I was born Mexican, I am also a nationalized Finnish citizen. I was granted the Finnish citizenship in 2017 and was very happy to celebrate Finland’s 100 years of independence by becoming one. I finally shared the same citizenship as the rest of my family and my extended family.
I did think that having Finnish citizenship would make my life as an immigrant woman simpler. It didn’t, and I am not talking about being a mother, a neighbor, or a daughter-in-law. I’m speaking of being an equal citizen in front of my peers–that is my Finnish peers–those who hire other Finns.
Yes, I was one of those women who is part of the 40% of unemployed females, foreign background, over-educated, 45+, mother, wife, proficient in the Finnish language, etc. You can keep adding onto those “intersections” that edged me out of the job market. I had, for a long time, this feeling that no matter how much effort I put into creating a good job application, it was useless. I was seldom called in for an interview. I had long and heated discussions with my Finnish husband, where I had to prove that what I was experiencing was not in my head. It’s a reality for me and many other women. We are not considered candidates for most of the open positions in Finland for many reasons, some of them already mentioned above. I consider myself to be fluent in Finnish, I am not a strong user of written form, however, I considered my knowledge of the language not to be an issue in the hiring process. I realized that language proficiency is now the filtering tool for many positions. Employers raise or lower the bar in language proficiency depending on what type of candidates they want to discourage.
I, like many other female founders, had a long period of trying to be hired with no luck. It seemed that my profile wasn’t being considered for any of the job openings I applied to, even though I considered myself perfectly capable. I am still a doctoral candidate at Aalto University. Unfortunately, I realized a while ago that getting a doctorate degree wouldn’t better my situation. Knowing ‘more about the least’ was not something that companies, the city of Helsinki, or other Universities seemed to be interested in.
I started this company because entrepreneurship was the only viable path for me moving forward. When I started the business, I came into a circle of small producers. Helsinki is not so big, so getting to know most of them is not difficult. I coincidently met many foreign women, who are also overqualified, have a foreign background, are mothers, wives, etc., and are also business owners. They, like myself, became entrepreneurs due to the lack of opportunities.
All of them hold so much knowledge and experience in their field. All of them, just like me, got crushed again and again with every rejection by employers with no real specific reason or feedback.
When the business started, a parallel journey of self-discovery, design, and creation started with it. I had to use all the tools I had, design thinking, visual design, and all I had learned in cooking school, and so I started this salsa design business.
I still had to find my “why”…. paying bills is not enough to carry me through the tough times. One needs a higher purpose. I then had an amazing opportunity to be part of a program called “The Break” where I met wonderful women who have helped me so much in the past month that I managed to have a couple of breakthroughs. It was through my experience there and with them that I managed to word my why.
It took me a while to arrive at it. Initially, I was so disappointed in my situation. Considering I’ve had so many opportunities, the fact of not being able to land a simple job was a source of shame for me. I had to dig deep to resurface and see that what I’ve created makes me proud! I’ve created something different, took a different path, and it worked for me.
Now, why would I find meaning in making salsas? It’s not about the salsas, I could be building radios for that matter… it is about others. Succinctly put, if what I have learned is useful for you and you want to learn how to do it, then come! Reach out to me…
I will teach you what I know:
I exist to help myself and others see our differences as a resource so we may discover pride in what we do.
P.S. Shout-out to Donatella Caggiano who helped me arrive at this idea, to my why, and to accept that it will change… it will evolve, just like me, and just like you. Here’s a mention to all the other Human Women (sorry, yes only women this time) I’ve met in the past month that have done wonders for me, and those who are in my life, and perhaps I never say how much they mean to me:
Orsolya Szabó dr., MBA, Katarzyna Młynarczyk, Manuela Mocci, Maria Inês Catana, Amaia Izar de la Fuente, Donatella Caggiano, Sophie van het Erve, Julia Bonsignore Pesci, and Luise Walther, Rosa Grönlund, Carla Mendoza Pucciarelli, Carmen Lorenzana, and many more.
Photo by Julia Bonsignore Pesci (top) and Donatella Caggiano (bottom)