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Millennial women - settle for the best

From talent acquisition and recruitment to sales and marketing – here’s Julia Abelsson’s story.

After five years in the IT industry, the time has come to reflect. Over the last years, it’s been full speed ahead with talent acquisition. I’ve learnt a lot, but it was time for a change. I’ve recently switched to two new roles at System Verification, and I’m already delighted with my tasks within sales and marketing. And, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity’s my company gives me, especially since my background mainly is within recruitment. I am proud of my career and what I have accomplished so far – after all, I’m still just 25 years old.

It’s not always easy to find one’s place. And I have a feeling I never fully will. Maybe it’s generational, or maybe it’s my reluctance to settle for anything but the best. We all need to evolve, to get feedback and affirmation, no matter what colours or letters our personality tests show. This is particularly true for millennials. For me personally, this is what inspires me to improve, to grow and do better, every time. 

Being a woman in a man’s world means you’re not always able to share thoughts and opinions. And when you’re a young woman, it tends to be even harder to make your voice heard. Because as an IT professional, you’re in the men’s domain, right? After all, this is an industry that celebrates companies that reach a 15% share of women employees (a figure that includes people from the accounts and HR departments). So what is this really about? Why aren’t there more of us? The subject sometimes comes up, at parties or other social events, and usually there’s a guy saying something like “why do you think only men become chess pros?”. Which is supposed to be a metaphor for us all having different roles in society and at work.

But that premise is just wrong. Of course, there are female chess pros. But we are fed untruths about women only being good at certain things – such as anything that involves emotions and taking care of people – while men excel at business and technology. Over the decades, we’ve created this false reality. We need to see and break through that, and acknowledge what women are capable of. This is very important to me- that the company I'm working for understands this patrician culture we live in.  Even if you do not feel that you are part of this mindset, you must understand the effects of it.

Your goals and visions are shaped by what you believe you can accomplish. I’ve worked at a HR department that had a paper recycling station in the same room. Me and my colleagues used to say that we had to employ more guys to get rid of that darn waste bin (I hasten to add that this was not at my current employer’s). I’ve tried to ignore those old viewpoints that are so cemented throughout generations – but sometimes, it’s not easy.

My personal goal is that by the time I’m 35, I’ll be the CEO of a large IT company. This is my way of pushing aside my thoughts on how society expects me to ‘know my place’. Maybe I’m a member of a generation of so-called good girls, but I’ve never accepted things I believe to be untrue. Again, there are female chess pros. 

As younger generations come in, it is clear that there are some things all companies will need to learn. What happened to all the ladies that were happy as long as the coffee was brewing in the staff room? We need more than that. Companies need to think hard about how they can retain talent that must be constantly challenged. 

Well, all this is not just the employer’s responsibility. Why I write this is because, unfortunately, my generation likes to get things with little, or even no, effort. We can become whatever we want to – after all, our parents said so, so why can’t someone just give us what we want? At larger companies, you cannot expect the employer to cater to everyone’s needs and desires. The members of my generation need to claim their place and let the employer know how the company should move forward to remain an interesting workplace. We can’t just switch jobs because we feel bored. We need to do something about our situation, do both ourselves and the company a favor, make sure we like it where we are. And we might just get others to enjoy their workplace in the process.

Why should it be easier to place demands on a new employer, one you don’t know, than on your current workplace, where you are surrounded by people you’ve known for years? Maybe it’s due to bad leadership? If you’re afraid to talk about your visions, maybe you should change jobs. Or just gather up some courage.

Checklist for managers with millennials employed:
  • Celebrate your victories.
  • Give continuous feedback, both good and bad. Then forget about the bad stuff, no-one likes to be reminded about old mistakes.
  • Acknowledge good performance. Often.
  • Suggest future steps that takes your employee in the desired direction. Get involved.
  • Create shapeable structures for people to work within.
  • Reward the best people – they are not necessarily the ones that have worked for the company the longest; or are of a particular sex.
  • Create a clear plan for skills development.

System Verification has really checked of all these boxes for me, and certainly for many more. And that’s why I choose to stay.

Sweden sees itself as an equal country. However, statistics from other countries don’t confirm this. So, is this something that lies deep in our minds? That we still feel that women shouldn’t take center stage, we should keep a low profile and stick to the notes? I believe change is coming. Highly skilled women are speaking up, realizing there is no glass ceiling.

So, all you employers out there: read up and learn how you can keep us!

I love my job. And my employer, because they acknowledge and support my visions.