I have a confession to make: I’m one of the fortunate ones.
Not one time have I felt that my gender has been an issue at school or at work.
I am a blonde young woman working in technology and IT. Yet have I never faced discrimination. Neither have I been left out, been laughed at or been seen as lacking creditability in the eyes of others.
Trust me, I know I have been lucky and blessed with amazing co-workers and employers. Still, I begun to wonder: how did I win in the lottery?
Let’s take a few steps in my shoes.
First, I am privileged to be born and to have lived my whole life in Finland. We are the happiest country in the world, we have been ranked third in the EU in gender equality and we have even launched an International Gender Equality Prize. Basically, we’re winning at everything. Even in ice hockey.
You may also have seen HÄN-advertisements all over Europe right now. “Hän is the gender-neutral Finnish personal pronoun that treats everyone equally.” Hän is used instead of he or she – ever since the year 1543. Our language does not care about one’s gender. Why should anyone else?
I’ve had it easy just because of my awesome home country. But is there more to it?
One of the boys
Perhaps my childhood helped me get a head start. I was always in the gender minority in school (hello elementary school and me being the only girl in class). Nearly all of my workplaces have also had men as a majority, perhaps not so surprisingly – we’re in IT, after all.
I think this background has given me important experience and some extra beneficial skills in life. I feel very comfortable speaking up, being on the stage and taking a managing and leading role in the professional setting.
Also, for the most part, I tend to share the interests and understand the humour of my male peers (nerdy memes for the win!). Even though this isn’t necessarily a gender issue, it definitely makes it easier to get along. Sharing a laugh is always a great way to bond, no matter what.
I have never really tried to be “one of the boys”, it just happened. I don’t see it as a role – it’s just me. The most important thing a woman in a men’s world can do is to accept oneself as a person and try to develop their best traits even further. None of that is dependent on the gender.
Could we still improve?
A few weeks ago I received an invitation to a female networking event. The speakers were some of the most successful female executives in Finland. The interesting part? The invitation also promised a “glass of bubbly and delicious cupcakes”. That was so stereotypically womanly I had a hard time choosing a reaction between a girly giggle and a bored eye-roll. I hope the next time I’m being persuaded with just the lineup – although I’d never say no to a stoli-bolli. Nor cake.
In the meanwhile, I would like to thank every one of my super colleagues and my customers for seeing me as a human and an IT expert, not a gender.
I would also like to dedicate this picture of my flat shoe collection to Mr. Takumi Nemoto, the Japanese (male) prime minister who thinks that for women, wearing high heels at work is necessary. My shoes are both very comfortable and professional, thank you.
About the Author:
Karoliina Kettukari enhancing collaboration, internal communications and teamwork with Office 365. She has 7 years’ experience in co-creating digital workplaces and changing the organizational culture. Her goal is to make teams work better together.