Today, my 2 eldest daughters are the third generation to study at the same university, which is amazing. I have really made a point of not trying to influence my children’s decisions in adult life – I believe they have to have an inner drive, no matter what they choose. When asking my oldest, she said it was because she had seen both me and my husband having international jobs we enjoyed, with a lot of exciting business travel to exotic places. During the last 10 years or so I have in both my former role at Ericsson and currently at Tele2 been involved in delivering fantastic digital solutions which improve lives, creates smarter cities, etc. I have of course shared this excitement at home, which also has inspired my daughters to see what tech, especially ICT, can do.
So, my first reflection is that being in a family where the parents have equal and real opportunities “vaccinates” you from accepting special treatment due to gender. I never saw myself as different from my male fiends. And role models, male or female, in your close family is important even if you don’t see it at the time, because it might be difficult to understand what an education can lead to in terms of job roles.
Importance of managers and corporate culture
My first ever manager after graduating from University was a woman. I started working at a small IT company developing business support systems and from a gender perspective the company was very diverse, even if I didn’t reflect upon it at the time. I actually started the same day as a male friend from university and we had the same opportunities to develop in the company, despite there not being any stated diversity targets. So, I had a very fortunate start in my professional life.
A few years later I joined a joint venture between Ericsson and HP, EHPT, which was a high growth start up in tech. When I started in 1995, there were 30 of us, and 7 years later some 1000+ on all continents.
A year after starting my position I had my first daughter. I followed my mother’s approach and, after 6 months parental leave, returned to the Product Manager position I previously held. But then there was a specific and decisive moment in my career. My manager’s manager, Lars, approached me while we had a company exhibition in Rome and said he wanted me on the leadership team as Head of Business Development and Strategy. Wow – that was something I would at that time never had considered for myself. But I trusted him and took on my first manager role and really enjoyed it. Lars gave me the confidence I have used ever since when approaching new challenges, and I believe having this kind of manager or sponsor is extremely important, especially for women, as we tend to be conservative about our own capabilities. Research has shown that women often want to be sure that we can do a job before we apply.
During the end of the 90s the diversity topic was raised and my company tried in different ways to recruit diversity in terms of gender, nationality, etc. They even used me as one of 4 employees in a recruitment campaign – I appeared on the side of a tram and in full page ads in national newspapers. By using a number of “wanted profiles” represented by real employees, the company hoped to attract different categories. Unfortunately, I do not know if it was successful, but some of my female colleagues from that time have leading roles in both local and global tech organizations today, such as Ericsson, Sweco, Swedavia, Volvo Cars, etc. So, there is no doubt it was a great environment for a woman in tech grow and develop in many different ways.