To commemorate International Women's Day on March 8th, KONGSBERG IT arranged a full-day seminar, exclusively for its female staff, focusing on Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging.  

Bringing together 40 participants from the different sites in Kongsberg, Horten, and Ålesund, the event was the first ever seminar on this topic within KONGSBERG IT, featuring inspiring and motivating presentations from a diverse group of female leaders across KONGSBERG.

"We aim to create a sense of safety and community for the further development of diversity through a full-day event exclusively for women, where we seek inspiration, knowledge, motivation, and well-being together, to contribute to collective habits within the department," explains department manager and one of the initiators, Anne Toril Kasin.

She is supported by the head of KONGSBERG IT, Tore Mortensen, who has been a key ambassador for this gathering.

"The colleagues I have learned the most from are those who are most different from me as a person," he said when he opened the seminar on Thursday. "Different perspectives challenge and develop us, and help us to complement each other, which again is important for our ability to deliver business results," Mortensen said, urging participants to make good use of the day for inspiration, new ideas, and networking.

KONGSBERG IT’s diversity journey

KONGSBERG IT is actively working to increase the proportion of female employees and leaders, with a clear goal of achieving greater diversity because it leads to better results. During the last year, the proportion of female leaders has risen from 8% to 25%. However, women still only make up 20% of the total IT staff, meaning there is still potential for growth.

Kristine Kotte-Eriksen,  holds a master’s degree in Gender studies, and comes from the role as Diversity and inclusion analyst at CERN in Switzerland. She talked about the art of balancing masculine and feminine characteristics in behaviors and leadership styles. Kristine also highlighted the need for challenging our way of work and culture. It all starts with ourselves.

Diversity and different perspectives are not just beneficial; they are necessary to foster creativity and innovative solutions to complex challenges.

"We see the need to motivate women to take up more space and focus on their own responsibility and opportunities as women in a male-dominated environment, while also making men aware of the benefits of a balanced workplace," Kasin explains.

“Promoting gender equality is about embracing modern values, attracting the best employees, and, not least, enhancing the company's attractiveness and economic performance. By creating a more inclusive and positive work environment, we know that productivity and profitability increase in line with diversity”, she says, pointing out that gender diversity is only one aspect, just as important is the mutual understanding of utilizing capacity based on our differences.   

A year ago, we did the Diversity Icebreaker® (DI) exercise with all our employees within IT.  DI builds upon a questionnaire that measures preferences for interaction, communication and problem-solving styles, an important factor to understand to complement and benefit on each other’s personal strengths in our daily operation. 

"Diversity is about so much more than just gender balance," says Monica Johannsen, who has been working on diversity, inclusion, and belonging at KONGSBERG since 2016.

"Age, ethnicity, orientation, disabilities, and especially background and experiences are also crucial dimensions when we talk about diversity."

Inclusion as the acceptance of diversity

In KONGSBERG, we see diversity as a strength, and by fostering an inclusive and diverse culture, we nurture different perspectives which in turn fully utilizes our diversity to create business results.

The DIB framework at KONGSBERG as a corporation is based on four foundational pillars: internal events and networks, inclusive culture and leadership, equal opportunities, partnerships and social responsibility. Much of it is about creating forums like this event to increase competence and acceptance of differences, and not least, to see how diverse teams complement each other and contribute to good business. Diversity drives innovation and development, provides a broader recruitment base and customer understanding. An inclusive work environment creates higher employee engagement.

And precisely finding one's own strengths and understanding how you contribute to the team was the main theme when Camilla Hågensen from KDI gave an inspiring talk about her journey. With a background from both the army and the navy, she shared her experiences around male-dominated environments, from international operations, personal development, and the importance of making one's own choices and decisions, independent of others' expectations.

It is important to have a good relationship with your colleagues as well as having fun at work, said Nina Arndal, VP Aerostructures.  She also highlighted work-life balance as essential in order to be a good colleague and leader. In this context she pin-pointed the effect of engaging in activities outside work but also how the family plays an important role in enabling her to take more responsibility. 

During the day, the participants were also challenged to define their own identity layers and reflect together on how the differences could benefit the team or department. 

Representatives from the leadership team in KONGSBERG IT summarized some of the key take aways to the applause from the audience; “take the chance if someone believes in you, raise your hand if you need more, be yourself and we all need to work together in building collective ways of utilizing the greatness of diversity”.