’t didn’t really know what to do, ”Ringnes said. told CNBC.

Ringnes said technology solutions have been proven to be effective in identifying potential problems in an organization, but employers still need help with these issues.

“We launched this platform where employees can leave anonymous comments on how they experience their workplace on metrics such as the degree of inclusion of culture, how management prioritizes the diversity, parental leave, work-life balance, etc., ”she said. .

This data is then collated into actionable information that superiors can put in place.

Valuable advice

Employer reviews are not a new phenomenon. Sites like Glassdoor have for years provided a platform for employees to voice their grievances or congratulate their bosses, while Fairygodboss has provided a space for women to find potential employers.

Equality Check is part of a wave of new start-ups who want to improve this model with the aim of greater diversity and inclusion. Other players that have emerged in the space include Denmark’s Develop Diverse, which recently raised 2.5 million euros for its AI tools to help with diverse recruiting.

Equality Check has worked with research partners to develop its product, which has two main components: employee-submitted reviews and data reviews that allow employers to identify weaknesses and actions to take.

Companies need to better understand the makeup of their businesses and the issues their workforce may face, Ringnes said.

“One of the things we see is that sometimes diversity efforts tend to be directed towards a specific group,” she said.

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This can inadvertently lead to other groups feeling neglected or forgotten, she added.

“We ask companies to report on these different metrics, then based on what they report, the platform identifies where they may be having trouble, where there are big imbalances, and then based on that again. , we present solutions based on the best available research on how they can improve. “

This approach brings its share of challenges, namely encouraging users to provide feedback in their workplace while ensuring that these reviews are securely anonymized.

The platform requires at least five different opinions from different employees before it starts analyzing this data. This is to ensure that reviewing a single employee will not identify them or compromise their anonymity.

Abuse or misconduct is another issue companies should be wary of when questioning their staff, Ringnes said.

“We have a very strict code of conduct in which we ask all reviewers to agree that they will not post any information that identifies individuals, that is aggressive or discriminatory, or that reveals confidential or sensitive information about the company. . “

Pandemic effects

The pandemic has opened up a whole series of discussions about the future of work, whether it be the role of teleworkers or the need for offices.

Among these are concerns about the impact that hybrid or remote work will have on diversity in the workplace.

A McKinsey report from last year found that women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community had the most difficulty balancing work and life in the age of Covid-19 and working from home .

“Global movements like MeToo and Black Lives Matter have further accelerated these issues at the board and management level,” Ringnes said.

“We see that governments, consumers, employees, big companies and stock exchanges are now demanding more diversity. We also see that the growing workforce now needs diversity and more inclusive cultures where people have equal opportunity and the potential to thrive. is incredibly important. “

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