I’m Outi Määttä, Industry Sector Lead at Gofore, Master of Science in Engineering, entrepreneur and a mother of three (a 4-year-old girl and 1,5-year-old twin boys).
Little did I know what was ahead when I chose a career in tech. Nor did I really think about it. I just loved STEM. A profound change has happened since I made that choice almost 20 years ago. Technology has become unavoidable; there isn’t an industry uninfluenced by digitalization.
There is a lot of talk about the low number of women working in technology. Additionally, themes such as work-life balance and equality are rightfully evoking more and more discussion. Indeed, one cannot get one without the other, and these three themes build on each other. Some claim that by bringing these topics up in the first place, we enforce the old fashioned and harmful stereotypes. I disagree, stating that as long as there is room to improve (and there is!), attention needs to be paid.
I could write a book about how to integrate work and life (just re-read my introduction in the beginning), and equality (or the lack of it) is something I’ve faced throughout my career. As has probably each woman in my generation. It is an inconvenient truth, similar to the fact that we grew up in a me-too world, and thought it was “normal”. My struggles have been tiny compared to many others, but even in surroundings like this – the topics still exist.
With this blog post, however, I want to alleviate some unnecessary fears women may have about entering the tech world.
Technology is no longer an individual industry segment or an isolated part of a business. It has become an integral part of all areas of life and work. Everyone will gradually grow to be some grade of tech-savvy, and every company will become a tech company. This integration of technology will again bring up the importance of skills “beyond coding”.
Technology in itself has little value and serves as proof that something can be done. But it needs to serve a purpose and be applied to a context. Our current technology toolbox is vast and quickly growing and the key skill is to use the tools in the right way. Design thinking has proven its value and design is essential in successful service and product development. At the core of it lies empathy and the understanding of motivations and emotions.
In a world where adaptivity is more important than muscles, the playing field for women and men has leveled. Unarguably workplaces need diversity in order to be the best they can be. And I mean also diversity in skills and backgrounds, not just sex, colour or age. Alongside technology, we need anthropology, linguistics, design, psychology…
Another interesting fear-alleviator could also be that organization cultures are evolving from masculine to feminine. According to Hoftstede, a masculine culture represents achievement, heroism, assertiveness and competitiveness, and femininity stands for cooperation, modesty and caring. Masculine cultures are more task-oriented and feminine more person-oriented. The latter creates an environment where people are more likely to express themselves, make mistakes, ask questions and experiment. Gofore represents a feminine culture, and we are a tech company.
My strong belief is, that everyone should play on their strengths, but not let that limit you to a box you assume you belong in. People tend to be the best experts in things they think “everyone can do”. That’s because you are so good at it, it comes naturally. Love and appreciate these characteristics about yourself – whether its coding, relationship building, writing, drawing or caring.
I also think, that it is naïve and idealistic to think that the road ahead is the same for everyone. We all face different challenges and we will never fully understand those of another. I will continue to be a feminist until I no longer need to. Hard work is something that one is lucky to avoid. It takes unending enthusiasm, guts and determination to develop one’s career.
What kind of an example do I want to set for my children? I want them to be brave and not to fear failure. I want them to know that they all have an equal possibility to make an impact. I want them to grow up appreciating their strengths and characteristics and encouraging each other on their chosen paths.