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‘A thousand times more fun with a better gender mix’

In her younger days Petra Ålund was often the sole woman at male-dominated workplaces. Today, as head of SEB’s Technology division, the gender balance is considerably better, even though the share of women is still lower. “All workplaces benefit from having a mix. It’s a thousand times more fun and with much better results,” she says.

Petra Ålund has worked at SEB since 2017. She has an extensive industrial background, with experience from high-level IT positions at Scania and Sandvik. She was born and raised in Oxelösund and has a Master’s in International Economics from Linköping University as a foundation.

“I bought my first computer in 1982 and have always been interested in IT,” Petra says. “I started out writing code, but not so much that I can brag that I became a real nerd. I have always been more interested in what you can achieve through technology than in technology for its own sake.”

Ever since she completed her four-year technology programme in high school and took a summer job at the steel mill, Petra has worked in male-dominated workplaces. From the start she was often the only woman in her group.

“It has been both an advantage and disadvantage,” she says. “If you do a good job, it gets noticed and everyone remembers you because you stick out. But on the other end, if you perform less well, you are in a tough spot since you are noticed even more.”

30 percent women

Today Petra Ålund is in charge of nearly 3,000 employees in Technology. About 30 per cent of them are women and 70 per cent are men. The share of women is higher in system development and lower in technical infrastructure and in certain, senior specialist roles. Among managers, the share of women is higher than for the division as a whole.

Compared with when she began her career, there is thus a considerably better balance today.

“There’s nowhere I’ve worked where not everyone thinks that both the work climate and work result have been made considerably better with the addition of more females,” she says.

But there are still areas in which the share of women is lower. What are you doing to bring about a better balance in all areas?

“Together with HR we have devised a strategy for where we will be visible and how we can engage ourselves to attract even more women in all roles. During the last three years we have also focused on directly targeting women, such as through our involvement in the Pink Programming network.

“Some women don’t feel confident to participate in programming workshops that are mixed. Many are beginners, while most of the guys have begun earlier and have done some programming at home.”

SEB is also involved in university initiatives to encourage more females to pursue studies in technology.

“Excluding various professions early in your life is not good. It is unfortunate that some women rule out technical fields before they even have an idea of what it entails. Choose instead a broad education and study math – don’t decide too early what you want to be,” she says.

The Technology division also works actively with recruitment to ensure that it always has a pipeline of potential candidates, male and female alike.

“We don’t just put out ads and wait to see who applies. The bank’s HR unit has built its own tech talent recruitment team that actively searches for prospective tech candidates,” notes Petra.

“Previously we sought help from external staffing companies, but we realised that it was more effective to have such competence internally within the bank instead and acquired a team that ran such a company.”