Kristin Engvig On Closing the Diversity Gap in STEM
CEO & Founder of W.I.N. (Women’s International Networking)
Named among Diversity Global Magazine’s Top 10 Influential Women in Global Diversity, 2015, Kristin Engvig (Norwegian), is the pioneering founder of WIN who has dedicated the past 20 years to women’s leadership and organizational change, inspiring others to create a world where business and society flourish and all people thrive.
Kristin created WINConference, attended by more than 13000 leaders – live – to bring alive her vision of ‘bringing a more feminine, global and sustainable way into work, communities and life’ A thought leader in the field of creativity, feminine and authentic leadership, Kristin embraces our global responsibility through innovative corporate and leadership events and personal speaking engagements, with the aim of inspiring women worldwide.
In her early career Kristin worked for JPMorgan, Citibank and Innovation Norway and then as an international strategy and marketing consultant. Kristin has an MSc in business and marketing from BI, Oslo and an MBA from Bocconi. She has trained as an actress, practises Zen and Kundalini yoga and researches, writes and leads the WIN leadership journey. She is the mother of Leonardo, 14 and lives in Europe.
1. What do you do and what is your background in STEM?
I work for a leadership organisation called WIN, and we hold large leadership meetings with more than 800 female leaders, primarily gathering in Europe. I have a direct background working with women in leadership and women in business, so I worked for about 20 years in empowering, connecting, and developing female leaders, some of them in STEM and some in other industries.
In all cases, it’s about trying to get the critical mass of women into decision-making positions. My work is also oriented around mixing people from different nationalities and backgrounds to create global awareness and global consciousness, and make each and every one of us aware of our global responsibility. We also focus on how to create a world where we have more collaboration, so we work on bringing different values into typically male-dominated workspaces.
2. Why do you believe in supporting diverse STEM talent?
I believe that in a world where we embrace diversity, we can get more ideas and more creativity from different people. I promote diversity because I think it can give more interesting perspectives on life and work. Diversity is already happening though.
I think a more interesting question would be ‘what do you do with diversity?’
Once you have a diverse workforce, what can you do to include everyone? Also, what do we do to make sure that it’s diverse at all levels in an organisation? There are many industries where men and women, or different diversities start off on a par, but as you move up through the organisation, you don’t always have the same equality or the same inclusion. With diversity, you have to make sure you’re creating a culture of inclusion to actually capture the diversity.
3. What is the biggest challenge in achieving STEM diversity?
One major challenge is making sure that there are enough women studying these subjects. Leaders also need to think about creating a culture of inclusion. Sometimes you don’t have women in organisations, not because they’re not good at the job, but because they don’t like the environment.
4. What inclusive hiring strategies do you see as key for closing the STEM diversity gap?
I think there are a lot of things you can do at the hiring stage. One area that can be looked at is language – the words you use in your job descriptions or words you use all the way through the hiring process. Employers need to be consciously aware of the language they’re using, from the advert, to the interview, to the training process, and beyond.
Another area to be aware of is the benefits given to employees. Parental leave or flexi-time for example can be attractive to both women and men. If women decide to have children then their career path might become steady for a while, so it’s about encouraging them to see a long-term career trajectory – it might be horizontal for a while but then they could come back into STEM and go in a different direction.
5. What is your advice to diverse talent looking to join or progress within the STEM sector?
It’s a good area to go into because in some ways, it’s relatively concrete. You’re doing work with a clear objective, and it’s working on the future. I think it’s very important for women to join and be part of the innovation. My advice is don’t be scared, even if the majority of employees at these companies are male.
Nobody gets anywhere without working hard but it’s not only about being a good schoolgirl, so to speak. You also need to network and get to know people – I think that is very important.
Find yourself good mentors. It could be someone you admire in a position that you find exciting – ask him or her some questions and see what they did. Many organisations have formal mentorship programmes, which are great, but mentors can be informal too.
And then when you get into a position of power, it’s not just about taking on those people who are pushing themselves forward – also look for the introvert. If you want a diverse workforce, let the silent person talk. They might just have a lot to say…
Phaidon International’s Inclusive Talent series brings together Hiring Managers and industry professionals to address industry pipeline challenges in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics).