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Profile: Elina Räsänen, Holvi

The tech industry is not solely responsible for pushing gender diversity

Gabriela Motroc
diversity
© Shutterstock /Lamina2014

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? In addition to the Women in Tech survey, we also launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Elina Räsänen, Head of Marketing & Communications at Holvi.

Is tech a boys-only club? So it seems. But the light of smart and powerful women is finally shining bright. We root for excellence and justice and, above all, we want meritocracy to win. This is our way of giving women in tech a shout-out.

A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Women in Tech — The Survey

We would like to get to the bottom of why gender diversity remains a challenge for the tech scene. Therefore, we invite you all to fill out our diversity survey. Share your experiences with us!

Your input will help us identify the diversity-related issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in technology workplaces.

Without further ado, we would like to introduce Elina Räsänen, Head of Marketing & Communications at Holvi.

Elina Räsänen, Head of Marketing & Communications at Holvi

Elina Räsänen is the Head of Marketing & Communications at Holvi. Since joining the company Elina has been responsible for telling Holvi’s story to the media, customers, investors and third parties: whether it’s about distilling complex financial technology into simple and relatable value propositions for European entrepreneurs; or voicing Holvi’s vision on borderless digital banking. Today Elina’s primary focus is on building Holvi’s strategy for rapid growth and global expansion as well as leading a talented team of marketers.

What got you interested in technology?

I’ve always been more interested in what world problems can be solved using technology as an enabler rather than being interested in technology as such. What drives me forward is discovering new ways to create an impact — I think technology is key to creating truly global and scalable solutions as well as e.g.democratizingg access to knowledge across the world.

I have always been very ambitious, systematic and goal oriented. Nothing in my career is a coincidence but a result of very careful planning and execution. Sometimes the route was longer and harder than I expected but I’ve always had a very clear path in my head knowing where I want to be next.

I always knew I wanted to work in technology — not as a developer but as someone who finds ways to commercialize tech. It was always clear to me that the strategy, business, and people — side of tech is where I can create an impact. I hold a Master’s degree in Global Innovation Management and have concluded my bachelor’s degree in marketing and international business.

I started my career by doing internships at technology companies and continued to work as technology sector specialist and market analyst followed by leading market entry and internationalization. I’ve mostly worked in mobile tech, ad tech, gaming and SaaS before I landed at Holvi, working in FinTech.

I have always been mentored to believe that there are no limits to my growth and I can become whatever I aspire to be.

There are many obstacles I’ve had to overcome — from convincing potential employers to hire me for my dream job to dealing with managers who have not wanted to support my professional growth. Determination and peer-support of my colleagues have helped me — especially with the latter.

I am born and raised in Finland — one of the leading countries for gender equality in the world. I’ve known both men and women who’ve shown that rewarding professional careers can be combined with family life as long as the partners are equal. This same example has been very strong in my own family. I have always been mentored to believe that there are no limits to my growth and I can become whatever I aspire to be.

Role models

There are also a number of professional role models in my life — some of my previous bosses, my colleagues and the founders of the company I currently work at. I’m grateful for all of them for first of all giving me the chance to show what I’m made of, trusting me to get the job done and most of all encouraging me to be the opinionated, passionate and determined professional I am. I think the best role models for me are people who are fruitfully and confidently themselves and through that enable and bring the best out of others around them.

As anyone, I’ve had bad experiences in my professional career as well. I’ve had to deal with a manager who continuously depreciated me and overruled decisions behind my back. Of course, at times it felt discouraging but luckily I’ve always had trusted peers working side by side with me to overcome these challenges.

Those experiences have definitely made me a more conscious manager myself. If there’s something sacred to me in business, it’s the team. Showing gratitude, moving obstacles and providing a platform to succeed is my number one contribution to the team as their manager.

A day in Elina’s life

Today I work as VP of Marketing & Communications at Holvi. Holvi is a Finnish FinTech company providing micro entrepreneurs with a digital banking solution combined with business management tools.

It is clear that success to me is definitely determined by the extremely talented, dedicated and passionate people I get to work with every day.

My days can be roughly divided into two: 50 % of my time goes to managing my direct reports, helping them to succeed and providing them needed tools to enable them and their teams in their daily work. As a member of the management team, the other half of my time goes to building strategy that matches our business goals. As a growth company, we need to continuously iterate our processes, evaluate our technology, define product features and find alternative routes to scalable growth. As we’re working in a very pioneering space and position, it’s not always easy to prioritize what to build next. That being said, it’s a very exciting position to be in and every day I’m motivated and inspired to see what the day brings ahead.

