Startup Series: Equality Check - accelerate equality in the workplace
Longtime friends Marie Louise Sunde and Isabelle Ringnes have always been passionate about equality and the power of technology in solving some of the most pressing issues of our time. Inspired by Emma Watson's powerful speech for the #HeForShe campaign, they joined the very first Antler cohort in Stockholm to build Equality Check - a platform for reviews about culture, inclusion and equality in the workplace.
The co-founder story and problem identification
Marie Louise Sunde is a medical doctor and holds a Ph.D. in surgery. In 2018, she quit her job as a senior surgical resident to work full-time as CEO in Equality Check. Marie has been a strong voice in the medical #MeToo movement and has taken several initiatives to improve work conditions at hospitals.
Isabelle Ringnes is actively working to inspire young girls to choose technology through TENK: the technology network for women which she founded in 2015. She is faculty at Singularity University Nordic, host of the podcast Future Forecast and co-author of the book Hvem Spanderer.
Isabelle and Marie Louise knew each other from childhood and reconnected in 2015 after participating in the UN women conference where Emma Watson gave her famous opening speech for the #HeForShe campaign: "If not now, when? If not me, then who?". Inspired by that, Marie Louise and Isabelle decided to launch a campaign addressing unconscious bias and gender stereotypes in the workplace.
In five years, they reached millions of people, had hundreds of presentations, and became trusted partners to politicians, CEOs, and ministers. From this experience, they learned that the true key to change lies in data and transparency.
“If something is not counted, then it does not count. Very few really know how employees feel in the workplace today, and when we do not know, we also do not know where to implement measures.”
In 2018, Isabelle and Marie Louise decided to empower the people to tell their stories and to leverage the power of technology to accelerate the quest for equality and transparency, globally. This vision led them to start Equality Check through the very first Antler cohort in Stockholm.
Taking action to make a change
Equality Check leverages technology to create radical transparency and catalyze equality. It is a platform for anonymous reviews about equality in the workplace similar to TripAdvisor but for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. They measure the entire spectrum of diversity: age, ethnicity, religion, or disability. All data is anonymized, aggregated, open, free, and accessible to all.
By leaving a review, their users add transparency to the workplace and offer companies valuable insights as to how they can improve - with an ultimate goal of creating equal opportunity and diverse workplaces.
But Equality Check does more than just provide insights.
“After working in this area for several years, we have found plenty of research on the problem, but very little on the solution. And even though it is important to acknowledge that there is a problem, it's time to get over the why and start asking how.”
This is why Equality Check is working closely with research institutions and corporations on a mission to find and validate some of the world’s first solutions on how to increase diversity and provide them globally through their platform.
Evidence-based approach of building a product
“We believe that transparency brings great opportunity for change, because once you have data, you can leverage it to identify issues and start implementing trackable measures to improve. We have always had an evidence-based approach. We start by identifying what we want to measure and ensure we are looking at the correct indicators over time.”
Equality Check is unique in the way that it combines qualitative B2C data with quantitative B2B data to give users and organizations a holistic view of how they are doing with the ultimate goal of supporting them to become an inclusive workplace in which everyone can thrive.
Being at the forefront of bringing empowering insights
In 2020, the Equality Check team was the first to launch a survey mapping how the pandemic effects discrimination in the workplace in which they presented the results together with the minister of gender equality in Norway and Sweden.
Shortly after the worst wave of the pandemic, the tragic murder of George Floyd came in the United States. Millions of people around the world demonstrated and became involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We know that discrimination on the basis of ethnicity occurs in Scandinavia, but there is little data on the extent. Commitment and attention are important, but it is even more important to channel attention into action so that we can create a positive and lasting change beyond the momentum. The key to this, we believe, lies in data.”
They teamed up with leading organizations in ethnic diversity including Flyt Frem, Minotenk and MAK, added questions to their review form and invited to a joint data donation through the campaign #TakeAction - as a concrete thing one could do. In just 4 weeks, they reached 2,5 million people.
Recently, they launched a major collaboration together with Norway's leading newsroom which will host all their aggregated data to give the people of Norway insights into how their nation segmented by various groups experiences the workplace in terms of equal opportunity, future potential, inclusion and more. They present insights from more than 12,000 reviewers employed in 2,000+ organizations to shift the discussion on diversity from a more anecdotal point of view to a more fact-based perspective.
Transparency catalyzes change, and with this at the core of their mission, Equality Check is on the journey of making a great impact.