Skroupa: How can we advance this push for gender inclusion? Should gender diversity be mandated?

Alexandersson: It is already mandated by law. In Sweden all companies with 25 or more employees have to have a gender equality plan that describes how they work with gender equality and diversity.

The plan must include a wage survey–and an action plan to rectify inequalities if they are found–as well as a policy against harassment with a plan on how to create a gender balance in both leadership and work groups. The strategy must be revised every three years. And does this happen you might wonder? Well, both yes and no, in Sweden and Scandinavia we are at the very top of gender equal countries in the world. But we are not using most of our mandated methods and our knowledge and experience. That’s why I founded AddGender, I believe that an entrepreneurial approach is an effective way to drive change faster.

Skroupa: How can management and the C-suite find the right talent? How heavily should gender be considered in the decision making process?

Alexandersson: People have preconceived ideas ingrained about a person right when they meet, ideas about gender, age, religion and preferences. Everything that we see and perceive about other people is also brought with us in our baggage, to help us understand other people and groups that we meet. So gender is already an important influence in the recruitment process. Therefore, we first need to be aware of the fact that gender is an aspect we subconsciously take into consideration, before we even begin to look at the actual requirements for the position.

Another aspect in recruitment is to ensure that the recruitment process is open and involves both men and women. This requires a search outside your regular talent-pool. This process should also be streamlined to eliminate any unconscious bias to the fullest extent possible.

You need to decide how talent is defined within your company. Establish the proper requirements for the C-suite positions to determine what is relevant. Look at the “need to have” versus the “nice to have.” Dare to think in new ways. You cannot continue to do things the same way and expect different results.

Skroupa: From your perspective as a gender equality entrepreneur, what are some challenges that companies struggle with?

Alexandersson: Purchasing power, as well as needs and wants are all part of demand, and we want the demand for gender inclusive workplaces to increase. Therefore, we are making gender equality understandable, easy and fun by providing training, advisory, analysis and products. Gender equality work is very dependent on the individual rather than integrated into the company process, strategy and daily operations. Consequently, when everyday tasks and challenges take over and other business strategies are developed, gender equality is pushed further down on the list of priorities. Eventually, when the enthusiast leaves, so does the initiative, along with the knowledge.

Skroupa: What is your advice to someone in the C-suite who want to advance gender equality in their company?

Alexandersson: To educate your staff on questions regarding gender equality and diversity. There are many opinions out there, however, there are few facts when discussing these issues. For great methods and practical tools to integrate gender equality, check out includegender.org. Don’t be afraid to start your work, every journey starts with one step. You will make mistakes, but that is okay. Better to do something than to do nothing. Use the expertise that is available. There are experts in this field, hire them. Set measurable goals. Budget your work with people, time and money. Don’t be dependent on one person to drive change; make it part of your business strategy. Make sure everyone can understand it, put your communications team on the mission to tell your managers, employees and your clients about your ambitions to bring more inclusiveness to the world. During our eight years as equality entrepreneurs, together with our very brave clients, we’ve built trojan horses, made a gender equal cookie, created a methodkit for gender equal places, presented a photo exhibition to empower men in business, and we had party that featured a gender equality stand-up comedian.

Skroupa: What can I, as an individual, do to advance gender equality?

Alexandersson: Educate yourself on questions regarding gender equality and diversity. Be an ally with others and dare to speak up when you hear or experience inequalities. Someone has to be the person who brings it up, over and over. Actions speak louder than words, so “do” rather than talk about it. Dare to say no, if for example you’re invited to a homogenous panel or something similar and there is no diversity; make room for someone else. Remember that the standards you walk past are the standards that you accept.