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On International Women’s Day, Indian Women in Finland Ry, discussed the different barriers on 8th March 2024, prevalent in the Finnish workforce and shared insights into the solutions through active participation and networking, to make a step closer for international women to access the Finnish job market.

Amidst the challenges of integrating into Finland’s workforce and society, international women in Finland are advocating for equitable opportunities and inclusive policies to level the playing field in the country's business landscape.

Raveesh Kumar, Ambassador of India to Finland, emphasized the imperatives of women’s development and empowerment. “There are companies who are recognizing the values of diversity and are actively working towards creating inclusive workplaces. I think the Indian women in Finland will be able to break the glass ceiling and move into leadership roles and I think that time is about to come, I think there is something inbuilt into the system that it is not happening, but when there is enough push, when there is enough momentum, I think we are going to see that happen very soon,” Raveesh Kumar said.

Ranjana Raveesh, spouse of the Ambassador of India to Finland, echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the balance between professional success and familial responsibilities, grounded in compassion, and understanding.

The panel discussion, themed “Invest in Women: Accelerate Growth,” dealt with crucial aspects of women’s empowerment: education, economic independence, health and well-being, legal rights, and representation. These discussions underscored the importance of ensuring access to education, opportunities for economic autonomy, and the promotion of women’s health and legal rights.

Many international women in Finland tackle language barriers and integration into Finnish society. Lidiia Salo, Founder of Get Hired in Finland and Co-Founder of YKI Pass, addressed these challenges by advocating for government-supported integration programs. She emphasized that even with minimal knowledge, participating in these programs can significantly expand educational and professional opportunities. “Try to take the integration program supported by the Finnish government, and with even little knowledge, it will open up more opportunities,” she said.

Tero Niemi, Managing Director, CTS emphasized, “The starting point for equity and equality is to create a lot of inclusion events which make it more comfortable for women who do not get side-lined and make it a more inclusive kind of environment where they can network too.”

Ramya Sriram, chairperson of IWF emphasized the core ethos of the community, stating, “This community is built to inspire, empower, and support its members.” Indian Women in Finland Ry (IWF ry) serves as a networking community, particularly for women navigating life in Finland, providing an array of initiatives and events aimed at fostering networking and empowerment. Their endeavors include mentorship sessions led by domain experts to accessible “Wecare” Facebook sessions offering practical life guidance.

The event also delved into the vital topic of women’s participation in the tech sector, shedding light on the necessity for increased funding for female-led startups and businesses. Mari Luukkainen, Principal at Icebreaker.vc, addressed investment in women-led ventures, emphasizing the pivotal role of women in founding teams, stating, “In my opinion, women should be a part of the founding team and be actively involved and to get money, you need to start businesses also.”

Indrajit Chaudhuri, Chief Platform Officer, Vaisala Oy delved into the tech industry’s gender disparity, stressing the need for foundational changes to inspire more women to pursue tech studies and subsequently join male-dominated areas, asserting, “You have to start from the bottom and inspire more women to get into the study of Tech.”

Anusha Ramakrishnan, Head of Talent Acquisition at Sievo, highlighted the importance of allies and action, stating, “It’s important to have allies, allies who support or leaders who show you towards the right path,” adding, “Diversity is not just a buzzword but also acting upon it is very important.”

“Having that kind of network and what Indian Women Association is doing right now is having a kind mentorship group, having the kind support system that helps and having flexibility and work-life balance is another key point in which we can encourage women to think about leadership and also excel in it,” she added.

Insights from Mervi Heinaro, Deputy Mayor of Espoo City underscored the Finnish Government’s commitment to women’s empowerment and integration services for immigrant women, recognizing the systemic barriers necessitating collective efforts for meaningful change. She states that the disparity in integration services for immigrant women is crucial, aiming to match Nordic-level employment rates. Despite the lowest activity rate in Finland at 65.4%, Norway leads at 77.3%, with Sweden and Denmark close behind. Espoo plans to adopt a comprehensive approach to support women’s integration, recognizing diverse roles and circumstances. “Today is a reminder of the ongoing fight, as just mentioned, we haven’t done the work yet, of the ongoing fight for gender parity and social justice, as well as a celebration for the countless achievements of women around the world,”

Keynote speaker Minttu Viitanen, representing Accenture, highlights the need for being a part of the community and the power of networking. “I learned that in addition to working hard, it’s also about connecting and networking and such events have helped in enabling that,” Viitanen said.

The event was also attended by Erik af Hällström, consul general of Finland, Mumbai, and Nina af Hällstörm, executive director, member of Espoo city council, and chairman of the Kårkulla joint.

Maithri Palicha Kaji - HT

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