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EPISODE 4: Diversity & Inclusion Q&A with Johanna Björklund (Part 2)

EPISODE 4: Diversity & Inclusion Q&A with Johanna Björklund (Part 2)

PART 2: This week we discuss with Johanna the importance of role models, handling parental leave and her ideas on how as a collective, we can attract more women in tech. Johanna also shares some great organisations promoting women in STEM & initiatives which are teaching young women how to program.

Welcome back Johanna, 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?

“In my research group we have achieved 50/50 gender balance, which is not common in computer science. At the company the figures are not so good, but better than the industry at large. No matter how inclusive hiring ads you write, it is almost impossible to attract enough female candidates because there are simply so few of them, so we do active scouting and send personal invitations to apply whenever we can”

As a Technical Lead how have you found it best to promote and nurture women in the workplace?

“On the research side, I have recruited female research amanuensis to help with research work and interest them in scientific careers, and I think this is an effective method. At the company side, we have arranged events that teach young women how to program, and I frequently have public talks on gender and equal opportunity.“

Have you encountered any gender specific challenges or obstacles in your career? How did you handle it?

“For many women, parental leave becomes a major roadblock in their careers. When our daughter was born, my husband and I shared the parental leave 50/50 during the first year, so I worked mornings and he worked evenings. For me, it wasn’t so much about keeping my research output going, as having some time every day to feel like my old self. I think this made me a better mother, because I could be more engaged and present the 20 hours per day that I did spend with my daughter, but also brought my daughter and my husband closer together, as he had to take some of the feedings. Milk pumps are not the most comfortable devices ever invented, but they have their uses.”

In your opinion is there a difference between how men and women plan to progress in their careers?

“Absolutely. I think women spend more time at each step in their career before they feel that it is time to proceed to the next, and that whereas men are recruited based on ambition and potential to grow, women are almost exclusively recruited based on their experience and merits. For these reasons, I think it is important to explicitly invite women to apply to roles and positions, and to evaluate the candidates using as objective metrics as possible.”

Do you notice a lack of women in technology?

There is a terrible lack of women both in the STEM fields, among entrepreneurs, and in higher management. In the first two cases, I think that women feel that these areas are not for them. They simply have difficulties seeing themselves in those lines of work or positions. Here, I think role models of all shapes and sizes are important. We need fictive characters like Dora the Explorers, but also real role models like Jessica Meir and Helena Samsioe.”

Collectively what more can we do to appeal/attract more women in tech?

“Acknowledge that tech is for everyone, and that everyone has a place in tech. We as humans invented the notion of technology, and we can fill it with whatever we like.”

What would be your advice to women trying to get into technology?

“Remember that you need both competence and connections. Math and technology require patience, so give it time and know that initial failure is part of the package. Also, it is difficult to succeed alone, so get to know other people in the field and learn together with them. Finally, since much of the STEM lifestyle has been carved out by men, there may be aspects that don’t suit you, so feel free to reinterpret the occupation so that it works for you.”

Can you share any initiatives/organisations/communities you are aware of promoting women in tech?

“Two of my favourite efforts are 500 women scientists which helps women in STEM to organise, and Django girls which teaches young women how to program.”

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This concludes, Episode 4 of our Diversity & Inclusion: Q&A! Thank you again to Johanna 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

By Ellie King - Principal Talent Partner - Data / AI - Nordics


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