Marie Louise Sunde: Catalyst for Change and Equality Advocate

The human mind is an enigma, an ever-changing landscape of thoughts, emotions, and ideas. The spark of creativity is one of the most fascinating things within this dense network of minds. It’s a force that can spark creativity, propel change, and send people to remarkable experiences. The unpredictable nature of inspiration adds to its allure.

For Marie Louise Sunde, Co-founder and CEO of Equality Check, this moment of inspiration came in 2014 when she found herself at the United Nations Headquarters for the launch of #HeForShe, an event where Emma Watson delivered a stirring speech, marking the dawn of the fourth feminist wave. Watson’s words echoed in Marie Louise’s mind, especially the powerful question, “If not now – when? if not me – who?” These simple yet profound words lit a fire within her and set her on a path to make a difference.

Driven by this newfound passion, Marie Louise embarked on an awareness campaign about unconscious bias in Norway. The impact was profound, reaching far and wide. It was an important first step, but it was clear that more needed to be done. Despite the corporate world’s willingness to improve and foster equality, there was a critical missing piece – evidence-based measures. Marie Louise recognized the growing influence of employees as stakeholders who could drive and catalyze change within organizations.

And so, with determination and a vision for a more equal future, she took a bold step. Marie Louise left her job at the hospital and, alongside her co-founder, established Equality Check. Their mission was clear: to provide organizations with the tools and insights needed to measure and improve equality. It was a profound commitment to making the workplace a fairer and more inclusive environment for all.

In a world where inspiration often sparks change, Marie Louise Sunde has harnessed her own transformative moment to create a powerful force for equality. With Equality Check, she’s not just asking the questions; she’s providing the answers that can reshape the corporate landscape and empower individuals to be the drivers of change. The story of Marie Louise Sunde is a testament to the enduring power of inspiration and the incredible impact it can have on the world.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

A Path to Global Prominence

Being the trailblazers in an emerging market presented a unique opportunity for her firm, setting them apart and positioning them as a major global trendsetter. Their early entry into the market not only offered exponential scaling potential but also bore substantial responsibility, as they played a pivotal role in maturing the market.

She reflects, “Maintaining close relationships with our clients and potential customers has proven extremely beneficial in steering our product development in the right direction, ensuring a seamless product-market fit. With the addition of exceptional and highly skilled team members, we have collectively elevated our in-house expertise to a whole new level.”

Shaping Inclusive Workplaces with Data and Technology

Equality Check is a distinctive platform that empowers employees to evaluate equality and inclusion within their workplaces. A standout feature is the platform’s use of anonymous reviews, encompassing the full diversity spectrum. Once five individuals have reviewed a company, the workplace’s ratings become accessible to everyone.

The founder is excited to introduce an innovative solution that leverages a unique dataset derived from both employees and companies. She explains, “The employee data allows us to capture a broad spectrum of diversity, information employers can’t directly inquire about due to GDPR regulations. By incorporating machine learning, we can pinpoint areas for improvement and propose targeted, evidence-based solutions. The synergy of data, technology, and domain expertise is pivotal for effecting real and lasting change.”

The entire process is driven by machine learning, spanning data collection, insights, trajectories, and evidence-based solutions. The overarching vision is to foster workplaces with equal opportunities for all employees, irrespective of their backgrounds. This vision is pursued through the application of data, technology, and an evidence-based approach.

Bridging the Gap Between Talk and Action 

Marie has always maintained a strong focus on diversity and inclusion, yet she acknowledges that there is often more talk than tangible action. The challenging year of 2020 intensified the demand for results, especially from their most critical stakeholders, the employees.

She expresses her concern regarding millennials, noting, “In the next 5 years, millennials will constitute over 75% of the workforce. They place a high value on equal opportunity, purpose, work-life balance, and diversity. If their expectations in these areas are not met, they are more likely to consider leaving.” In this context, Equality Check provides an invaluable platform for employees to share anonymous feedback and insights. Moreover, Marie and her team offer companies a data-driven approach to pinpoint problem areas and propose evidence-based solutions for effective improvement.

Marie underscores, “According to McKinsey, only 24% of companies implementing diversity and inclusion measures see substantial results. We believe that the primary reasons for these underwhelming outcomes are the lack of data and accurate diagnosis. Drawing from the field of medicine, we understand that an incorrect diagnosis renders the treatment ineffective. Additionally, there has been a noticeable absence of an evidence-based approach to solutions in the realm of diversity and inclusion, which has largely been myth-based.”

She reveals that her team has initiated a comprehensive research project aimed at validating various solutions. This endeavor will elevate the evidence-based level of their recommendations to companies and, in turn, increase the success rate of their diversity and inclusion initiatives.

From Surgeon to Advocate of Human Rights and Diversity

Marie candidly shares, “I have never had a strong focus on being an entrepreneur, but more on solving problems that need solving.” Her passion for addressing challenges extends beyond the business realm. Marie’s life has been a remarkable journey, from performing on stage to pursuing a career in surgery and, ultimately, advocating for human rights and diversity.

In her early years, Marie’s love for the stage led her to dance at the Norwegian Royal Ballet School. During her high school years in Oslo, she noticed a lack of a school theater at her institution. Instead of merely lamenting her absence, she took the initiative to establish a school theater, a legacy that endures to this day.

Her path eventually led her to college, where she earned a Ph.D. in surgery and embarked on a surgical career that spanned a decade. Surgery remained her primary passion during this time, and she never envisioned leaving it for an entirely different path.

However, Marie’s uncharted passion for human rights and diversity, nurtured since childhood, would eventually change the course of her life. She discloses, “I come from four generations of women’s rights champions. I have been involved in diversity work on an international level alongside my surgical career for many years.” This newfound calling compelled her to embrace the entrepreneurial route.

As CEO, she wears many hats, including domain expertise, strategy, marketing, research, fundraising, and finance. Marie emphasizes the strength of her diverse team, all sharing a fervent commitment to equal opportunities and diversity. Their collective focus extends to fostering a culture of flexibility and autonomy for every team member. In a challenging previous year, she kept the team motivated through digital quizzes and outdoor activities.

Throughout her entrepreneurial journey, Marie has been known for her workaholic dedication. Her background, which offers limited control over time, has led her to embrace flexible work arrangements, ultimately facilitating a healthier work-life balance.