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WOMEN: GENDER DIVERSITY AND EQUALITY


Career advice for women, from 1st woman to lead her company in Norway

By Tonje Sandberg, Country Managing Director-Norway, Accenture
  
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I am proud to be the first woman to lead Accenture in Norway. The company is one of the largest consultancy firms in the Norwegian market, and there is still a big gender gap when it comes to top management positions in Norway. I plan to use this opportunity to encourage and, hopefully, inspire more women, both within and outside my organization, to pursue leadership roles.

My career path
I started at Accenture in 1991 and began working with clients in financial services, as I had previous experience in banking. Throughout 24 years at my company, I have worked with clients from almost all of the industries we serve, including more than 12 years with companies in telecom and high tech and nine years with clients from the public sector.

In 2009, I was given responsibility to build the health practice across the Nordic region, which sparked the entrepreneur in me. I find working with health clients to be extremely rewarding. We are making a meaningful impact and improving the quality of life for people across the Nordics.

“I plan to use this opportunity to encourage and, hopefully, inspire more women to pursue leadership roles.”

There are two projects in my career of which I’m equally proud. The first was for a large telecommunications company, where we provided strategic support in a major transformation process. In 1997, I became involved in a project transitioning the organization from being state-owned to becoming the partially privatized company it is today. It was both challenging and exciting to be working through such an enormous and important transition.

The other project I am most proud of is our recent work for a health client, which has allowed critical information to be electronically accessible to health-care providers. It is an enormous step toward the digitalization of our healthcare system. The project is currently being implemented across the country, and we have already begun hearing how lives are being saved because practitioners now have better access to critical data.

The best career advice I received and my guidance for women
My father made a huge impression on me as a young woman and especially at the start of my career. He ran our family business, and I was included early on in decision-making processes and operations. When I chose to join Accenture, I was also considering offers from two other potential employers, and my father was very influential in my decision. My father’s advice was to choose Accenture because it was both a large global company and also one with a strong local presence. He thought it would give me good opportunities for different roles, responsibility and growth. I believe that you have to always be looking for opportunities, and keep an optimistic attitude. Avoid complacency or stagnating in indecision. When you see an opportunity, make a choice and act, and don’t dwell on things you cannot change.

Tonje Sandberg

I would also encourage young women to take advantage of networking opportunities. Be proactive in seeking counsel or encouragement from your seniors—I think we have a responsibility to cheer each other on, as women and as colleagues.

How I integrate work life and personal life
I am fortunate that my husband and I have always had an equal partnership. Throughout each of our careers, we have supported each other in taking on new responsibilities and pursuing our ambitions. But we have seen the responsibility of raising our daughter and taking care of our home as a team effort and worked together to find the right balance.

My advice to women, however, is that you have to let go of some control and things not being perfect all the time. In my case, I was willing to accept casual mealtimes and that my husband didn’t always have the best fashion sense when it came to picking outfits for my daughter. Each person and family has to decide what works for them, but there has to be some give somewhere and sometimes “good enough” has to really be enough.

I am very interested in cultural experiences, and love art and theater. But I also love downtime with my family on weekends, whether baking or holding gatherings for friends. I try to spend as much time with my teenage daughter as I can—when she is actually home, that is!

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