It’s October 11th, the International Day of the Girl, and this girl is enjoying her only quiet moment of the day. Driving to the office in a traffic jam is a good place to meditate and today my thoughts are with girls around the world.
Currently I’m the Senior Service Delivery Manager for a complex and highly critical Infrastructure service for Capgemini, Finland. I started working with Capgemini in 2001 as a Software Developer and since then got immense opportunities to work in diverse areas in different roles.
Back in 2001, ICT and especially software development was not popular among women. From our 30-person team, 90% were men. Now when I look around, I’d say that things have changed. At present, 33% of Capgemini Finland’s employees are women, most of my service management colleagues including my boss are women.
I believe education and employment of the girls are means to empower women. Work of course is not everything, but it’s undeniably an important part of life. It’s both a duty and a privilege, by working I make a living for myself and for my sons. It helps me build a social circle and develop social relationships, which challenges me and help me develop myself. It gives me a sense of independence and freedom.
Being born in Finland, a country which is recognized as the 2nd best* place in the world to be a girl (Sweden holds the first place) by Save the Children organization, I believe am certainly privileged. Universal and equal suffrage was enacted in Finland already in 1906 as the first country in Europe and in 2000 Tarja Halonen became the 1st female president of Finland. Due to some of these accomplishments and other outstanding interventions women in Finland enjoy high degree of equality, but we still have a lot of things to do to achieve 100% gender equality.
I am extremely passionate about my work and I am glad that I didn’t have to give up motherhood to continue my career. The parental leave in Finland is long and can be divided between mother and father. Also the day-care system allows both parents to work. I stayed at home for 2 years with both sons, and I’d say that it has not hampered my career at all and I am where I wanted to be.
It’s not always easy to combine family and working life, and there are challenges for women across countries and even in Finland it is difficult to maintain a good balance. Capgemini has treated me very well by giving me challenging opportunities, and at the same time being considerate about my life outside office.
At the same time, I didn’t have to give up my feminity, and I advocate that feminity doesn’t imply weakness. I have grown to be a strong woman capable of making tough decisions when required. In fact it is great to be a girl! I love life; I am positive, expressive, curious, playful, loyal and helpful. I have a vivid imagination and I bring my complete self to work. All of my personality traits are assets that I utilize every day at work and these helped me to reach where I am. It’s of course impossible to say how I would be different if I was a man. Gender is not a skill; it’s one attribute in us and we are all different despite of the gender.
In order to cope with a demanding job, it’s of course essential to find ways to recharge your batteries. Literature, comics, movies, music and traveling stimulate my imagination and energize me. I love all forms of culture. I also love spending time with my friends. And of course one of the best (and bitter-sweetest) things in life is to watch my children grow. I also get strength from the nature and my spiritual landscape is anywhere near the sea.
I have had many role models since I was a little girl, e.g. Frida Kahlo (Mexican artist), Tove Jansson (Finnish author and artist), Shirley Manson (Scottish singer), Joyce Carol Oates (American author) and Margaret Atwood (Canadian author). They all have uncompromisingly created their art, expressed their inner emotions, lived the lives of their own, and have set wonderful examples for women. Last but not the least, my mother always emphasized the importance of education and gender equality.
Today I hope to inspire, not only girls but boys as well. For my sons it is self-evident that the girls are equal.
Remember to be yourself, have trust in yourself and follow your heart. Don’t be afraid. Celebrate the diversity and cherish the girlhood in you or around you. As a mother, a daughter, a sister, a lover, a friend and a professional I think that the gender is the least relevant in working life.
Finally, I have reached the office parking meditation moment is over; it’s time to get to work.
*Source: http://bit.ly/2dH7jeS Report published by Save the Children. Finland is ranked 2nd in the Girls’ Opportunity Index. Girls’ Opportunity Index is to rank countries according to the opportunity that girls have to shape their futures and reach their full potential