Diversity & Inclusion: Q&A with Maria Naveira Sund (Part 2)
(PART 2): This week we follow on and explore Maria’s views on diversity, including her ideas on how as a collective, we can attract more women in tech!
Welcome back Maria, it’s a pleasure to continue our discussion! Let’s talk about diversity…How does the current gender balance look within your team and company?
“It is improving. We are increasing the number of women in the whole company, which is great. Overall we have an OK level of female Agile Development Managers. Where we are currently falling short are the Management layers above this, both in my management team and also in general on my level. I am usually the only woman attending most of my meetings. In my team, I am the only woman and we have only one guy from another country — the rest of us are from Sweden. Even if this blog is about diversity focusing on gender I think it is as important with diversity in other areas as well. In the last few years, I have been focusing a lot on diversity in personalities. If you can’t have a team from the start with a good balance with gender, age and ethnicity — sometimes it is good to make sure you have the balance in personalities as a first step. I need people challenging me and think differently, I also need people who are more like me that can help me drive things and we also need some more analytical persons. Even if we don’t have the wanted gender, age or ethnicity diversity in my team today, we have different personalities and complete each other. Some goals need to be more long term to be reached in a sustainable way. I have a long term plan for how I want our team to look like but it takes time. Now I am older, I have more patience and I think more long term than before.”
As a manager how have you found it best to promote and nurture women in the workplace? What initiatives are running?
“I definitely feel that having women in leading positions helps to encourage and attract other women to those companies. I think it’s a lot about helping each other, for example, if you work with a great woman in tech, always try to remember her and keep in touch as it’s always great to share experiences and ideas, plus, she could one day be relevant for an opening in your own team!
In terms of initiatives, I have worked closely with HR and we have organised two different tech talks at the office with female speakers. What we noticed was that the audience was actually a 50/50 male to female split, which equalled a much better balance than we have seen at other tech talks with only male speakers. I have never had problems getting women to hold a presentation when I have approached them, but I can recognize in myself that I am not the first to lift my hand and say YES I WILL DO IT! I don’t know if it is a difference between genders or personality but I want to encourage more women to hold these presentations, to come out of their comfort zones so they can reach their full potential and also be role models for other women”
It’s no secret that many women in the tech industry have felt their gender has affected the way that they are perceived or treated. Have you ever been in a situation like that? How did you handle it?
“Yes I have and it has happened during my whole career. During my time working in Barcelona, it was quite common with inappropriate comments to women even from the managers. I worked there until 2008 though so things might have changed since then! What I learned from that was to toughen up, even though I don’t think I was smiling as much as I usually do during my last year working there.
At the companies in Sweden, there have been situations where I and other women always had to overperform to get the attractive projects. In different situations, I have also been belittled because I don’t always see, sense and feel everything in the same way as my male co-workers. I have gotten comments that I’m too sensitive or show too much emotions, or heard that I’m listened to only because I’m a woman. Different things to try to make my point of view not count as much as the others.
Those situations are quite difficult to handle and I haven’t always found the right answers until afterwards. Then I know exactly what I should have responded! But then when I do, I don’t hesitate to make sure that that person knows how I really feel about being treated that way.”
It’s a huge shame you have experienced this your whole career! Collectively, how can we attract and appeal to more women in tech?
“We should put a strong focus on the younger generation and show them inspiring role models. It would be great to have more “programs” where female engineers went to the schools and presented the projects they are working on, having them explain their roles, the positive impact they are making and the cool things they are creating in tech. I think we should embrace this as it would drive inspiration and encouragement at an early age and attract more girls to the IT area. This is already happening today but I think we could do it in a more structured way and with a bigger scope — include all schools!
I have noticed that a lot of companies are better today at showing diversity at company websites and job advertisements in pictures for example, and this is good. I expect that to be a signal that they have diversity on their agenda. It plays an important role in how women look at potential workplaces. It’s getting more and more important for me if I look at possible employers how important diversity is for them. It is also important how the management group is balanced. I am very honest at my company today that I don’t think it’s good enough and that we should work on getting more diversity in both my layer and the top layer. I don’t only talk about the gender perspective here though but also age and ethnicity. “
What would be your advice to a woman working in an organisation that’s lacking diversity?
“Take the time to speak with your HR department and understand what the strategy is to address diversity and inclusion. Work as a team and I’m sure you can achieve great things. If this isn’t an important value to your company, then maybe you need to question if this really is the workplace for you?”
Some great advice, it’s all about communication! Can you share any organisations/communities you are aware of promoting women in tech?
“The fact that you contacted me for this initiative in itself is really great. For me personally, I would say the most important thing has been to surround myself with strong, female workmates who I have met throughout my career, that have now become my friends. It’s really great to have a supportive group of people who go through similar experiences, where you can share ideas, be completely open, honest and understanding with one another. No one in that group will ever judge you for showing feelings or feeling down or even too happy!“
This concludes, Episode 1 of our Diversity & Inclusion: Q&A! Thank you again to Maria for sharing such powerful insights.
Tune in next month where we continue our insightful discussions. Let’s all work together to create some magic ✨
Who’s story would you like to hear from next? What questions do you have for women in the technology industry? If you would like to get involved in this initiative, we would love to hear from you! Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
By Ellie King - Principal Talent Partner - Data / AI - Nordics