I’m very proud of all the things we’ve achieved at Holvi: from building the product to scaling the team. When I joined the company, it was a small startup of less than 10 people, this year we’ll be already 100. It makes me proud and humble at the same time to see the impact of my contribution — I’m glad I took the risk and challenged myself to grow into this responsibility. It is clear that success to me is definitely determined by the extremely talented, dedicated and passionate people I get to work with every day. I truly couldn’t imagine a better place for me to be at this point — a scenario that makes me happy.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

I think it’s a complex question. It’s very true that women are still very under-represented in the tech sector. You can basically see it in everything: from job applicants to tech event participants and male-dominated media coverage to funding rounds for all male founders. It’s not very common to see news for example on successful funding rounds or exits by female founders.

In addition to this, what we’ve mainly seen in media are the horrifying stories of female employees working in well-known tech startups claiming that they are underpaid, sometimes passed for promotions and even faced with everyday sexism. Of course, combined with the fact that there are very few female role models represented in the media, the tech scene might not sound like an attractive environment for many women.

To dissect the problem, we probably need to look at early development. In high school, girls achieve better grades than boys. Yet, females who do pursue computer science at university level find themselves being outnumbered by males “ 82% versus 17% “ one of the highest gender disparities in course subjects. And this imbalance isn’t helped by the falling trend of females taking up science, maths and computing courses. I think schools play an important role here: both girls and boys should be equally encouraged to pursue math and science-related degrees and not separate career paths by gender.

I strongly believe that women who’ve made it to the top are responsible for helping others in their career.

It is also important to acknowledge that it’s not only the tech industry as such that is responsible for the change. I strongly believe that women who’ve made it to the top are responsible for helping others in their career. Sometimes women also need to recognize that it is really discrimination that is holding them back or it could be that they are less likely than men to stretch out of their comfort zone and this reluctance to take career risks could be holding them back.

Ultimately, change is best led by example. Shining a spotlight on successful women in tech will eventually inspire more women to aim for leadership positions also in tech. Looking at my own career, I think mentoring also plays an important role. But as sometimes mistakenly interpreted, it is not only about women inspiring women, a study reveals that 47% of female founders agreed that both genders were seen as having an equal influence.

I think we need diversity in all aspects. All research shows that diverse teams perform better. Individuals from different genders, races, backgrounds and experiences bring different perspectives that can lead to innovative solutions.

For many companies, celebrating equality, talent and diversity has become a CEO-level issue and one of the core focus areas — as it should be. Industry leaders emphasize equal pay opportunities and promoting women to higher management levels with bigger responsibilities. In the northern regions of Europe, I think we’re on a good path already. But change takes time and requires active advocates. That’s where both men and women in leading positions have to take responsibility.

Obstacles

Despite the fact that women entrepreneurs play a critical role in economic development by boosting growth and creating jobs, especially for the poorest 40 % of the population, they still face numerous challenges especially related to financing, owning, and growing a business, including limited access to capital and technology, and sometimes even lack of networks.

When talking about borderless banking and business, turning this disadvantage into an opportunity is a topic I am passionate about for all female entrepreneurs across the globe. We at Holvi are working with Estonia’s e-Residency programme and through this partnership, we can genuinely provide equal opportunities for running a location free business for anyone in the world.

Tips & tricks

  1. Choose a manager that lifts you up. There’s nobody as important for your professional growth as a manager who has your back, supports your growth and helps you to get to the next level.
  2. Work on overcoming your impostor syndrome. There’s no reason to think that someone always knows better. You don’t need to know everything to start, you can be sure that you’ll learn along the way.
  3. Bring your whole self to work and celebrate diversity. Show by example that there can be different standards for anyone working in tech – there’s no reason to adapt to any norm but to question it loudly with your own personality.
  4. If you’re aspiring to be a leader — taking initiative pays off. It’s hard to visualize someone as a leader if they are always waiting to be told what to do.
  5. Be conscious of not making gender a thing yourself — change starts within — don’t define yourself as a boss lady but just boss. Help vision the future where there will be no female leaders but just leaders.
  6. Hire/surround yourself with your weaknesses. The more aware you are of your own weaknesses the more likely you are going to succeed in building a team/working in a team that can succeed.
  7. Pay it forward — once you’ve achieved a position where you havethe power to change things, it is your responsibility to help others to get to the same level.

 

Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:

Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is editor of JAXenter.com and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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