EPISODE 7: Diversity & Inclusion Q&A with Johanna Belfrage (Part2)
PART 2: This week we catch up with Johanna and explore some great initiatives embraced at Avanza to broaden their diversity.
We discuss the importance of giving the younger generation more exposure to the wonderful world of tech and how companies should be taking responsibility and initiative, offering internship programmes, graduate schemes and continuing to invite diverse students to their offices to show them the different roles and fun possibilities available in tech.
Check out our full video interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7YrCH6mWdY&feature=youtu.be
Johanna, welcome back to Part 2 of our Q&A! Today, I’d love to talk to you about all things diversity and also understand a little bit more about what Avanza Bank is doing to help promote this.
I know Avanza Bank has around 500 employees — Can you please remind us; how big your team is?
“It’s great to be back speaking with you Ellie!
We have 24 teams in total and I am responsible for the engineering part of it that is around 120 people and I work closest with our 8 Engineering Managers and 4 Agile Team Coaches.”
Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility! How does the gender balance look within the teams?
“If we start with the Engineering Management Team — That is 50% women and 50% men, so a great split that I’m proud of.
Within development, we have around 20% women, which is moving in the right direction, because in the beginning we were only at 7%. It’s certainly not as easy to find female, System Developers so we have had to work hard on this.
If we look at Avanza as a whole (nearly 500 people) we are around 40% women.”
It’s fantastic to see that the management team is already at a 50/50 split. How do you feel you have achieved this?
“I have always had a focus on making our teams diverse. I think because we already have women in some teams and management, it makes it a little easier for us to appeal to more women in tech. We also focus a lot on voicing our culture, values and how we work which makes more of a positive impact.
I think it is important to make sure that at the final stage, we have a diverse range of candidates to choose from. I always try to employ the best person for the position, but I’m trying to think “Do I have good diversity here? Am I giving everyone a fair chance?” Of course, gender is one angle in diversity there are so many other areas that are just as important, that I’m always trying to consider.”
You are right, gender shouldn’t be the deciding factor for companies when it comes to hiring. Things like competence, engagement, cultural fit are just as important.
Have you changed your approach when it comes to job advertisements?
“Yes, especially for tech-focused positions. We have found that switching it up has helped.
Our advertisements now tell more of a story about what we are doing, our culture, our values, our way of working. We still keep it quite technical and list important skills and requirements.”
What else do you think you’re doing differently?
“We host a lot of technical meetups, where we share insights on how we are working, how we have changed the way we organise and the great things we are doing with the tech we use. Pre-Corona, we found a lot of value in these events by inviting people to our office, giving them the chance to network with us face to face, ask questions, it really personalises things more.
We are also involved in different initiatives like:
IGEday (Introduce a Girl to Engineering day) — Once a year we invite girls aged 12–19 to come to our office to try out programming for a full-day.
I think it’s very important to spark an interest in coding earlier on and this day helps. It doesn’t matter to us if the girls decide to join Avanza in the future or another company, the goal is to help increase interest in engineering among young women.
We’ve also been included in “Female Digital Engineer”, a program where female graduate engineering students can meet and make close contacts with companies in different industries which are in different phases of digitalisation.
We also have a Trainee programme to broaden diversity on the development side (open to all genders).”
It’s so great to see how involved Avanza is with the community. Meetups are such a powerful way to network and open up potential opportunities for jobs, mentorship and beyond!
“That’s so true. Here in Sweden, we also have the Women in Tech Conference once a year. If you can get tickets I recommend attending, It’s a great initiative and even better that it’s free. So regardless, if you’re a student or if you work somewhere, it doesn’t cost anything!”
Have you had the chance to attend the Women in Tech Conference?
“Yes! I’ve been very lucky as I’ve attended four times now. Tickets sell out really fast, I think in 30 seconds or something, so you need to be glued to your computer when they go on sale.
Every year the conference continues to get better, I attended their most recent event just before Corona and they had a great mix of presentations and types of technologies. The have uploaded most of the presentations online, you can check them out here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLX6MlGaZXvdAHkwNuflEr40jsaN_5BxLJ”
Every year I try and get tickers for Women in Tech and honestly, they are like gold dust. The fact that you’ve gone 4 times is so good!
