In September 2014, actress Emma Watson, who also works at the United Nations (UN) as a goodwill ambassador, made history when she launched the HeForShe campaign during a speech at the UN headquarters.
In the speech, Watson noted that to achieve gender equality, everyone needs to be involved and particularly men and boys; “I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop”, Waton stated.
“Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too,” Watson continued. “Ask yourself if not me, who? If not now, when?”
This speech kicked off the fourth feminist wave and particularly roused surgeon Marie Louise Sunde. When she returned home to Norway, she gathered a group of activists, including Isabelle Ringnes, to launch a campaign that translates as ‘She picks up the check’.
“Our goal was to address unconscious bias and gender stereotypes that are deeply ingrained in society.. even in one of the most gender equal countries in the world: Norway”, Ringnes tells UNLEASH. In the World Economic Forum’s gender gap report for 2020, Norway was ranked second in the world after Iceland.
After a few other gender-focused campaigns, Ringnes and Sunde decided to zero in on the workplace.
This was because “we saw that while there was a lot of research on the actual problem of unconscious bias and stereotypes and how they inhibit us in the workplace, there is very little research on the solutions”, notes Ringnes.
So Ringnes and Sunde decided to co-found a startup that used data, transparency, and technology to solve this problem. So they founded Equality Check, a tech company focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (D,E&I), in January 2019.
The ‘Trustpilot’ for D,E&I in the workplace
Equality Check acts like a ‘Trustpilot’ for the workplace and helps employees to understand how they are performing well in terms of D, E&I, and the areas where they could improve.
Ringnes states: “Very few organizations know how their employees feel in the workplace today, and when they don’t know [the problems], it is really hard to implement [change]”.
Equality Check therefore collects anonymous reviews from current or previous employees around areas like culture, management, work-life balance, as well as pay. The tool helps workers and candidates to compare workplaces, especially salaries, across industries.
The company empowers employees by ensuring the reviews remain anonymous in a few ways. First, “we encrypt all the reviews, so user login information is disconnected from the review itself”, explains Ringnes.
Then Equality Check requires at least five reviews about an organization before the review can go public, and there must be at least five reviews from the different subgroups companies – such as ethnic minorities, gender, LGBTQ+ – before companies can start filtering down into those subgroups in order to make sure that companies cannot easily figure out who wrote the review.
Ringnes gives the example of a LGBTQ+ man writing a review, there must be five other reviews from LGBTQ+ males before companies can start filtering into the data by gender and sexual identity and orientation.
Unlike the likes of Glassdoor that simply highlights the problems, Equality’s Check Premium product, which is aimed at companies, doesn’t just call out companies on their red flags.
Instead, the Premium product provides companies with diagnostic evidence-based tools to fix the pain points highlighted by the anonymous reviews, as well as identified from additional data sources specific to that employer.
Samina Ansari, Equality Check’s head of public relations, explains that the solutions could help customers improve how they onboard women back into the workforce after maternity learn or design equal pay programs.
The solutions Equality Check suggests are based on the most up-to-date research, including from the Centre for Research on Gender Equality, and are tailored to the specific sector that the company operates in.
Equality Check’s platform can also help organizations to report on the likes of their gender pay gap, which is required by law in some countries, including the UK.
Therefore, the company aims to “support companies in complying with both legislation and improving their overall social impact”, which links with corporate social responsibility, according to Ringnes.
Current employers that rely on Equality Check’s Premium product include Accenture, KPMG, Thommessen and DNB.
The future for Equality Check
Ringnes notes: “We are experiencing a high demand for our suite of tools” and Ansari notes that Equality Check expects demand to continue to grow in the future.
Ringnes believes this is because “equality was for 2020 what climate was for 2015 – it is one of the biggest global trends.”
“If organizations want to succeed in the future, they have to make sure that all their employees are able to fulfill their full potential and that they are giving equal opportunities to everyone”, she continues.
Ansari adds that it is likely that D,E&I, as well as corporate social responsibility, will become even more important in the future as millennials and Gen Z care even more deeply about these issues and they are making up a growing proportion of the workforce.
Social corporate responsibility is also on the agenda of investors, who are increasingly from the millennial and Gen Z generations too.
Looking to the future, Equality Check plans to upgrade its technological capabilities to include artificial intelligence. “We are experimenting with all sorts of smart algorithms right now” while they are working manually with the data to produce insights and identify patterns, explains Ringnes.
In addition, Ansari notes that Equality Check has its eyes on global expansion, starting with Europe and the UK. “It was a global company from day one, so we are consistently monitoring where we see demand and interest”, concludes Ringnes.
The UK is of particular interest to Equality Check because it is ripe for these types of D,E&I solutions since despite being a diverse country, there are still issues with pay equity and getting minorities into the top jobs.
Finally, Equality’s Check product is already in English, so there wouldn’t be much heavy lifting to do in terms of product adaptions for the UK market, explains Ringnes.