Case study:


Founded in 2012, Canva is an online design tool used by more than 170 million people every single month! They are now one of the fastest-growing SaaS companies in the world, with a multi-billion-dollar valuation, and having been profitable since 2017..

The company’s easy to use and intuitive design platform aims to democratise design and empower people to create anything and everything from business cards to interactive presentations, videos, social media content and so much more.


Canva recognised that to create the best product possible, they needed to develop it with people who represented the perspectives of their users.

Gender diversity in Canva’s large and rapidly growing engineering group was recognised as a challenge for the organisation. With the company in a period of hyper-growth, the engineering headcount alone increased from 162 in 2018 to 452 in 2020 (now over 1300)

Despite offering a great product, having a fantastic brand and placing number one in the Australian Best Places To Work Awards, Canva was struggling to attract, hire and retain women in their engineering and technology teams. They wanted to change the narrative on the problem, ensure the product offering was the best in breed and safeguard the culture within the organisation, and therefore its diversity and inclusion mechanisms.


Before we began working together in 2019, Canva completed Project F’s free online Tech Gender-Balance Health Check.

The results highlighted their need to address the issue of greater diversity within the engineering and technology disciplines. It gave credence to an internal business case to introduce a targeted program to surface the systemic areas of focus.

Once Canva had signed up to the Project F Accreditation Program, a data collection was conducted which took approximately 5 weeks to complete. The subsequent analysis of Canva’s data was put into a detailed report and actionable roadmap with clear recommendations and referenced data points.
Some of these recommendations included:

  • A review and redesign of the performance management framework Specific recommendations on leadership capability around performance management and inclusivity
  • Development of a program for developing high-potential women into leadership
  • Development of a skills and levels framework
  • Addressing pay transparency and attaching ranges to levels Removing the potential for bias across identified hiring and promotion process points
  • Introducing an equal parental leave policy

We provided an impact scale for guidance and broke each element into workable milestones.
Following up on the roadmap’s delivery, we consulted with Canva to pinpoint and agree on the first milestones that would dovetail with existing company strategic objectives. The goals were agreed upon, with clearly documented outcomes, relevant owners and a time plan for review by the end of the Winter season (end Sept 2020).

The results


Female grad intake


Increase in
leader satisfaction


Projected uplift
in baseline of WiT


Gender balance
in Product & Design

As a result of onboarding Canva to the Project F Accreditation Program, the company experienced a range of benefits within just the first 8 months.

Some of these results and benefits included:

  • Putting DE&I squarely onto the SLT’s strategic imperative roadmap – communicated as a core part of Canva’s vision by the founders
  • Increases in the flow of female tech talent and conversion rates
  • Leaders (coaches) satisfaction up by 54.5%
  • 34% of graduates/interns were women, projecting baseline improvement to 20-21% from 16%*
  • A pilot of a recommended emerging leaders program for Canva’s high-potential women in tech was a success and a 2021 roll-out followed.
  • Every employee in tech now has career conversations – early signs predicted a reduction in turnover
  • Improvements in the quality of post-interview feedback from hiring managers
  • Values interviews & coaching achieved a reduction in mis-hires
  • Product and design teams reached close to 50/50
  • Paid parental leave became completely equal, with carer labels removed

In addition, Canva required our support with the flow of female technology talent across specific areas including infrastructure, machine learning, backend and frontend engineering. Relevant talent pipeline candidates have been and continue to be supplied and consequently, a number of talent-pooled candidates were interviewed and offered, including a rare-to-find Machine Learning engineer, hired into a brand new team.

Canva earned Project F’s accreditation Level 3 on completing their first milestones and has since completed further rounds of defined milestones from their Project F roadmap.

(*projections realised at 20% in 2023)

“Exciting to see all these initiatives taking place. Great work!”
Cliff Obrecht, Co-Founder & COO

What they say

“The Project F Program has changed the narrative at Canva”

“Exciting to see all these initiatives taking place. Great work!”

We wholeheartedly believe in providing inclusive environments that embrace the unique strengths and perspectives of each Engineer.

Ready to start work on closing the gender gap in your tech and leadership teams?