Matís Women in Science

Women at Matís believe that they are stronger together by Mia Cerfonteyn

Earlier this year, eight female employees formed a group to redefine leadership in a way that is more inclusive of women. We recognized the need for a shared platform where we could use our combined insights as women in science to create more nurturing workspaces for all. We are four Icelandic women and four women of foreign nationality who make up the Matís Women in Science group. All eight of us are in the early stages of our career with a great passion for our work, our environment and for the people around us. We are mothers, scientists and feminists.

Matís is supporting me to participate in a global Women in STEMM leadership program, Homeward Bound, which culminates in a three-week expedition at the end of this year to Antarctica with 80 women from all over the world. In return I promised to share what I learn during this amazing journey with the women at Matís and start open discussions in the workplace about obstacles that have affected our leadership journeys. Originally, I also promised to deliver five key points for implementation to improve the employee welfare and social responsibility of Matís once I return from my Antarctic trip in January 2019. However, this evolved into much more due to our drive and passion: we wanted to start implementing our ideas as soon as we had them. We all knew what had to be done, we just needed the platform, the support and the united voice to put it into action.

Within the first couple of months we had started putting work in progress to create a child-friendly room at Matís to improve flexibility for parents (lead by Ragnhildur Friðriksdóttir and Brynja Einarsdóttir) and completely reworked the company equality agenda to improve inclusivity (lead by Ásta Heiðrún E. Pétursdóttir). We started the Icelandic Lunch Club, a fun lunch time session where foreign employees can improve their Icelandic skills with the help of native speakers (Mia Cerfonteyn, Halla Halldórsdóttir, Ali Leeper and Clara Jégousse). And at the heart of our group we created a platform for honest discussions – Tölum Upphátt –  where each of us presents to the company a topic that have affected us personally, something we feel needs to be discussed to improve gender equality, employee welfare and our social responsibility. We research and present on topics such as:

  • the inequality for women in science (Ásta)
  • the experience of foreign women in Iceland (Mia)
  • the true impact of sexist humor (Clara)
  • impostor syndrome and the confidence gap (Halla)
  • the motherhood penalty (Ragnhildur)
  • the value of proper training and education (Brynja)
  • the crucial link between feminism and climate action (Justine Vanhalst)
  • and the value of honest conversations and constructive criticism (Ali)

Our projects and presentations were received positively and insightful discussions in the workplace ignited after each presentation. It was an affirmation that there is a need for honesty and vulnerability to forge stronger connections between employees. As I depart for Antarctica at the end of this year, I take with me everything I have learned from our group and Matís’ employees, and the new questions they have inspired. After my intensive three-week leadership course, I will bring back my newly gained insights and skills to the women of Matís (and Iceland) to push us on our way forward. Ultimately, the Matís Women in Science group will decide who will lead us next year and how we will continue to grow collaborative leadership and stronger connections in the workplace.

My lesson in leadership: find inspiration in those around you. Women do not need to change to become leaders, they need a mirror to see the powerful qualities they already possess: their passion, their strength, their insight and how much we need them for a better world. If I could wish one thing for our group, it is that we can be this mirror for each other.