"It's a no-brainer": Can startups crack Finland's workplace diversity problem?

Diversity should be about economics rather than politics, says inclusion advocate and startup founder Anne Badan.

Slushin avajaiset.

Diversity in the workplace should be a no-brainer for businesses in Finland, particularly those operating in the tech sector.

That's the view of non-profit founder Anne Badan. Her organisation The Shortcut is on a mission to promote diversity in tech, beginning with the annual investor-startup matchmaking event, Slush.

Badan argued that Finnish firms looking for growth need to look to international markets, and diverse teams can support this push. In the end the diversity issue should be about economics rather than politics, she told All Points North.

"If you start talking purely from an economic point of view it's a no-brainer. You need the diversity, you need to involve the people who have been overlooked. You need to get them engaged in the discourse so that they can pull their share."

The Swiss national noted that growth in the tech sector is currently hindered by a shortage of skilled workers. "Last year about 60,000 jobs were not created due to a shortage of talent in Finland," she remarked, adding that Finland will need 53,000 technology experts by 2021 and 10,000 new software developers in the next four years.

Badan noted that the discussion on diversity should not centre on implementing quotas, but should focus on merit-based hiring practices.

"I know things change if you have quotas but at the end of the day you shouldn't choose people because of the colour of their skin or the language they speak. It's about merit, it's about what you've done that puts you in the right place," Badan declared.

In tech, "talent can come from anywhere"

The NGO founder said that employers in Finland need to look beyond familiar networks when it comes to hiring. She said what's needed is transparent systems and procedures and a culture of broadening horizons rather than thinking about specific attributes for a position.

"It's not about deciding what criteria should be there but about opening up the criteria that can bring you more diverse applications for the job."

According to Badan, the organisation is targeting tech as ground zero for promoting workplace diversity because their organisational structures are new. This makes it easier for them to embrace inclusion from the very beginning and make it part of their everyday work culture.

"With the startup community it's easier because of technology which has this internationality. It has no colour, no boundaries, you can do it anywhere. Nowadays with digitalisation you can even work from anywhere. The talent can come from anywhere. So it is where the technology has an empowering element that can be very valuable for people who are not rooted in the local society."

So far The Shortcut has engaged more than 2,500 people (siirryt toiseen palveluun) in its activities and 69 percent have found jobs, Badan said. She added that people do not necessarily need to be interested in a career in tech to participate, as the NGO offers a platform to meet people and to tap into networks that could lead to opportunities.

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The All Points North podcast is a weekly look at what's going on in Finland. Subscribe via iTunes (and leave a review!), listen on Spotify and Yle Areena or find it on your favourite podcatching app or via our RSS feed.

This week's show was presented by Denise Wall and our producer was Priya Ramachandran D'souza. Our sound designer was Laura Koso.