Aalto University: The technology sector needs women: TietoEVRY sets an example for gender equality

In Finland, only about one fifth of employees in the technology sector are women. Women account for 18% of IT sector employees in the EU, and in the Nordic countries for 21%.

‘We are one of the largest IT sector employers in the Nordic countries and in Finland. We want to be a pioneer in promoting diversity and equality in the sector’, Kiiskinen says.

Kiiskinen, who became the Managing Partner for TietoEVRY in Finland in January 2020, is an alumna of Aalto University School of Business. She has not been afraid to seize opportunities when they have come along. After graduation, she began her career as a management consultant, and 15 years ago, she moved onto management positions in the technology sector.

‘I then started an extremely fascinating phase in my career in which renewal has always been central. Technology companies offer great opportunities for that. We should face challenges boldly when they come our way, including the more difficult ones that we don’t have a ready-made solution or operating model for. Implementing change is an opportunity to learn and gain experience, and this experience can be applied and utilised in tackling the next challenge.’

Focus on recruitment
TietoEVRY employs around 24,000 people in 20 countries, 71% of whom are men. Kiiskinen admits that achieving gender equality goals still requires enormous efforts and concrete actions.

One concrete action is recruitment. In an experiment carried out by TietoEVRY, the company analysed its recruitment history and removed gendered language from job advertisements. For example, in the new job advertisements, the word competent was changed to well-informed and motivated to focused. With the new job advertisements, the number of female applicants increased by 32%.

‘We always hire the best applicant, but we must ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to be selected. We must also ensure that we recognise both female and male employees equally when giving promotions.’

Education and training can also be used to tackle unconscious bias related to gender.

‘We all have these prejudices, which training can help to identify.’ We have already provided training for 700 managers and team leaders, and the work continues.’

‘The technology sector has traditionally been very male-dominated, but things are changing. In our management team, I am proud to say there is an equal number of women and men.’

Women as a resource
Women are needed in technology also because there is a noticeable shortage of qualified employees. Kiiskinen strongly believes in diverse teams in which women can offer different views and approaches.

‘Diverse teams lead to better decisions, more satisfied customers and business success. Studies show that diversity gives a clear competitive advantage.’

The female perspective is needed to develop technology solutions that serve the needs of both women and men.

‘Algorithms and different technologies guide our everyday lives. Services developed by men often contain gender bias that should be corrected and prevented in the future.’

Different stereotypes appear, for instance, in translation software when artificial intelligence makes gender assumptions. The Finnish gender-neutral pronoun ‘hän’ (she/he) is translated as ‘she’ in She (‘hän’) is a nurse and ‘he’ in the sentence He (‘hän’) is an investor. Lately, efforts have been made to fix these issues. Many speech recognition systems also understand a man’s voice better than a woman’s. As the world fills with data used by artificial intelligence to make assumptions, there is plenty of work to do.

The gender pay gap concerns people, but in the technology sector, things are better than average. When a woman’s euro is an average of 84 cents in Finland, according to The Finnish Information Processing Association (TIVIA), it is almost 99 cents in the IT sector.

‘Salaries are generally higher in the technology industry than in other sectors. This applies equally to women and men. There is a chance for achieving good earnings in the sector. This should attract women also.’

Passion for work
Kiiskinen encourages girls and young women to take up studies in the field of technology.

‘We welcome you to the technology sector to do work that matters! Technology companies design solutions that affect people’s everyday lives and society at large. We are at the forefront of developing solutions for challenges such as climate change.’

This dynamic industry provides an opportunity for continuous learning and utilising your creativity. There are plenty of career opportunities.

‘Not all people, myself included, enter the technology industry through their studies. However, you must be passionate about technology and working with it. For myself, studying at Aalto University School of Business provided a good basis for building a career. Networks I built while studying have also brought me far in working life.’

‘I was also actively involved in the international student organisation AIESEC. The organisation aims to increase intercultural understanding and to develop students’ leadership skills. I left the organisation with a global network and a huge number of life-long friends.’