Image with the text: The current state of diversity and inclusion at Siteimprove: 2021

If there was one thing that was on everybody’s mind in 2020, besides COVID-19, it was diversity and inclusion (D&I). It wasn’t necessarily all the good things about people’s differences that took center stage, it was more the lack of tolerance, respect, and equality that different population groups around the world continued to be faced with. Obviously, we’re talking about racism. And sexism. Only topped by the coronavirus’ tight grasp on the world, that’s what 2020 will be remembered for. Fortunately, we will also remember how people stood up against it. The events of 2020 potentially set things in motion for sustainable change going forward, and at Siteimprove we want to be part of that change. Change needs to happen, and we want to drive that change from within.

While inclusion is nothing new to us, in fact, it’s been a core element of our business and culture for more than a decade, we are now committing to putting our cards on the table, starting with this blog post which we will follow up on yearly moving forward. In this post, we’ll be honest about our challenges, we’ll outline our plans for overcoming those challenges, and we’ll be transparent about the current state of D&I at Siteimprove.

We are excited to introduce you to two of our leaders who have committed to the D&I cause by becoming the diversity champions of our Executive Management Team (EMT): Camilla Simonsen, Chief Operating Officer, and Charley Hackerson, Chief Sales Officer.

Why do you think diversity and inclusion are important for a company like Siteimprove?

Camilla: “Diversity and inclusion are key to a strong performing company as having a diverse workforce can really drive the business forward. From my perspective, diversity and inclusion fosters innovation, drives results, and supports our culture. Every day we work hard to make the web more accessible and inclusive, so I’d say that inclusion really is the core of our business.”

Charley: “D&I is important for our culture where our people must believe that everybody has a legitimate chance to succeed within the company. It’s also important for us in order to meet our very aggressive growth goals. To reach our goals, we need to create a broad base of appeal. We can’t just rely on people who look and think like me and you, which means we need to have a welcoming environment where everyone can thrive and succeed within.”

The challenges we are facing

Unfortunately, we can’t just wave a magic wand and achieve peak workforce diversity in no time. In addition to the internal changes that we need to create, there are some more structural challenges in our society at play. We asked Charley and Camilla what they see as Siteimprove’s main hurdles in 2021.

What do you see as the main challenges for Siteimprove to become more diverse?

Camilla: “We have ambitious goals for diversity and inclusion for our management positions, where the gender ratio isn’t where we would want it, and I think our main challenge is our industry. Historically, tech has not been an attractive industry for women and minorities to work in, especially on the leadership level, which complicates our recruitment efforts. I’m a good example of that – for years, I’ve been the only woman in our leadership team, even though we’ve actively asked recruitment agencies to secure a more diverse pool of candidates for our leadership positions. They just haven’t been able to find that many female candidates in the industry. Now we’re on the right track as we, to a much higher degree, focus on developing our talent from within.”

Charley: “Habits are hard to form and even harder to break, and for many years we’ve formed our habits around how we do business. It starts with recruiting, where we have formed a habit of using employee referrals a lot. Referrals are an excellent way to get candidates in the door quickly, but it’s not a good way to access different cultures and people that you don’t already know. So that’s a barrier we need to overcome. Secondly, we need to be more inclusive in how we evaluate the people we hire. Usually, you recruit people based on what they already know, but when you are good at developing people then it should be less about what they know coming into the job and more about us enabling them to succeed. By providing great people development from the moment new employees walk in the door, we can help a much broader group of people succeed at Siteimprove.”

What the numbers are saying

As Camilla mentioned above, it’s a global challenge to get more female talent into tech. The Danish ICT Industry Association reports that 24% of employees in the Danish tech industry are women, and according to PwC, only 27% of women would consider a career in tech, compared to 62% of men. The same study reports that only 3% of women say a career in tech is their first choice.

From 2019 to 2020 we successfully improved the representation of women in our total workforce by 4.3% and in our top management by 9%. We also improved in terms of hiring, where the gender ratio of new employees was 53-47 in 2020, compared to 41-59 in 2019. Similarly, promotions were also distributed more evenly with a gender ratio of 55-45 in 2020, compared to 64-36 in 2019.

We also aspire to improve the racial and ethnic diversity in the company. Here the challenge lies in the demographic make-up of the population in Denmark, where our HQ and biggest office is located, and in Minnesota, where our US HQ and second biggest office is located. In Denmark, 87% of the total population are of Danish origin, while people of color only make up 20% of the population in Minnesota.

Despite the challenges, we are doing better than average in our industry on several parameters. But we want to do better.

For legal reasons, we unfortunately can’t disclose the exact demographics of our workforce at present. However, we are committed to transparency and are working on a solution that hopefully will allow us to share more diversity data next year.

