Interview with Guro A. Johnsen, Founder and CEO of SheSkillz Global, done by Sylwia Orczykowska
Sylwia: Guro, why did you establish SheSkillz Global?
Guro: I always liked to create new projects, get departments “on track”, establish new companies, or help other companies to succeed. Nothing motivates me more than hearing that something is difficult or impossible. My first thought is always: I will prove them wrong.
Sylwia: What do you mean by that?
Guro: Having worked in different regions of the world, building up global programs, I was amazed to discover that whatever large the company, the same selfishness about local own perimeter remained. And when you try to develop global agreements, it is even worse as they are often not the most profitable.
So, my first company was to challenge this, working mainly on how reward systems are built, to avoid giving country management and their team members more focus on local businesses and clients than on global ones.
So when I sat up my first recruitment company the reward system was set to avoid bias in how people approach cross border recruitment. We in fine demonstrated that people can work well together even over countries’ border on global recruitment operations. Doing this, we were able to support the move several hundred people from one country to another.
This was for me a key learning when it comes to how companies work. It brought me to, more and more desire to challenge the existing recruitment companies’ business model. And with some former colleagues and a few business partners we decided to push the idea forward.
Sylwia: world where talent has no gender… Why is your platform only for women?
Guro: The decision to create a platform for women was taken in a room in Zürich with men from different European countries on the 5th of March 2020. I was the only women in the room. This makes the story behind the establishment of SheSkillz Global different from most gender equality initiatives and companies. But I strongly believe that to happen the change needs the support from both men and women.
Just looking at the last WEF reports, one knows that equality is not for tomorrow! as “It will take 130 years before the gender gap is closed” at the current speed of change. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres even warned in March 2023 that gender equity remains “300 years away.”
We believe at SheSkillzGlobal that everyone, regardless of their gender, should agree with us that we cannot live knowing without doing anything. We cannot continue with the gender gap that currently exists.
Our vision is to allow ”A world where talent has no gender”, and creating a gender-balanced environment.
Our platform is therefore dedicated to support the success of women with 2 main axis:
- Offering women job opportunities, a safe environment to promote themselves and the support of senior professionals when they are looking for some advice
- Offering companies to opportunity to advertise open job positions to female professionals present on our platform. All job openings featured on our platform are not restricted to our platform only, all those positions are also accessible to other genders on other platforms.
But to close the gender gap we need to give extra visibility to the underrepresented population of women. Only then, can we reach a gender-balanced team/work environment. This platform should also be an eye-opener for many companies showing them that the women talents exist, and that they can find them. Women should not be only confined to marketing, communication and HR. Women can be technical like their male counterpart and they should not be limited to soft skills jobs. We cannot hear anymore “We cannot find women that are qualified and/or willing to take the job”
On one side, Diversity and Equality are on the agenda of a growing number of companies, organisations and governments worldwide, as they all realised that they can no longer afford to forgo this huge untapped talent pool of professional women. But although talent is globally in short supply, women are still underrepresented in many senior positions whether on executive boards, or senior executive positions, in the not-for-profit sector, as well as sports management or cultural institutions. Many companies still have to work to put their written and spoken words into action.
On the other side, women, though better educated than ever, still encounter an uneven playing field for recruitment and promotions in most countries and industries. Women clearly do not get the same dividends for education as men do.
We, as a group of experienced professionals are tired about this and this is why we decided to establish SheSkillz Global.
Sylwia: SheSkillz Global is a platform and not a recruitment company. What is the difference?
Guro: I spoke at the beginning about the fact that we wanted to rethink the business model of recruitment companies. Here, the candidates are in the driving seat on our platform, having a large array of tools to promote themselves and a mentoring support to rethink their career or get support in their career where they are. This way, they can strongly improve their visibility and remove the unexplicit limits and bias you find in traditional recruitment companies. limiting them in any way.
Sylwia: What do you mean by limiting the candidates?
Guro: With all respect for the recruiters and headhunting companies and the good job they do (as mentioned I myself also have a recruitment company), but I want to underline a few important aspects:
- Avoiding personal views: next to your qualifications and experiences, the recruiter’s personal view on a candidate will influence through its recommendation the company’s desire to recruit someone. But not having a “good chemistry” with the recruiter does not mean that the chemistry will not be good with the people hiring.
- Avoiding recruitment/head-hunting companies’ limitations in terms of whom they can approach given their relationships with companies.
- If a company has a recruitment contract with a recruitment/head-hunting company. This recruitment/head-hunting company is then limited and cannot approach potential candidates from this company. This seems logical but as an individual, and a potential candidate, you want a world of opportunity wide opened (By laws in different countries have the right to no limitation set by others).
- Accessing a large international pool of candidates: whatever the firm, even if international, teams are always geared to the people they know when it comes to recruiting. With an international platform like ours, everybody gets a chance
On our platform, there are no limitations for the candidates. They are 100% free. No agreements are signed between us and our clients as to which candidates are entitled or not to be on our platform.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I like to challenge the status quo or bring new ideas to life. SheSkillz Global is a prominent example of how we challenge the recruitment/headhunting companies’ business model.
We are not going to have a recruitment success fee from the companies.
Sylwia: Is the platform developed only for national or international recruitment?
Guro: The platform is open for both national and international recruitment. We allow the companies to add job posting in different languages depending on where the candidates they want to reach are based.
Sylwia: Over 30 nationalities are already represented in the SheSkillz Global Mentoring Programme since the platform was launched one year ago. Why did you establish this program?
Guro: For many female talents with ambitions, developing their full potential can be challenging. Their professional network may not be large enough. They may lack role models for inspiration, motivation and meaningful discussions on their level of ambition. They may lack the right counterpart to discuss their next step.
So we have decided to offer the women joining SheSkillz Global, the opportunity to connect to senior professionals (men and women) willing to give some of their time to help others succeed. And it has been great to see how many are willing to contribute from all over the world.
We have been offering a global program with highly experienced mentors from different professions and countries who invest a few days per year to contribute to our global community aiming at achieving “A world where talent has no gender”.
Women therefore have a safe and inspiring place to reflect on the professional journey, with mentors helping them make informed decisions about the next steps to reach their career dreams. It is designed to set up the strategy that fits you best, reflecting on what you have achieved so far, your past successes and failures, your next steps, and your potential options. (Read about SheSkillz Global Mentoring Programme in our magazine on our home page – Mentoring section)
Sylwia: I know you met many people in your career. Please mention 3-5 things these people had in common that helped you in your career.
- The people who let me try “the impossible”. Some of them surely did not believe it was possible, but they gave me the freedom to try and prove that it was possible. For example, I was allowed to negotiate an agreement with the International Olympic Committee, even if the previous trial had failed. And I succeeded thanks to the support of my strong network.
- The people that let me work to my maximum capacity and not what is normal “legal” work time, so I could learn as much as possible in the shortest possible time with the Olympiatoppen (Norwegian Olympic Committee elite sports department), some of the best sports coaches in the world.
- The people who took time to know my strengths and weaknesses, not using them against me, but supporting me to continue growing through constructive feedback in a trustable and safe work environment.
- The people who trusted me enough to let me develop executive experiences early in my career, as when I was asked to be a Marketing Manager of the Norwegian Olympic Committee at the age of 28.
- The people who were/are good discussion partners for me, who challenge my thoughts when needed…