From your own experiences, how have you found it best to promote and nurture women in the workplace?
“I try not to think about men and women differently. If I have a 1:1 with someone and they are feeling hesitant to complete a challenge, I try to encourage them to do it and put themselves forward. Whenever I see potential in someone, I always work with them to help them see it in themselves and reach it!”
Encouragement and support is key! Have you encountered any gender-specific challenges or obstacles throughout your career?
“Most of the time, I feel that I’ve been treated with respect but, of course, there have been some situations throughout my career where I’ve felt that I’ve had to work a lot harder to be listened to in the same way as guys or show my competence more.. I’ve had my challenges but I’m glad they haven’t been too frequent, in comparison to others.
I’ve found that sometimes being a Woman in Tech is more of an advantage because we are so few and the companies that do acknowledge that they see the potential in us.
If you are experiencing any gender-specific challenges, do not give up and continue to speak up!”
Thank you for sharing your experiences. As a whole, do you still notice a lack of women in technology?
“Definitely, we need a lot more women in tech!
It’s getting better and I think that’s also because now we have phones, gaming gadgets and so on that bring us closer to technology and the idea of programming.
There are so many young bright women I’ve met over the years who have really impressed me, who have started companies and so on. But we need to be more and have a lot of work to do.”
Why do you feel there is still a lack of women in tech?
“I think some girls and women do not know how fun and creative it is to work within technology. Maybe when they think of tech they think of someone sitting in a dark room on their own, in front of a computer screen (although I think this stereotype is slowly changing) — Working in tech is so much more than that but I think some girls/women do not know this because they haven’t had the possibility or opportunity to be exposed to technology workplaces, environments or role models.
Maybe some are hesitating to get into tech because they think it’s too hard, but that really isn’t the case, there is something for everyone.”
Yes, we still have to work hard to break down those stereotypes. Collectively, what more do you think we can do to attract more women in tech?
“We have to look at impacting the younger generation. I think making programming mandatory in school would be a great chance, of course not everybody needs to be a programmer when they grow up but at least you are giving the younger generation exposure to this fun industry and the possibilities.
Companies also need to take initiative, offer more internship programmes, graduate schemes and continue to invite diverse students and others to their offices to show them how it is working in tech and what different roles exist.
Working in tech is so much fun, there are so many different roles on offer, you can be a UX Designer, Product Manager, Product Owner, programmer — Like I said earlier, there is something for everyone! It’s all about supporting and encouraging people to find what suits them.”
We all have to take responsibility, be proactive and work together to encourage more diverse people to the industry! What would be your advice to anyone trying to get into the technology space right now?
“Network: Talk to people that you know working in tech, see if you can visit their workplace. Ask them for advice: What should I do to be able to start working within this area in tech? How can I do it?
If studying is your thing, then there are so many courses on offer, like 12-week programmes that will introduce you into tech. Of course, that approach is not for everyone but now you do not necessarily need to be studying for 3 years to start your career.
Most importantly, do not be afraid of trying it and just going for it! Do not be afraid of applying to different positions in tech. Sometimes as women, we feel we need to tick all of the requirements on a job description but that is not the case, do not let that hold you back.”
I’m sure you are familiar with the statistic that women would only apply for a job if they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men would apply if they meet only 60%. We need to work together to change this, I guess it’s just a case of having confidence in your ability, putting yourself out there and going for it.
“Exactly, go for it and just think what’s the worst that could happen?”
Thank you so much for sharing insights Johanna, it’s been a real pleasure speaking with you again. Is there anything else you’d like to say to women in tech?
“We need you and we need more diversity in tech! It’s proven that companies perform much better when they have mixed genders and diversity in the workplace.
Just go for it because there will be so much for you to do. You will have fun, I promise!”
This concludes, Episode 7 of our Diversity & Inclusion: Q&A. Thank you again to Johanna for sharing your experience as a Woman in Tech.
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, I would love to hear from you! Please contact me on email@example.com
By Ellie King - Principal Talent Partner - Data / AI - Nordics