The 11th winner of Female Economist of the Year is announced - Helena Edrén.
View the article in Passion for Business
Article in DI "Handels prestigepris"
View the article about Helena in SvD
Thank you. Your Excellences, ladies and gentlemen, family and friends. Standing here tonight is… quite something. The gratitude and honour that I feel, is beyond words.
Do you know what my boyfriend´s Facebook status was, just after I told him that I would receive this scholarship? “Male of the Female Economist of the Year 2011". Even though he is a most lovable person, I think this clearly demonstrates that men are good at helping themselves to success. In fact, they are obviously so good at doing this, that they even help themselves to other people’s success. Of course, I am very happy for him. I step aside and now proudly consider myself the Female of the Male of the Female Economist of the Year. All this made me realize that I have two topics that I would like to bring up tonight, sharing a common theme: bravery.
As a child, I was always afraid of the f-word. That’s right. Failure. Like so many other young girls, I rarely dared trying things if there was even the slightest chance that I would fail in doing something.
Succeeding is not only about being talented; it is just as much a matter of daring, to have the chance to succeed. None of you would disagree with me on that women are just as talented as men, so could it be that the lack of gender equality in society today is at least partly due to that women – compared to men – are more afraid of failing? Women often want to be 120 per cent sure to succeed, they hesitate before even applying to things, and turn down advancement offers to a larger extent than men. Charlotte Whitton once said: ”Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.” What we need to ask ourselves is: what social structures and values in our society are causing this, and how can we take our responsibility to change it?
I have been told that a certain female CEO of a large Swedish bank first turned down the CEO offer when she received it. Someone told her that her male colleague would then get the job instead, and all of a sudden, she thought: “What the heck, if he can do it, so can I!” And the rest is history. Thomas Edison once said: ”If I find 10.000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” Therefore, I believe that women in particular need to stop being afraid of failing and take on the challenges that they are facing.
The other part of the bravery theme that I wish to address tonight is that I believe it is just as important for company boards and managers to act brave as it is for women. Dealing with equality challenges will require companies to think in new ways about leadership norms to change the way they look at talent and value human capital. In past times, leadership was about protecting your people from intruders, requiring typical male characteristics. Fortunately, our society has evolved, and leaders in the dynamic and complex world of today should be engaging visionaries and have the ability to motivate people, characteristics that women have to the same extent as men.
Yet, looking at the business life of today, a disproportionately small amount of women have the opportunity to practice this leadership. Company managers and boards do have a choice – either, they take the easy way out and choose people that resemble themselves – people with a beard and short hair – or, they deal with the problem by daring to choose those who are different – people without beard, and sometimes with long hair
I do not bring with me a definite solution to these topics. What I do know, however, is that we must all be brave and dare more. Women must dare to take the step, and companies must dare to hire women and create a culture that makes it possible to retain talented women. I want to work for change. Through you, in this strong network that Barbro has created, and our dedication, we can make things happen. The true strength in a network lies in the commitment of its participants, and we need both men and women on the path towards change, to make it sustainable. As Female Economist of the Year 2011, I will keep Thomas Edison’s words in mind as I hope to become a role model myself, by encouraging and supporting other young women to dare to reach outside their comfort zones. If we do, new doors will suddenly open, that give us the opportunity to reach much, much further.
I have many people to thank for being given this honour. Firstly, I would like to thank all the BBB girls, former Female Economists and Friends, for being most encouraging and helpful during the short time I have known you. Johan Öberg, Stefan Larsson, Charmian Caines and the rest of the BCG crew, for supporting this initiative. Principle Lars Bergman, the SSE staff and the selection committee for believing in me. My family, for encouraging me to follow my own path, wherever it may take me. My boyfriend, Max, for supporting me, and being an excellent Male of the Female Economist of the Year.
Finally and foremost, I want to thank you Barbro – or Anders, which I have heard should have been your name if you were born a boy. Thank you for not being born Anders and thereby making it possible for us all to be here tonight, for making me smile as soon as I see the red hair pop around the corner, for being an inspiring female role-model to look up to, and for always doing everything in your power to help us young women that you believe in so strongly.
Thank you all.