AVIVA-Berlin: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us something about the Network you founded?
Kristin Engvig: My name is Kristin Engvig, I am from Norway. After I finished university I traveled quite a lot. I lived for a year in Australia, in Japan, then I spent ten years in Milano. I studied Business Administration and International Management in Oslo and I am currently living in Lausanne.
About five years ago, while living in Italy I understood that working as a foreign woman in a foreign country is extremely interesting but also sometimes very challenging .
Working for international companies I also traveled quite a lot in eastern and western Europe and again, traveling as a woman can be very exciting and interesting but there are problems too. And sometimes you get lonely in a hotel room and there is only room service to cheer you up.
So in 1998 I had an idea and I got together a group of women from all over Europe to talk about the situation of women working internationally and how we can improve the situation and support each other in better ways.
AVIVA-Berlin: So, what did you decide to do?
Kristin Engvig: I decided to organize the first conference, called WomensÂ´ International Networking Conference. This took place in Milano, in Italy. It was attended by people from many European Countries and also women from America. It was a huge success.
At the same time so many women were involved, that we started to realize we had a huge network at our fingertips. Of course, in the beginning we worked together with other womensÂ´ networks, already existing in many countries and we gathered all in this annual event that took place in `98, `99 and also again in the year 2000.
After the year 2000 the conference became bigger and bigger. A lot of volunteers have been involved, who donated much time and energy to this project, including myself.
It was time for a change, we had to make it more professional. So we set the goal for the year 2001 to find a big sponsor so some of us could work full-time on this project. So we did that, and "Women Leading Globalization" in Milano was the third conference, again very successful.
In the year 2002, after we had a big conference in Lausanne, we realized we had 1400 people attending the conference, big companies were coming too, and all of these people were part of the network.All of the women coming to the conference or signing up at the website are all interested in promoting, nurturing our network of authentic female leaders.
AVIVA-Berlin: Do you think it is important to increase the visibility of women in leading positions and as role models?
Kristin Engvig: Yes, And for me it is important to show women can be themselves, follow their dream with passion. I feel women donÂ´t necessarily have to follow the rules men have created. I want to show that women can create their own rules, follow their own path.
AVIVA-Berlin: What do you think are the main differences in Italy, Norway or Germany regarding the situation of WomensÂ´ Work?
Kristin Engvig: In Norway and Italy there is a huge difference in how young people are being treated. I never felt discrimination because I was a woman in Italy. There are different mentalities but I like both.
In Italy people always come up with a solution, they are very entrepreneurial people, I like that. Germany I donÂ´t know so well, but it looks like there are a lot of very qualified women here. But I think it is harder to suceed as a business woman here than I thought at first.
Just look at the statistics. I see that the same thing is happening in Germany as in Italy which is that the number of children that are born nowadays is quite low... so it seems to be tough to combine career and family here as well.
AVIVA-Berlin: What do you think about the future of WomensÂ´ Work?
Kristin Engvig: I think a lot about that actually, and I am very positive. I think there is a big, big place for women in the future. I think that it is very important to recognize that we can combine both roles - that we can be working and also be mothers. womenÂ´s supporting, nurturing and supporting qualities are important, especially in these days, with the threats of war and terrorism. We need both: to value these qualities that are traditionally associated with women and at the same time to be tough and compete in a manÂ´s world, too.
AVIVA-Berlin: What is your advice for young women?
Kristin Engvig: My advice is to follow your passion. In the end you have to work very hard for your money, so if you figure out what you like to do and do what you like then you going to be good at that. Then again, I would advise not to follow any advice but follow your own dream.
Especially here in the western world we are so lucky. I mean if you were in a developing country, you may have to do what it takes so that you can eat a bowl of rice tomorrow. But here we also have the privilege to be able to do things we like to do. So we shouldnÂ´t waste time doing things we donÂ´t like too much. Okay, of course to get to the top of the mountain you have to climb uphill a little bit.