A tribute to Sunu, Rani and Iman: Growing up in Norway, my path to independence and creating a safe, healthy life for myself and even with an challenging, exciting career to top it off, is like running a marathon but starting 1km before the finish line, while most of the others have to run the whole distance. Even as a school drop-out entering an industry without any ties or network to begin with. You don’t work anywhere near as hard as them to get the same opportunities.
Norway still has a way to go, as the development here stagnated for a while, probably because we were given a false impression that equal opportunities were already accomplished, following the doors opened by the first female Prime Minister. However, through the past years we suddenly became alert of the retaining gap and refuelled the focus on diversity and the efforts pursuing equal opportunities. Partly, I would assume, due to the fact that several granted rights were threathened and challenged, as our new governments started off on a different and slightly negative path. But subsequently also due to the fact that our two eminent female role models, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Fishery, has taken an active stand – talking directly and openly of the fact that the private sector needs to clean its act and achieve better diversity.
Their voices and messages are important. Too many other voices try to silence the debates, claiming that we already have “everything” and shouldn’t complain. That we’re lacking solidarity, and should rather focus on what we could do for women in regimes suppressing them. Voices trying to explain the lack of gender balance on executive levels with the women’s (gender based) lack of will to take on leadership roles, and that we should allow them to choose freely rather than pushing women into high level roles.
Well, guess what; I don’t agree with those latter voices. Imbalance doesn’t provide basis for actual choices, neither does unconcious bias and fingers pointed at hard-working mothers (accusing them of sacrifying their kids’ wellbeing for the sake of a career). And many fathers don’t get to choose freely either; who said it should be their responsibility to take the heavier burden as breadwinner of the family? Real choices require real balance.
Speaking of solidarity; if we stop pursuing equal opportunities, who will inspire our friends in other regions? If we step down, will it be easier for them to step up? If we don’t demonstrate the capabilities as leaders and experts not being based on your gender, who will slowly shift the mindsets of their male counterparts?
Women in business are important role models, both for younger girls in their own community and for girls and women in other communities. Not to mention, for the conservative male (or female) leaders in power positions.
The leader path needs to be walked on to stay open, and we are responsible for not only keeping it open but also widening it for the girls and women entering in our forstod. Women in business also hold the responsibility to look over our shoulder, to see if there’s someone following the same path. And then inviting that someone to walk beside us rather than increasing the distance between us, generously sharing our own experiences and insights.
Our responsibility is to provide mentoring, enable and inspire others to join our journey – which is both challenging and exciting!
In my case, I made a very conscious decision to focus specifically on mentoring and supporting talents from backgrounds and regions outside of Norway. This is under-utilized potential, and the lack of ability to ensure sufficient diversity also across cultures, religions and ethnisity is damaging our prosperity and opportunities for the future. I find the role of mentoring to be just as rewarding and developing for myself as its supposed to be for the mentee. I get extremely inspired and motivated through the small achievements and mental journeys we travel together – growing new perspectives, insight and reflections while I share my existing ones. My goal is to motivate and support, trying to push and challenge them to reach beyond their comfortable zone and pursue opportunities they thought beyond reach.
I try to make sure that I pay forward what some of my role models and mentors/inspiration sources have given me along the way; a nudge, a challenge, an advise, an acknowledgement of which potential I see in them. Tools to provide better self-confidence and turn risk into reward.
This post to mark the Women’s Day is specially dedicated to three younger women who inspire me;
Rani from Karachi, for your amazing journey pursuing your life mission to teach others
Sunu from Kerala, for your quest and adventure exploring the world of green ship recycling
And to my newest acquiantance, Iman from Djibouti – I’ve just barely started to get to know you, but I’m already convinced that your strong will, intelligent perspectives and hard work will get you exactly where you need to go.
I’m cheering for you all – inspired and humble! Girls like you make me very optimistic for the future!
Happy International Women’s Day everyone – use it to support and drive change for the better!
Through Nor-Shipping, we’ve also celebrated this day launching a new initiative to promote and champion the most powerful and influental female leaders of global shipping. More visible role models for the next generation!