The Nordic region has one of the most innovative and gender-diverse tech ecosystem in the world (and there are already plenty of studies available to prove that). Still, I often get asked about how difficult it is to be a woman in the Finnish tech scene.
It is really not.
The concerns I hear from other women are mostly around not being experienced in the field, not knowing how to code, not having enough time for their families, or not being taken seriously by the peers. Encouragingly, there are more and more women entering the tech and breaking these stereotypes. It’s been almost 10 years since I first moved here, while finishing my university degree. Over the past years, I’ve never experienced any of the issues above. And I am sure you won’t. Instead, you will be surprised by how much the tech space has to offer.
It is fun & inspiring.
The tech ecosystem in the Nordics is developing steadily — Helsinki, Stockholm & Copenhagen have formed a big startup hub, with a great pool of international talent. Anyone choosing to be in the local tech ecosystem will be in a good company and work alongside interesting and inspiring people. You can travel and gain a global perspective. You can try new things, take risks and solve real problems — the mentality in the tech circles is very global and pro-innovation.
The local community is extremely supportive — both men & women actively contribute to the development of the diverse ecosystem. There are plently of meet-ups, conferences and other events to help you get up to speed. And many mentors available to support you on your journey.
You don’t have to be an engineer or be able to code to be successful in tech.
You need to be interested in people and solving their problems with technology. Of course, understanding of technology is valuable, but you don’t have to be able to code yourself. If you are interested — great, there are many of initiatives to help you learn it (e.g. Rails Girls started by Linda Liukas). If you aren’t — no worries, there are plenty of other ways to contribute to the development of a tech business that do not depend on your ability to code. Product design, UX, marketing and sales are just some of the skills that are equally important. You have to be good at what you do, and that’s enough. No need to code.
You don’t have to sacrifice your family, friends & hobbies.
The Nordics pride themselves on having a healthy work-life balance — all the Nordic countries are consistently on top of the list of world’s happiest countries. The local tech scene is not an exception. Yes, there is always a lot of work, and you have to work hard every day. But you can continue living your normal life, enjoy cooking, running, gardening, you name it. You just become more efficient.
You don’t have to speak the language to find an interesting job and/or grow professionally.
I often hear that it’s difficult to find a job without speaking the local language. In the Nordic tech scene, it is really not the case —everyone here speaks English fluently. Of course every now and then, I feel embarrassed by not being able to explain what I do to my granny-neighbour, in Finnish. But explaining it in my native language to my own grandma is equally difficult. At the end, it’s a lot about your attitude. If you are in tech to create global services, you are better of doing it right from the start.
You do have the same chances to be promoted or get funded as anyone else.
If you love what you do, work hard and have the courage, you have many opportunities ahead of you. Gender, age and social background have no effect on your success. Of course, tech is still male-dominated world and there might be certain challenges or incidents for you to face as a women. However, these are something you could come across in any other industry, not just tech.
As an investor, I simply try to find the best startups, not thinking about the age, gender or social background of the founders. Instead, I always look for diverse and balanced teams. Creating successful tech companies is no longer men’s game.
It is just the beginning.
The Nordics clearly need to attract top talent to be able to compete globally. We create services for global markets; that’s why having a diverse talent pool in our home market is a must. We need to be able to attract and work with people who represent our global audience, people who will be using the services we create.
There is still a lot to be done to make the ecosystem more diverse. While today the percentage of startups with women on founding & management teams is still small, it has been growing steadily. There are lots of talented women— if we could only inspire a few of them to enter the tech industry, we could really infuse the Nordic ecosystem. I hope to see many individuals and organisations involved in this task.
There are plenty of opportunities in the Nordic tech for you as a woman startup founder, marketing manager, designer, or developer. If you are looking for one, or have some questions about the local ecosystem — drop me a line at ekaterina(at)inventure.fi.