What we are doing about it

While Siteimprove historically has been a diverse workplace in terms of having an international workforce and an inclusive work environment, we want to improve on where we are today, and we want to be open about it. In 2019, we laid the foundation of our structured diversity efforts by forming the Siteimprove Diversity Policy. The policy formalizes and clarifies the scope, purpose, and execution of Siteimprove’s diversity activities, and it sets out the elements of our approach to diversity, including our overall aim and the company’s focus areas.

Specifically, our efforts are focused on increasing our diversity by hiring more diverse talent. We are continuing to partner with organizations that promote diversity, and we are looking to expand our network of great D&I partners who can help us recruit, develop, and retain more diverse talent. Getting more diverse people into the company is not our sole priority, however. We also want to develop our employees to ensure a more diverse group of managers at all levels, and we want to continue to nurture our inclusive culture. We aim to achieve that through targeted initiatives within talent attraction, recruitment, professional development, top management, and unconscious bias.

In 2020, we took a good hard look at our recruitment and performed a Gap Analysis of the whole process, thereby identifying ways to improve within each step of the recruitment process. We also reviewed our job posts and job descriptions and worked out how we could make them appeal to a more diverse crowd. Our hiring managers have also been supportive when we have stressed the importance of considering diversity when hiring new people, and they have helped drive the diversity agenda. These initiatives contributed to a more equal gender ratio among our new employees, with the ratio of female hires increasing by 12% from 2019 to 2020.

We have also created an internal diversity data report. The report currently holds available data from 2019 and 2020 and will be updated once a year. The report tracks data on team level so that we can hold all our managers accountable for the make-up of their own team. We are hopeful that we can obtain consent to track more data in 2021 so that we can continue using a data-driven approach and measure our progress.  

In order to gather feedback from our employees on how we can become more inclusive, we also conducted internal focus groups and ran a diversity survey. The input we received has helped guide our efforts. Making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday in our US office based on employee feedback is a tangible example of that. We will continue to gather employee input and feedback through a Diversity & Inclusion Committee that we are establishing. It will be a voluntary committee that employees who want to get engaged in our D&I work can join. Charley and Camilla, our two EMT diversity champions, are already on board.

Our plan for 2021

In 2021 we will continue to build on the strong foundation that we have formed in the past years. In order to overcome the challenge of unconscious bias, we are planning a range of training initiatives for our employees that hopefully will help us create a more inclusive culture and reduce the impact that bias has on our decision making.

This January, we launched a Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit with which we aim to support all Siteimprove managers in building diverse and inclusive teams and developing the potential of all their employees, providing specific measures for overcoming the threat of unconscious bias. The toolkit, which also contains a list of tangible advice on creating an inclusive culture, has been shared with all managers, and we held a launch session where they were instructed on how to use the tools. We plan to have a second session in Q2  to gather all managers and evaluate and adjust the toolkit to ensure that it continues to be useful and top-of-mind.

Our Diversity Policy will also undergo a review in 2021. We need to update it to ensure that all focus areas are included, and we need to set a new goal for EMT representation. Last year we reached our 2021 goal of having an additional woman on the Executive Management Team when our Global VP of HR was promoted.

Finally, we are looking forward to seeing the D&I Committee in action. The committee will help drive the diversity and inclusion agenda and play a crucial role in the events and initiatives that we are planning for 2021.

What are you excited about going forward?

Camilla: “All our initiatives and goals make a difference. I’m particularly excited about increasing the diversity among our leaders, which will help us create even better results moving forward. Diversity is also a priority for our new majority investor, Nordic Capital, which is really positive, so I’m looking forward to collaborating with them more. Not only will they help us grow, they’ll also hold us accountable in regard to diversity and inclusion.”

Charley: “Here’s what I’m really excited about. I think the events of 2020, especially here in the Minneapolis area, have forced people to think differently about diversity. Now they see it less as something that they are required to do and think more about how their actions affect the world around them. Now people are thinking about contributing to a more vibrant community and how to create more opportunities for more people, because it simply makes the community itself better. I see a lot more people within the Minneapolis tech scene focusing on the role that maybe they’ve played in creating an astounding wealth gap in our society. People are viewing the future through a different lens now. We know that the current way of doing things is not acceptable, and this gives me hope for 2021 and beyond.”

 Group photo of all Siteimprovers in front of the HQ building in Copenhagen

A picture from our global meetup in 2017, way before anyone knew what COVID-19 and social distancing meant.

We hope you enjoyed reading about our commitment to diversity and inclusion and want to return next year to read about our progress. If this blog post has inspired you to be part of the change, all the better.

As we aspire to be fully transparent, we invite you to contact us if you have questions or feedback  on any of the above. Reach out to Emil Wulff on ewu@sitemprove.com.