The energy sector has the potential to change the world – and to make it more equal

Boys play wild games where the world is saved from destruction. Girls with insight are no different – they are also poised to save the world. This has been Maisa Kalliokoski’s goal from a young age. “I realized that in the energy and environmental sector I can make a difference,” says Kalliokoski, who currently works as a data manager at Adven.

For a long time, various projects have been carried out in a bid to increase the participation of women in the energy sector. The Ministry of the Environment, for example, announced in May 2018 that Finland would join the international ‘Equal by 30’ campaign. The campaign’s purpose is to work towards equal pay, equal leadership and equal study and choice of career opportunities for women by 2030.

Women make up around a quarter of Finland’s energy sector workforce

Kalliokoski welcomes actions to encourage more and more women to study and apply for executive positions.

“We should send a message that everyone should be interested,” she says, while at the same time pointing out that regardless of gender, it always comes down to the person’s performance and cooperation skills.

Born and raised in Parikkala, in South Karelia, she completed the forest industry line at the local upper secondary school and decided to study energy technology at Lappeenranta University of Technology. She wrote her master’s thesis for Adven.

For the past three and a half years, she has been in charge of, among other things, processing energy data and related systems at Adven. “My current job lies somewhere between IT, financial administration and energy production.”

For Kalliokoski, it is a special privilege to work in a company that is committed to clean energy and keen to develop solutions related to it.

Kalliokoski’s dream for the future is to engage in an ‘Engineers without Borders’ type of activity, bringing solar energy or sanitary technology to places with electricity distribution problems or no sewage network, for example. “The simple things that we take for granted are a struggle in many places.”

Career counselling for girls plays a major role

Elina Isokangas, who works in the areas of wastewater treatment and the circular economy in Adven’s Recovery solutions team, would like to see career counselors build awareness of the attractiveness of technical fields among girls better and at an earlier stage than before.

“Just reading descriptions of various sectors does not necessarily give the right picture,” Isokangas says. “Better and more diverse information about the various options is needed.”

Isokangas knows from personal experience how hard choosing a career can be. She enjoyed physics and mathematics at school and decided to study physics at the University of Oulu. After two years, however, she changed her major to environmental technology.

After completing her master’s thesis and doctoral thesis on water technology, Isokangas wanted to see what it would be like to work in the private sector. She joined Adven, where she is in charge of, among other things, piloting water and energy solutions and analyzing the results, as well as organizing training for her team. Her university background has given her an excellent foundation for her current tasks. “Adven needed experimental research, which is my strong suit.”

The only woman at the negotiating table will be remembered

In upper secondary school, Elli Ikonen, Account Manager in charge of district heating at Adven, developed a passion for finding out how various machines work. She decided to study energy technology at Helsinki University of Technology.

One eye-opening experience for her was a lecture about energy efficiency: “I realized how much energy is wasted in industrial operations. I had just learned how labor-intensive it is to produce energy and what kind of infrastructure it requires. And then at the other end of the chain, people waste it.”

Ikonen’s previous employers include Valmet (former Metso Paper) and Enegia, from where she joined Adven in November 2017.

Diversity is one of the aspects that Ikonen finds particularly fascinating about the energy sector. “My work has been so varied. You have to know a little about everything and be able to connect different elements,” she says.

Ikonen says that her choice of career has never been questioned, and her parents, for example, never told her what she should do. “The fun thing about a male-dominated work community is that everyone will remember you as the only woman at the negotiating table.”

Ikonen says that her work is not in the least tied to gender. “We all use technology and energy, and people tend to forget that women operate a lot of different types of machines. Why would they be unfit to deal with matters related to them?”

Adven is working towards a carbon neutral world. Tackling this challenge requires all hands on deck.

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