I participated in a digital event on 13.5.2020 focusing on how gender equality and diversity can create better innovations. The online event was hosted by Stockholm-based innovation community Openlab. Together with five expert panel members from different fields of work, a panel moderator and a visual facilitator, the importance of gender equality and diversity in workplace was discussed in detail.
Five by five -method
An interesting detail about the event was the creativeness of the event itself. I’m sure we have all experienced the mundane way of online presentations during this pandemic, so it was a welcome surprise to see a different online presentation format ‘Five by five’. In ‘Five by five’ each presenter has precisely five minutes for their presentation with exactly five slides to show, while each slide is programmed to automatically change after 60 seconds. The added pressure of strict timetable keeps the discussions short, the topic focused and makes sure each presenter is thoroughly prepared.
Gender gaps in tech field
The discussion was kicked off by Elise Perrault from Future Place Leadership, a Nordic management consultancy company. Perrault together with her two colleagues wrote a report about women in tech and challenging existing biases. She highlighted gender equality problems especially in tech sector by talking about gender gaps and specifically women dropping out of the tech field. It gave a great premise to continue the topic and especially on how to overcome these challenges.
Perhaps the most interesting segment during the event came from the program director of Vinnova and the founder of W.Empowerment Annie Lindmark who talked about the I-methodology and how it limits innovation. I-methodology describes the tendency of designers to base their design choices on their own personal preferences and interests. In short, they design products for themselves, not for their customers.
An example of I-methodology is a well known facial recognition software that had problems recognizing minorities accurately due to the software being developed and tested by white males. Lindmark stated that it highlighted the basic idea why diverse groups are more innovative than others. Just as one size does not fit all, so is diversity needed in innovation.
What can I do?
A question asked the most during the panel discussion was what can I as an individual do for the matter.
Lindmark presented the following actions:
- Acknowledge the existing biases your organization may have
- Set up a plan for improvement
- Follow up and measure it
- Encourage diversity and inclusion in all projects
- Start seeing it and using it as a competitive advantage
Other concrete ways mentioned during the panel were networking, training, raising awareness and Fika for change.
Fika for change
In Sweden ‘fika’ means much more than just having a coffee break. It’s about taking a moment to slow down and appreciate the good things in life, similar to Danish “hygge”. Mathilda Hult from Radicle, a Swedish innovation culture agency, talked about ‘Fika for change’ which she had created and how that could be used to strengthen a team. ‘Fika for change’ is a trust-building tool for organizations and different groups that helps create conversation beyond roles and hierarchies. It’s meant to be used in a relaxed, equal setting, such as a coffee break, hence the word ‘fika’ in its title. The goal of the tool is for the team to focus on trust, curiosity and learning, all of which can help build an innovative culture in a team.
The power of visual facilitator
The event was a great success and gave a good understanding on the importance of diversity in innovation. It’s worth noting, that the event itself was highly innovative and a breath of fresh air. Not only was the selected ‘Five by five’ -method spot on but the true winner was their real time visual illustration of the key themes discussed at the event.