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Making it as a woman in Norway Posted by on Mar 30, 2021 in Business, Traditions

(Photo courtesy of Elisa Elmies.)

Did you celebrate kvinnedagen (Women’s Day) on March 8th? This year, many people decided to turn all of mars (March) into a kvinnemåned (Women’s Month) to highlight women’s achievements and ongoing struggle around verden (the world). For this month’s post my idea was to interview ei norsk kvinne i et mannsdominert arbeidsmiljø (a Norwegian woman in a male-dominated work environment). Here’s what Elisa told me.

Hei! Kan du fortelle litt om bakgrunnen din? (Can you tell [us] a bit about your background?)

– Hei, jeg heter Elisa Elmies and I work as a Business Intelligence Developer in Storebrand Asset Management in Oslo, Norway. Storebrand is one of the biggest companies for long time savings and insurances i Norden (in the Nordic countries). Prior to this, I also worked almost two years as a consultant/data engineer in Evry, an IT company. My background is a Master of Science in Marine Engineering1with a specialization in Marine Mechatronics, at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology… I fell into the world of IT while writing my master thesis on using Digital Twins for Maintenance of Offshore Wind Turbines.

Hva liker du best ved den jobben du har nå? (What do you like the most about your current job?)

– The company I work for is in the very front of sustainable investing… What is cool about my job in particular is that I get a lot of autonomy and ansvar (responsibility). My role is in the intersection of development and data engineering and the production of reports with everything ranging from layout to UX2user experience. I’m also responsible for building the Power BI Framework and teaching new users and developers everything about this tool. It’s fun and motivating to get to work with such a variety of oppgaver (tasks).

Hvordan er det å være kvinne i et mannsdominert miljø i Norge? (What is it like to be a woman in a male-dominated environment in Norway?)

– There is of course the aspect of wanting to work extra hard to bevise (prove) that you have earned your place. There is a big focus on getting women into both marine engineering and data engineering/development and sometimes it can seem like all you need is a bit of interest to get the position before a more qualified mann (man). In reality, what I’ve seen until now, is that you have to go through all the same IQ tests and interviews and even the smartest women will get mange avslag (many rejections) before they get a new project or jobb.

(Illustration by 愚木混株 Cdd20 from Pixabay; no copyright.)

Har du hatt særlige utfordringer som kvinne i forbindelse med utdanning eller jobb? (Have you had any special challenges as a woman with regard to your education or job?)

– The biggest challenge is to find a balance between what I think a professional developer behaves like and how I actually am. Especially i starten (in the beginning), I often tried to mimic men since I hadn’t seen many women presenting technical solutions in meetings or holding speeches about the strategic changes in the company. Seeing more women i media (in the media)… and gaining confidence in my job has helped me a lot.

Hva skal til for at flere jenter velger å gå den samme veien som deg? (What would make more girls choose the same career path as you?)

– My career path until now has been a bit all of the place, from Mechanical/Marine Engineering, over Mechatronics to IT and now Finance. But if I can suggest two things:

A: For a long term perspective, better counselling at schools so that the students can get proper guidance on the vast possibilities in the field of science and tech.

B: Short term, especially in the world of IT, employers have to reevaluate which skills a new employee needs to have, and what can be learned rather quickly if you’re a smart and tech-enthusiastic person. Many of the job descriptions out there look for a full stack developer with ten years of erfaring (experience), even if all you need is an SQL enthusiast with great communication skills and an interest in data warehouses.

Har du noen tanker om likestillinga i Norge? (Any thoughts about the state of gender equality in Norway?)

– This is a huge subject but narrowing it down to the Tech world in Norway, I’m quite enthusiastic and from reading avisene (the newspapers) and seeing the work that is done everywhere, I think it is moving in the right direction. I know that I have quite the privilege to be able to say this, also because I haven’t experienced anything uncomfortable even when I’ve often been one of few women or the only one in the room during my studies and at work. Companies should continue showcasing mangfold (diversity), challenging their leaders not to employ people that resemble themselves, offer mentoring, and invite to diskusjoner on subjects that people disagree on to help each other understand why equality benefits everyone i det lange løp (in the long run).

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    with a specialization in Marine Mechatronics, at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology
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    user experience
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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


Comments:

  1. Arthur Solvang:

    I have found men typically accept women whereas women are hesitant to accept men. In prior years many incompetent women were put in jobs just to have a woman. This caused difficulty and resentment. Today there are so many excellent women available we see little gender-based hires. However, we continue to see women more comfortable hiring and working with women. I suggest the women may be isolating themselves.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Arthur Solvang @Arthur, thank you for an interesting comment. A female family member of mine who works as a leader told me she tried to not under-employ men as she was aware of this ”tendency”. What do the other readers think? 🙂