Diversity – Beyond gender!

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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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Birgit

 

The concept of multi-tasking…. Read & laugh (or learn?)!

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The past few weeks have been quite hectic, as most of my current work had some kind of important activity this week. Tuesday came with a high-north competence seminar for youth politicians, the Expert Committee meeting of the Heyerdahl Environmental Award was scheduled for Thursday (today), and finally – a fundraising event with WISTA & YoungShip to celebrate the International Women´s Day this Saturday….

I´ll come back to those in separate blog posts, but as you can imagine, parallel work mode and mom mode combined with a tad of sleep deprivation doesn´t exactly make miracles when it comes to chaos rate. Probably, this is something others can relate to as well, but in any case it creates some embarrassing and funny situations. My Bridget Jones incidents….

As when I park my car heading for a meeting, only to return 1,5 hours later and discover that I can´t find the key (which is left in the ignition…!). Or when I join a lunch meeting with industry peers in the Nor-Shipping Advisory Board, return home quite happy after having promoted some views I´m really engaged about – then take a look in the hallway mirror and spot unmistakeable stripes of porridge & snot remains covering the chest area of my black silk blouse.. (can´t believe no-one said anything!)

Those small blunders are great for sharing – after all, people deserve a good laugh.. But sometimes I get more than just a little embarrassed on my own behalf, once again surprised of my own ability for creating my own chaos. Like yesterday;

Last night around 8pm I had changed in to sweatpants and bare feet, hands full (literally – of baby dipers…), when the phone rang. After a period of marathon work including evening & night work after putting Knut to bed, I had a really relaxing afternoon after picking him up from the baby sitter. We even enjoyed a quick bite of Indian food and joined a friend for her dog walk before returning home. Cuddling and having quite a bit of fun before bedtime, my only plan after putting Knut to bed was to curl up in the sofa with some good old trash tv. A very good way of recharging the batteries before a full-day meeting at the Norwegian Shipowners´ Association, to evaluate and discuss the short-list and winner of this year´s Thor Heyerdahl International Environmental Award (which will be presented by the King of Norway 31 March…!). Important to be bright and focused, and it´s very wise to relax in between. Or so I thought, untill I picked up the phone….

Me: -“Hi, Birgit speaking?”

Woman: -“Hi, do you have problems finding us? Are you here soon?”. My first instant reaction was that someone had dialled the wrong number, and I stuttered a confused “what?”. Until suddently I realised.. Something was wrong.. I had made the epic blunder of updating my calendar just a little bit too quickly, without double checking the date again later(!). The thing is, I had organised for my little sister to babysit the following night, in order for me to join the expert committee dinner at the new fabulous restaurant “The Fortress”. The only problem was this; the dinner wasn´t scheduled for Thursday night – it was scheduled for Wednesday night…! Quite logical, as the meeting would start at 9am, requiring the participants traveling into Oslo from other sites to arrive the night before…

-“Uuuhh, oohhhh!!” I stuttered. – “I thought the dinner was tomorrow (anxiety flash!)”. -“Is it now – at 8?”

-“No! It started at 7:30, we´re waiting for you. Will you be joining?”

Oh, holy crap! How embarrassing!! Inside my head, the following dialogue/monologue stirred; “How is it possible, you stupid cow! Here you are, the youngest and less senior of the committee, who really has to prove a good example of how important and beneficial it is to include young people in the more senior industry initiatives. And you can´t event get the date right?! Not even checking the appointment some days in advance to be sure all is correct?! Stupid! Think think – how can I solve this?! Can´t bring Knut, won´t get a baby sitter now. What the f*** do I do?! Have to fix this!”

So…. I promised I´d do anything I could to join, provided I´d find someone to babysit (quite unlikely on such short notice..). Called Espen, who was just finding his seat at the cinema (bummer!). Desperately called my baby sister Randi. No reply. Called again (and again!), and probably stressed her completely out. But – miracle and luck exist – she picked up. And by some fantastic coincidence she was at home working late, with no plans made.. And luckily, my sister is really kind, and with the help of some bribes (paying for cab both ways, Ben & Jerry´s in the freezer, a guarantee that Knut would sleep well so she´d be able to work from here) she actually stepped in, and 5 min later was on her way from Torshov…(!) Can´t believe its possible to be so lucky!!

The following 15 minutes I jumped out of my sweatpants, washed the baby poo remains of my hands, threw a dress from the closet, tied my hair in a pony tail and was ready as she arrived. Stepped a bit too hard on the gas pedal on my way in to town, only to arrive not 15 minutes but an hour and 15 minutes too late(!), as the others were in the middle of their main course. Not exactly fresh from the shower, and without any trace of make-up or illusion of bing groomed. And quite short of breath, after running the few hundred meters from the parking lot. It´s more than a little bit embarrassing to be so extremely late, as foreign participants and senior executives who are super busy actually manage to be on time.

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Home office, or just a plain mess?

To make my point; I have now learned that the calendar is to be double checked extremely carefully every week from now. Unfortunately, I know myself well enough to know that this is definitely not my last Bridget Jones incident.. Your treat!

PS; The jury meeting today was really exciting with superb discussions! It was so difficult to award one winner, facing so many great candidates and a very broad span of activities. Now I´ll keep my mouth shut until the 31 March, and I can´t wait for joining the Annual conference of the Norwegian Shipowners Association where the award ceremony will take place..!

PS2; The white fish and chocolate dessert at the Festningen (Fortress) restaurant is highly recommendable – both courses completely melted on my tongue.. 🙂

Good night!!

Når det går litt fort i svingene…. Les og le (lær?)!

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Working mom, perfect home!

