Fondia, a legal services company with roots in Finland, has set a benchmark in the industry by emphasizing diversity, inclusion, and constant self-improvement. In particular, the firm has demonstrated remarkable commitment to gender representation on its board and management teams, standing out in an often heavily male-dominated industry.
Fondia, publicly traded on the First North marketplace, operates in four countries (Finland, Sweden, Estonia, and Lithuania), employing a team of 200 professionals, including 130 lawyers. The company’s board comprises six members, of whom three are women. The group management team has extensive female representation, with four women among its five members, whereas on the Finnish management team there are three women and four men.
But how did Fondia get so many women in management positions?
For starters, it is good to know that it is highly unusual for a legal company in Finland to have a board comprising 50% women. A 2023 study by Prönö shows this is uncommon among all listed companies in Finland. Despite this, Fondia has managed to accomplish meaningful gender diversity, and several reasons exist. Let’s dive deeper into how Fondia has been able to do so.
Values are the driving force
Fondia has five key values: “Dare to Create,” “Law Made Smart,” “Give and Receive,” and “My Place to Work” combined with “Pride and Passion.” These values inspire the teams to be authentic, diverse, and growth-oriented. Fondians take pride in their professionalism and uniqueness.
Wilma Laukkanen, COO of Fondia Oyj, says that these values are at the company’s core and are reflected in the culture, which is actively shaped by employees. This is also confirmed by internal surveys and external certificates.
Expanding diversity in the hiring practices
The company’s hiring process is also incredibly open, welcoming professionals with diverse backgrounds, ages, and skill sets.Fondia’s team includes employees ranging in age from their twenties to over sixty and consists of people of various nationalities.
“Culture is very important to us. Fondia employs a broad range of criteria and follows a “no asshole policy,” fostering an open dialogue and transparency by involving multiple team members in the recruitment process. Every individual gets to meet at least five team members to minimize the possible effects of individual bias and foster a culture of mutual understanding and trust,” explains Wilma Laukkanen.
No hierarchical barriers, no ceiling glasses
Fondia’s approach involves a flat hierarchy, nurturing a learning culture without rigid hierarchical barriers. The company is committed to creating an environment that encourages employee growth and development, especially horizontally. Fondia has thirteen legal competence teams focusing on diverse regulatory changes and emphasizing strong knowledge of different industries. Fondia encourages internal training programs and mentoring. People are also encouraged to shift between roles, for example, between specialist and leadership positions, in order to grow even more.
Understanding diversity in a broader context
At Fondia, diversity is seen as more than gender, age, or nationality. It’s in the company’s DNA. It’s about combining skills and blending legal, business, and technical expertise for a multidisciplinary approach.
According to Harri Savolainen, CEO of Fondia Oyj, a multidisciplinary strategy is essential in providing comprehensive service to clients. Savolainen explains that “Fondia’s role extends beyond mere legal assistance; our professionals add value to businesses through their business mindset, industry knowledge, and broad understanding of various interconnected and evolving fields such as sanctions, ESG, AI, and data.”
Measure and improve as you go
For over two decades, Fondia has been at the forefront of diversity and inclusion, consistently working towards enhancing its workplace practices. The company conducts anonymous surveys to monitor progress in these areas, emphasizing its commitment to improvement and growth. So far, these efforts have focused on building a great inclusive workplace; next year, the management team plans to take their DE&I measurements and actions to a more detailed level.
“We are never ready. We are continuously improving,” explains Wilma Laukkanen.
It’s a family & a business
Family and business are also integral parts of Fondia’s approach. The company offers equal maternity and paternity leave support, provides a ‘baby bonus’ for those staying on unpaid parental leaves, and encourages shared family care responsibilities and support with child care for sick children, if wished. Family-oriented events, like Christmas celebrations, are part of Fondia’s efforts to integrate employees’ families into its culture.
“Our aim is to seamlessly blend family and work responsibilities, ensuring that our team can maintain a healthy work–life balance while doing high quality legal work,” concludes Harri Savolainen.
In summary, Fondia has set an example in the industry with its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and continuous self-improvement. The company has created a positive environment that encourages employee growth and development by creating an inclusive and welcoming culture, fostering a flat hierarchy, and promoting family-oriented events.
Fondia’s approach has helped create a magnet for talented and forward-thinking lawyers, resulting in an exceptional legal services company with an international presence.