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Nooria Akbar: Thesis on international expansion


For many startups, natural growth includes expansion into international markets. Since launching in December, Equality Check has gone live in Norway, Sweden, and Australia. Next up? The startup has set its sights on the UK. As one may assume, launching into a new market has its challenges.

Luckily for Equality Check, a Master's student decided to tackle the challenge head-on. Nooria Akbar chose to write her thesis on how Equality Check can scale internationally, more specifically, into the UK market. We found her findings interesting and want to share them with you.

Nooria is from Norway and has been living in London for the past year to get her MBA before embarking on a job at McKinsey. We asked her some questions on why she wanted to explore the international potential of Equality Check.

EC: What made you want to work with Equality Check for your thesis?

NA: I had Equality Check in mind from the beginning of my studies, as I saw Marie on the front page of the “European CEO” magazine, talking about equality and the platform walking into the university building. I had heard about the successful #HunSpanderer campaign in Norway previously and was excited to read about their new endeavour. After Christmas, I found an article about their plans to expand to the UK and saw this as the perfect opportunity for my thesis, combining my passion for equality and previous experience within diversity recruiting and strategy. As soon as I could contact a company I reached out to Equality Check to present myself and my proposal for writing my thesis on their behalf, and was very happy when they said yes!

It was very interesting, challenging, but most of all fun!

EC: Why do you think that transparency and anonymity are crucial for companies that want to succeed in the future?

NA: Many companies are working on their diversity goals and equality in general at the workplace, and advertise their various measures to improve equality. But, unfortunately, a lot of these actions are things “they have to do” to look good and tick some boxes. The reports about how well companies are doing are not necessarily correct, because employees are reluctant to share sensitive information with their employers, in fear of being judged on behalf of their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so on. Therefore, I believe having a completely anonymous platform where the employer has no possibility to know who the reviewer is, is a great and in-demand service which employers and employees can benefit from. Having full transparency also gains trust for the reviewer, knowing that their data can't be manipulated in favor of the company they are reviewing. What I especially like about Equality Check is that the platform is beneficial for both employers and employees, and the overall goal is to create an equal workplace and give a voice to everyone.

EC: Some say that diversity is difficult to measure due to GDPR. What are your thoughts?

NA: Absolutely. This was also one of the main findings in my research – diversity data is in demand and companies want it, but it is challenging for companies to gather sensitive, personal information as employers are restricted to ask for this information, which is a good thing in regards an individual’s protection and rights. That is why an independent platform such as Equality Check can be the solution to actually gather true information, while also providing specific actions for companies to act on to improve their workplace.

EC: In your personal experience, after having lived in both Norway and the UK, which have you felt has made more strides in terms of equality and diversity in the workplace?

NA: I feel lucky about the company I work for, as they have a major focus on equality and diversity and actually work proactively to not only inspire diversity internally but also conduct important research around it. With that being said, I do think, based on what I have seen outside work, heard, and researched, Norway might be a few steps ahead in regard to gender diversity. The UK is more diverse in terms of different nationalities and ethnicities, but how that is actually represented at the workplace might differ from the overall population. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that both countries still have a long way to go to reach equality and create equal opportunities for everyone.

EC: What are your top 3 pieces of advice to companies looking to expand internationally?


1. Make sure to have or create a network! Without a network, it is very hard to enter and especially expand in a competitive environment. Networks can be created through yourself, partnerships, or other methods.

2. Know your new market. In a fast-moving environment, and especially during uncertain times like COVID-19, it is important to know the market your expanding to in terms of trends, preferences, culture, the economy, and more. Something that works well in one country might be a failure in another country.

3. Be prepared to change your business model. This applies not only to international expansion, but also in a digital world with customer demand changing quick, and new entry risks being high. Something that was successful a year ago might not even be relevant today, so be prepared to change and adapt to a changing market, the changing market will not adapt to you.

//End of interview.

A huge thank you to Nooria for choosing Equality Check on her thesis!

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