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Gender balance in STEM is everyone’s business

Twitter: @bhfrench

It’s ironic that mankind has been aware of the importance of women over the millennia, yet today we still face the challenge of ensuring women are well represented in all aspects of society. So today, on International Women’s Day, I want to acknowledge the dilemma, mention Nokia’s efforts and, above all, congratulate women everywhere.

Brett, Jaana, Tommi, Mona and Camilla giving out flowers on International Women’s Day at our Espoo campus.

Vive la difference

I’m not a scientist, doctor or anthropologist. So I won’t talk about the possible differences between men and women. At work, I only have to look out from my desk to see how a team with good gender balance affects the quality of dialogue, brings in different stakeholder views and thinks out of the box.

Yet the statistics are daunting – UNESCO quotes women graduates in engineering to be well below 50% and this falls further when we look at the number of women inside companies in those industries.

This is unacceptable for two reasons. Firstly, several analysts, including Credit Suisse, have identified a correlation between a higher gender balance and better financial results. It boils down to a variety of factors, including leveraging the skills of diverse individuals to increase team efficiencies. Gender imbalance is a huge loss of talent for companies.

Secondly, I see this as an issue that should not necessarily require a business case. I believe in fairness and equal opportunities. There are some things that are just right – and equal opportunities and fairness are high on that list.


Nokia Noida employees discussing gender balance on International Women’s Day.

Room for improvement at Nokia

We need to attract and develop the careers of women in the ICT business and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). And that includes Nokia. We want our employee population to reflect the world around us - and that means more women at all levels of the company. To achieve our exciting vision - to expand the human possibilities of technology – gender balance is crucial.

As a result of the great work of many companies over the years, there is a lot of research and best practice Nokia has been able to analyze and use in forming its own approach. We aim to be creating virtuous circles for women to thrive in ICT, from helping increase interest among female students to increased visibility of our own female employees, especially those in leadership positions. We’ll also continue supporting the StrongHer initiative, an employee network of 1,300 active members in 50+ countries, to unleash women’s potential and change the way we all look at talent, irrespective of gender.

Gender equality is men’s issue, too, and that’s why I am privileged to be the executive sponsor of Nokia’s gender balance efforts. As Emma Watson asked in her famous speech at the United Nations in 2014, “how can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?” So I welcome everyone to join the discussion and I also encourage you to read thoughts of other Nokia leaders about this topic (please see “related posts” below).

Women have an important role to play in all aspects of society. I know that and Nokia knows that. Congratulations to women everywhere!

Share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – or join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #IWD2016 #maketechhuman #womenintech #strongher

Barry French

About Barry French

Barry French is Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Nokia. Areas of responsibilities include: heading marketing, communications, industry analyst and government relations, regulatory affairs, and corporate social responsibility and sustainability.

Tweet me @bhfrench.

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