Päivi Salminen-Kultanen is Business Director and Employer Image Consultant at T-Media, Finland. She graduated from the University of Helsinki in 1995 and in 2009 completed her executive MBA studies at Helsinki University of Technology. Päivi has been working in employer image building and recruiting business for the last sixteen years. She was the marketing officer and later the head of Career Services at Helsinki University of Technology (today Aalto University), worked in marketing and as an account manager at Jobline online-recruiting service (today Monster), as a headhunter at InterSearch, as account director and producer for different career magazines and career sites (including TechWomen and TechGirls).
Päivi has been working for T-Media since 2000, a company that motivates and helps employees to identify their true potential in working life and companies and organizations to identify their strengths as employers and attract the best talent. T-Media conducts the largest employer image surveys in Finland annually (25 000 respondents, over 170 employers and 25 industries are measured). T-Media is a Finnish research and communication company specialized in employer branding and reputation and part of TAT-Group which is a communication, consultancy and training organization owned by the Confederation of Finnish Industry and Employers TT Trust (Industries & Employers trust).
Irene: T-Media has played a key role in profiling women in the technology sector in Finland. Is this the reason you selected the media sector?
Päivi: I was working for the Career services at Helsinki University of Technology at that time when T-Magazine, which was T-Media´s first product, established in 1997. I was excited about the magazine from the very beginning. I had a feeling that was what the students at the universities of technology needed: a countrywide lifestyle magazine focusing on studies, careers and phenomenon in the field of technology. The employers found it an important channel to promote themselves as ideal employers immediately. Our Career services even had some ad campaigns in T-Magazine. That was my first touch with T-Media.
I liked and still like T-Media´s way of thinking and making things happen. During all these years we have challenged employers to provide students and professionals and their potential future employees with much more than traditional company presentations. People want to get more detailed and concrete information what the job that the employer is offering is all about: work-life balance, values, equality, leadership, the atmosphere, personal development, projects, careers, collegues, etc. Not just words and marketing, but real people telling what they have been up to and what they have experienced in the company, the role models, etc. Story telling has always fascinated me. At T-Media I have always had the freedom to start something new as long as I had done some “field work” first and also figured out how to finance my projects. That was the case with TechWomen and TechGirls concepts as well. I can honestly say that one job has lead to another. I have been working as a headhunter and I am not sure if I should say this aloud, but I am not much of a career planner. Nowadays it is even harder to plan because new businesses and jobs emerge and old ones disappear. In my case all my jobs and roles do have one thing in common; they all are somehow related to employer image and recruiting. I am more like a carpe diem person. When something interesting shows up and offers me a learning lesson, I take it. I also find it useful to step away from the comfort zone from time to time. I encourage women to take risks, next time it will be much easier!
Irene: Have T-Medias services made an impact in the last ten years? Do your employer image surveys take into account the gender dimension, especially with regard to the career-family balance, role models or best practices?
Päivi: Yes, and that motivates me to continue this job. My current job gives me a unique position to see how gender along with educational background, age, work experience and personal life like having a family affect the individual’s work life expectations and attitudes, including why people value different employers and industries. The respondents for our surveys have different kinds of educational background (vocational to university) and the age of respondents varies from 16 to over 50 years old, from students to more experienced professionals. I find it necessary to have a large network around me in order to get a big picture. We conduct our surveys in co-operation with career services and alumni associations of colleges and universities countrywide, trade associations and the Ministry of Education. I meet students at career fairs. I try to organize as many client meetings every week as possible. My employer clients come from various industries and sizes both from private and public sector. I know that we can make the difference. Not alone, but with partners from various sectors. Our employer image surveys give companies and organizations valuable information what to take into account when you want to be an ideal employer for women. Our surveys also measure and rank the companies and organizations as employers, who can set a target themselves in which place they want be in the ranking list in the following years. That calls for actions! I have seen employers taking these results very seriously, not only in the form of improved communication aimed at women, but also in how they reorganize or reconstruct the work place to be more suitable for women, build career paths, offer mentors, offer more flexibility etc. Today companies acknowledge that women have often different work life expectations than men, but that does not mean that we are less ambitious!
When companies and organizations promote themselves as ideal employers to women like in our TechWomen, they let their own female employees and role models speak out. They are not typical career stories or company presentations, but much more. The stories are very personal: how women got interested in technology in the first place, what kinds of challenges they have faced, how they have overcome them, what they have learned and where they are going. These women, as role models, give career tips to younger women and also talk about how they manage to combine the work and family life balance. My favourite TechWomen two page spread is where four women sit on the couch with small kids on their laps. This employer truly showed how family friendly the technology company can be. Teachers and parents have also been inspired by TechWomen. Many teachers have contacted me and have also expressed how proud they were that their mathematically talented female students found careers in technology and are sure that these talented young women will make it all the way to the top! I have also met students at universities of technology, who have been grateful that they were handed TechWomen when they were high school students. They were inspired by the real role models working in technology.
Irene: What are your expectations or goals in joining the ECWT?
Päivi: Our TechWomen project is living proof that it’s more than wise to work with other pioneers and dedicated people in the field . Alone it is difficult to achieve great things! The issue will be taken more seriously when there is a larger network behind it. Also you can learn in the process. You do not need to invent everything by yourself and start from zero. It´s also great to be useful to others especially when you share a common goal. Pirjo Putila is one of those inspirational women in Finland that I have had the honor to co-operate with. She also asked us to become an ECWT partner in Finland. I said yes immediately! There is still a lot of work to do here and in Europe. I am looking for new ideas, information, research results and partners on the European level. I am ready to learn from you and share my ideas. When we created the TechWomen concept in 2005, I had a feeling that this could work outside the Finnish borders as well. Many employers in the technology sector operate in Europe. It is a small world after all and we all share the same goal.