Every day is Women’s Day – five stories on women inspiring inclusion at work

Every day is Women’s Day – five stories on women inspiring inclusion at work

What makes our people thrive professionally? Jessica, Xiamin, Binh, Nadia and Cecilia share their experiences on taking bold career moves, building their confidence, and celebrating diversity.

Published Mar-06-2024
KONE Service Mechanic Jessica Lawler with city lights in the background.

Breaking stereotypes one elevator at a time

Service Mechanic Jessica Lawler took a leap and moved across the country to Kansas City, the United States, to build a new life and career at KONE.

“I spent most of my childhood in a garage with my brothers and my dad, working on motorcycles and remodeling cars. After high school I joined a diesel mechanics school, and one day a friend of my dad’s told me I should come and work on elevators with him.

My first job was in hydraulic elevator modernization seven years ago. I remember one gig especially well. Quite early on in my career, I was working on three elevators with an experienced mechanic. After the first two, he told me to run the last one like I was the lead mechanic. I did, and we finished the job four days early. He had faith in me, and that was the moment I realized I can do this.

I joined KONE a year and a half ago and moved to Kansas City, four hours away from my family. It was a big step out of my comfort zone, but 100 percent worth it – I feel like I found myself.

I now work on traction elevators, which function a bit differently compared to hydraulic elevators. I’m not afraid to admit to my colleagues if I don’t know something. They are always willing to help, and I want to learn everything I can.

To my knowledge, I am the only female elevator mechanic in Kansas City. I love working with guys, but sometimes I feel like I have to prove myself because of my gender. I’ve met quite a few female colleagues at the Tradeswomen Build Nations Convention, and we always encourage each other.

Local KONE management attended the most recent convention and held a meeting with us. We discussed hardships we might have faced, as well as all the good things – and our leaders offered to help in any way possible as they want to see us happy.

This is the most rewarding job for me, and I don’t know if I could trade it for anything. I love my job so much!”

KONE Finance Director Xiamin Xu with blossoming trees in the background.

“You are more capable than you think”

Opportunities for continuous personal growth have made Finance Director Xiamin Xu stay with KONE China for twenty-three years. She has witnessed again and again that women can accomplish so much more than they might think.

“In China, the societal pressure to succeed is high. Technology is developing fast, and everyone is rushing around to keep up with the change.

I started working at KONE fresh from university in 2001. For the first 15 years of my career, I was fully dedicated to my job, but I forgot about myself. As I've gotten older, I have understood the importance of work-life balance better.

Having a compassionate mindset towards myself has helped me grow professionally and made me feel more capable, especially in the situations where I have made mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes – we are all human after all.

Staying with one company for this long is not common in China, but KONE has offered me varied roles where I've been able to grow. I haven't felt the need to seek opportunities elsewhere. The culture at KONE is friendly, respectful, and inclusive – it doesn't matter where you come from, and I’ve never felt unequal as a woman.

As Finance Director, I naturally deal with numbers – but also with people. I have a team of 30 people, mostly female. I support their collaboration and personal development. When given a chance, I tell my younger female colleagues that they can do so much more than they think they are capable of. Being able to help them be more confident makes me happy.

If I could have a conversation with the young Xiamin who was just starting her career twenty-three years ago, I would tell her to relax, plan her time well, and have fun.”

KONE Service Technician Tran Le Nhu Binh holding a blossoming branch of a cherry tree.

Fearlessly forward

Tran Le Nhu Binh joined the KONE Apprentice Program and became the first female service technician at KONE Vietnam. Collegial support and successful maintenance tasks have built her self-confidence.

“I joined the KONE Apprentice Program last year after I graduated from college with a major in mechatronics. After six months of studying at the KONE Academy and training onsite, I qualified as a Service Technician. I now work in the maintenance service support team in the city of Ho Chi Minh.

I was initially worried about making mistakes. One time early on in my career we had to urgently replace spare parts in an elevator. Normally, a complicated job like this would have taken two experienced technicians, so I was a little hesitant. Thanks to the help and guidance from my colleague, we successfully accomplished the task. Overall, the encouragement and support I have received from more experienced colleagues have helped me gradually build my confidence.

Some people are still wary of a female technician. When I meet someone with doubts, I patiently explain to them that although women might not often be seen doing maintenance work on elevators, I am trained and confident in my ability to do a good job.

I have a relative who has inspired me hugely. She moved abroad for work, and regardless of the challenges she experienced in the beginning in a foreign culture, she eventually became a leader of the company. She taught me to fear nothing, to do what I want, and not be intimidated by other people's prejudices.

I took her advice when I made the decision to apply for the KONE apprentice program. Thanks to her, I also understand the importance of studying and learning as much as possible. It keeps me prepared and ready for new opportunities.”

KONE Agile Coach Nadia Lizarraga in an elevator with a factory view in the background.

The future of engineering is female

Living in Mexico, Agile Coach Nadia Lizarraga loves to see the next generation of female engineers to excel at their work. As the co-lead for the local Ethnic Diversity employee resource group at KONE Americas, she believes that celebrating diversity is enriching for everyone.

“I studied engineering and electronics, and I was the only woman in my class. When I joined KONE in 2007, it was a new company to the region, and I had heard it was an interesting place to work at. Over the past 17 years, I have had various exciting roles within KONE Technology and Innovation. In my current position as an Agile Coach, I most enjoy connecting with people and being able to make a positive impact on their lives.

As a global company, we are diverse. In recent years, we have had a strong push towards understanding and celebrating our diversity more. It is crucial to learn from each other and see how different perspectives enrich everything we do. We are all pieces of this puzzle that makes KONE.

The team leading SPARK, our global employee resource group for women and their allies, have done a wonderful job creating a supportive community that provides coaching and mentoring. I am also proud of the effort KONE is making to have more women in leadership roles. I see women around me doing great work every day – they deserve these opportunities.

For me personally, having kids was the most challenging time in my career. I struggled to balance motherhood while working to the level that I had set for myself. Luckily, my team was willing to go the extra mile to allow me the flexibility I needed.

The new generation of women engineers entering the company are a lot more confident than I was. They have a clear idea of what they want, which is great. I can only hope to inspire them in their pursuits. I would love to see more women in engineering; it is such an exciting career path.”

KONE Operations Manager Cecilia Molinder.

The power of trust and intuition

Sweden-based Operations Manager Cecilia Molinder believes in building trust within her team and listening to her gut when making decisions.

“I was inspired to join KONE in 2020 when I realized that the company was already doing what others were only talking about doing. The innovation side at KONE is amazing.

I have a Master’s degree in Engineering and Medical Biotechnology, and originally I thought I wanted to go into research. For me, the turning point was during my studies when I volunteered at the student union. We had fun creating a community together. At that moment I understood that developing organizations with other people was even more rewarding for me than doing research by myself.

In my current role as a Service Operations Manager, I have thirteen managers reporting to me. All these men are highly experienced, and initially I feared they would not accept me as their manager. Luckily, I was welcomed with open arms. My own managers have also been incredibly supportive, guiding me in finding my purpose.

Credibility and trust are my key leadership values. It’s important for me to understand both the business and the people so that I can make informed decisions. In 2023, we had a record-breaking year, and my team achieved significant growth. None of us believed that we would succeed at such a level but I decided that we should aim for it anyway.

My mindset stems from my background in sports, particularly downhill skiing. Competing in skiing has undoubtedly made me very results-driven. To get better, you have to dare to do things you have never done before.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to trust my gut and stay true to my values. When I do that, I feel safe in my skin. That’s when I am able to navigate forward no matter what.”