De siste ukene har vært rimelig hektiske. Denne uka skulle nemlig “alt” gå av stabelen; ungdomspolitikersamling om nordområdene på tirsdag, jurymøte i Heyerdahl-prisen i dag, og fundraising med mye moro på lørdag. Akkurat de sakene skal jeg skrive litt mer om, men når man da har et middels søvnunderskudd og fortsatt er litt i parallelt mamma- og jobbmodus er det klart at alt ikke går helt på skinner. Det gjelder sikkert ikke bare meg, men skaper noen litt flaue og komiske situasjoner. Klassiske Bridget Jones-tilfeller.

Som når jeg lar bilen stå igjen med nøkkelen i tenningen mens jeg er i møte, og ikke oppdager det før jeg er tilbake ved bilen etter 1,5 time og ikke finner nøkkelen.. Eller når jeg tropper opp for lunsjmøte med bransjetopper i Nor-Shippings Advisory Board, og først etter å ha kommet hjem igjen etter engasjerte diskusjoner oppdager at den sorte silkeblusen har skrå/horisontale striper av en miks av snørr og grøt. (Utrolig at ingen kommenterte det…?)

Og sånne morsomheter kan jo deles, greit å bjuda på lite…. Men noen ganger blir jeg bare litt ekstra flau over egen kaoskapasitet;

I går kveld kl.20:00 sto jeg barbeint på badet med Knut iført joggebukse og med henda fulle av bæsjebleie da telefonen ringte. Etter maratonjobbing den siste uka med både kvelds- og natteøkter mens Knut sov søtt, hadde jeg hatt en veldig fin og rolig ettermiddag etter henting hos barnevakt, med både en kjapp matbit på Curry & Ketchup og trilletur i Frognerparken etter jobb, så vi var ganske sent hjemme. Koste oss med lek og tulling på badet før leggetid, innstilt på en god utflating på sofaen med litt god trash-tv. Lade opp før heldags jurymøte og veldig spennende kåring av årets vinner av Thor Heyerdahl-prisen i Norges Rederiforbund dagen etter. Trodde jeg. Helt til jeg tok telefonen.

-“Hallo, det er Birgit” sa jeg

-“Hei, finner du oss ikke? Er du langt unna?” sa det i den andre enden. Jeg tenkte først det måtte være noen som ringte feil, og stotret frem et litt forvirret “Hæ?”. Til jeg plutselig forsto at jeg hadde gjort en helt episk tabbe, lagt inn en avtale i kalenderen litt for kjapt, uten å dobbeltsjekke dato. Jeg hadde nemlig ordnet barnevakt (lillesøster) til torsdag kveld, for å bli med på middag med resten av ekspertkomiteen. Problemet var bare at middagen ikke var torsdag kveld – men onsdag kveld…!!! Ganske selvfølgelig, siden møtet skulle begynne 9 og de som kom fra andre land fløy inn kvelden før..

-“Eeehh, ooiiiiii!!” sa jeg. – “Jeg trodde det var i morgen (angst)”. -“Var det nå klokken åtte?”

-“Nei, det var halv åtte. Kommer du?”

Shit, så flaut!! I mitt hode hadde jeg denne dialogen med meg selv; “Er det mulig?! Her er jeg den yngste, som ihvertfall må være et godt eksempel på hvor supert det er å ta inn unge i mer senior bransjeforum, og så klarer jeg ikke engang å gjøre noe så enkelt som å dobbeltsjekke en avtale noen dager i forveien. Stupid! Tenke-tenke, hvordan kan jeg løse dette?! Ikke akkurat noe alternativ å ta med Knut til Festningen. Hva f*** gjør jeg nå??!!! Må fikse det!”

Så jeg lovte jeg skulle se om jeg klarte å få tak i barnevakt (ganske usannsynlig på sykt kort varsel!) hev meg på telefonen, ringte Espen som akkurat hadde betalt kinobilletten og var på vei inn i salen. Ringte desperat videre til lillesøster Randi, som ikke svarte på første, og sikkert trodde det var skjedd noe alvorlig da jeg ringte igjen og igjen til hun svarte… Heldigvis har jeg en helt utrolig snill lillesøster, som ved en fantastisk  tilfeldighet satt hjemme og jobbet. Bestakk henne med løfte om å betale taxi tur/retur Thorshov, Ben & Jerry´s i fryseren, pluss garanti om at Knut kom til å sove bra så hun kunne jobbe mens jeg var borte. Er det mulig å ha så flaks??!!!! Totalt ufortjent! Praise the Lord!

Så rev jeg av meg joggebukse, hoppet inn i en strømpebukse og en kjole, slang en strikk i håret, skiftet ferdig bleier og sto klar i døra da hun kom. Hev meg i bilen og gasset på inn til byen, for å ankomme middagen nøyaktig 1 time og 1 kvarter for sent, mens de andre var midt i hovedretten. Ikke akkurat nydusjet, uten noen form for sminke eller illusjon av velstelthet, og ganske anpusten. Ikke bare litt flaut å komme for sent, når folk som har fløyet inn fra London og/eller er superbusy toppledere, helt fint klarer å komme tidsnok..

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Home office, or just a plain mess?

For å si det sånn; jeg har lært at kalenderen skal dobbelsjekkes veldig nøye hver uke fremover… Dessverre kjenner jeg meg selv godt nok til å vite at dette garantert ikke er mitt siste Bridget Jones-tilfelle.. Værsågod!

PS; Jurymøtet idag ble kjempespennende med masse bra diskusjoner….! Fytti rakkern, det var vanskelig å kåre en vinner, med så utrolig mange bra kandidater og veldig bredt spenn. Nå har vi munnkurv til 31. mars, og jeg gleder meg veldig til Rederiforbundets årskonferanse og utdeling av prisen!

PS2; Skrei og sjokoladedessert på Festningen Restaurant kan anbefales veldig – mye som smeltet på tunga der!

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