At this year’s AGM, two board seats became available as Karolina Qvarnstöm decided to take a break from her duties as vice-chairwoman to focus on a very busy professional and personal schedule and Sara Ottosson, deputy board member, took a job in another industry. After careful considerations, the nomination committee proposed for election two women with a keen interest in getting involved and helping develop the network.
To get to know them better, we have asked them to share their reasons for joining the board and a personal experience that could be useful for other women in the industry.
Cecilia Thomasson Blomquist has been in the network from the early days when it was still an informal email list organized by our founder, Julia Axelsson. Cecilia started her career at the treasury department of Swedish construction company NCC in the late 80s where she worked for eight years, acquiring experience in fixed income. In 1997, she moved to AP1 to become senior portfolio manager in the same asset class. She stayed with the state pension fund where she was part of the management team until 2009 when she took the role of Chief Investment Officer at PP Pension which is the role she holds to this day. She is also currently sitting on the board of Stiftelsen Stockholms Sjukhem, a non-profit organization that provides elderly care and healthcare rehabilitation to people with long-term sickness. Stockholms sjukhem is also an appointed University Hospital appointed by Karolinska Institutet and Region Stockholm.
“Having worked in the financial industry for 30 years, I have seen a need for women to have a networking arena. I´m happy if I can give back and support younger women in the industry. I´m also looking forward to expand my own network,” Cecilia tells us.
Cecilia also believes that diversity and gender equality in the Nordics, while advanced, is not necessarily a given. “I have been lucky working in organisations that has been looking for talent regardless of gender. Unfortunately, I know that it is not always the case. 15 years ago, I was attending a one-year management program dedicated to women. I then became strongly aware that I was part of a minority in the investment management arena, more so than I had ever thought before. It was such a refreshing experience to be in a group of talented, competent individuals that were all women. It was also really interesting to see that our personalities were so different, even in a group that could be seen as homogeneous,” she says.
Julia Roording is a mother of three who has been very much supported by an amazing ‘stay at home dad’ husband throughout her career. ”For a long time, it felt like I had cheated the system, but we made a conscious decision with equal amount of compromise a while back, we think in the best interest of our family,” she tells us. Julia has been active in the financial sector 17 years during which she explored bond brokerage, trading floors, financial institutions groups and finally asset management, where she has worked for the last 10 years. ”The red thread for me has been to move more towards types of businesses where long-term relationships with clients matter,” she says. Julia has studied and worked in six countries with the longest stint being in London. Today, she is based in Stockholm and is responsible for the business development of the Northern Europe region encompassing the Nordics and the Netherlands at Ninety One (previously Investec AM).
When she lived abroad, Julia has already been active in networks similar to KvinnoKapital. “I have felt the power of change when likeminded albeit diverse minds get together,” she says. “Being a native Swede I find it intriguing to have returned ‘home’ to a society perceived as equal but where inclusion – and through that diversity – still has a way to go within the asset management industry. I am very excited about working with the rest of the board and network, especially when it comes to mentoring and profiling of all the amazing members!”
For Julia, mistakes are often the experiences through which come the best learning opportunities. “I have learned that you need to conquer yourself, pick yourself up when you fall, be kind to yourself and find an outlet in your life,” she adds. “It all sounds easy, but I have found finding the right balance difficult at times. Finding mentors in different shapes and forms, to bring perspective, has helped me. I have learned that everything is connected. Challenging situations often come your way to challenge you and encourage to further growth. Being able to bring perspective to difficult situations through for example mentoring can be really crucial,” Julia concludes.