This month I (Emelie) am featured in the Always #KeepHerPlaying campaign!

I am very honored to be chosen as a role model in this month’s #KeepHerPlaying campaign and I will try to explain why.

When I was a young girl, Track and Field was my life. Many days of the week followed the same routine – return home after school, eat pasta, and then meet up with my best friend, Anna Roald Billgren in Friidrottens Hus in Gothenburg. Together with amazing people we spent an enormous amount of time warming up, stretching, talking about life, running, jumping, lifting weights and laughing. 

For us it never felt like a workout – we just played. From 11 years old up until I was 18 years old, we were encouraged to keep on playing.

When Always searched for an ex-athlete that has dared to take a somewhat different career path in their life, my name came up! They were interested to know what athletics had taught me, and how I use that in my career as an engineer today. Wanting to understand why I spend a lot of time encouraging more girls to pursue engineering, and if there are any similarities between inspiring someone to study tech and practice sports.

#KeepHerPlaying is the subsequent campaign following one of the best campaigns ever made, #LikeAGirl. In case you haven’t seen it, you are welcome to have a look  at this video.

The phrase ‘Keep her Playing’, wants to encourage girls to keep on practicing sports past their menstrual debut. Statistics show that many girls stop practicing sports at an early age (see more facts below). Unfortunately the same is true in regards to tech. For some very strange reason (and please help me understand why) girls tend to think of themselves as not “good enough” in many areas when they enter puberty. Hence they choose other paths in life, than sports and engineering.

A while ago I interviewed another “sports personality”, Sandra Pantzare. She shared a very interesting piece of information, it can be as “techy” to break things as to mending them. Usually when someone, accidentally or purposely breaks something, people may say things like “you are so clumsy” or “that is so typically you!”. I think we should stop immediately with that. Turn it around! Pick up what is broken and fix it together. Play for a while. As it is already broken, what is there to lose?

In my interview with Always, I was asked what athletics has taught me. I did Track and Field, from the age of 11 to 18 in Ullevi FK, one of Gothenburg’s arguably best sports clubs. I was never a superstar athlete like my old teammate Emma Green, but she inspired me. People that aimed for the Olympics were my friends, and the best role models a young girl could ever have at that time. They taught me to never give up and always aim for the stars. They kept on playing despite all the challenges that met them, and trust me, there were many.

I believe that just like tech, sports is all about problem-solving and the endless game of destroying and repairing things. Unfortunately not only materialistic things but sometimes your attitude and mindset too. Do you see more similarities?

Going into puberty can be a big deal for your body, so supporting young girls to heal during this period is of utmost importance. Therefore, I reach out to all leaders in sports with 3 ideas:

1. Ask your female athletes to download and use the App Clue and educate all your leaders about the menstrual cycle and how hormones affect the body.

2. Provide free menstrual products to everyone.

3. Test to adapt the training according to girls menstrual cycles and spend more time on mental development during hormonal periods.

Teach them to work hard but also to accept defeat. Competition is not fair in sports, neither in business life and remind them that ‘good enough is always better than perfect’.

So where am I today and do I still play?

YES I DO! The funny thing is that I have a very special playground. It has nothing to do with sports at all, but it is a space where I can be 100% myself and where I am again completely surrounded by role models. It is of course with my own Womengineer crew. 

Womengineer is a foundation I started with my friends Marie Ideström, Aroshine Munasinghe, and Ellen Broström. Our purpose is to encourage girls to pursue engineering. We are in total 11 volunteers that work every day (it is true, STEM-inism never takes vacation). Our crew includes the most fantastic, brilliant, intelligent, and positive people I know.

So to everyone who was part of Friidrottens Hus “back in the days” (no one mentioned no one forgotten) and my beloved Womengineer crew Frida Rybo, Malin Lindersson, Nicole Stengård Tamm, Amanda Axelsson, Roos Bottema, Youn Hee Pernling Frödin and Vilma Blidner. Thank you for your support and hope to keep on playing with you forever!

… also a big thanks to Gerd Huelsen for bringing me back to the most beautiful playground in the world, Switzerland. And to Ebba Grenninger for always being an amazing role model of course! ;-)

// Emelie


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