Arnon - The behavioral scientist who became an engineer

The behavioural scientist who became an engineer

Nina Wali, 37, personifies the hope for Swedish industry. She changed her path in life, defied the norms and is now raising her voice for more women to follow suit. “The industry has a huge need for skills which do already exist. It’s really just about seeing the possibilities from both sides.”

At Arnon’s newly opened Swedish office in Österhaninge outside Stockholm, there is a vision to redo and build anew. Once B.O. Park’s old premises, it still largely represents the norm, where male dominance is – as in most Swedish automation industries – extremely noticeable, but the vision and strategy say otherwise. Nina Wali is an important part of that plan.

“I feel welcome and needed, and that’s a fantastic feeling. I also want to pave the way and show other women that this is a profession for everyone. It’s knowledge and interest that matters, not gender,” says Nina Wali.

For many years, the Swedish industrial sector has struggled with a problematic supply of skills. This issue is highlighted by the Subcontractor Barometer, which is signed by the employers’ organization Sinf and is presented four times a year. In the report for Q2 2021, 58 per cent of the member companies surveyed state that they have problems with the supply of skills. 37 per cent of the companies believe that they intend to increase the workforce during the current quarter – if you find the right workforce, that is. This is the equation that leads to the core question; how to attract the female workforce?

“It’s actually two questions. Partly how to reach out, and partly how to make them stay. To attract new target groups, companies need to be more modern in their outlook. Women generally have a great interest in technology and use it at least as much as men, but often in a different way, take advantage of it. It is also important that we dare to be open and talk about the importance of how different people can thrive in the workplace. To make women feel comfortable, leadership and tonality need to be adapted,” says Sanna Arnfjorden Wadström, CEO of Sinf.

‘Without women, the industry would come to a halt’

Nina Wali grew up in a family where technology and electronics permeated everyday life. Her father Meer ran his own lighting company and in 2001 received the award established by the International Business Association for Årets Nybyggare [Pioneer of the Year] in Sweden, but Nina still chose to study behavioral science and graduated from Umeå University.

Her earlier workplaces are markedly different from her current one; everything from the prison service to social services.

It was not until 2017 that she began Nackademin’s electrical engineering program in Stockholm. One of the reasons was her desire to work with both her hands and her head – and make a dream come true.

“The interest in technology has always been there, but I must admit that I had prejudices that this was an environment weighted towards men. Today I’m both proud and happy that I dared to defy these prejudices. They probably depended on sheer ignorance around the various aspects of the profession. Now I know better and, given the current lack of skills, I dare say that the industry will come to a halt and have significantly greater challenges if women are not included. I have an employer who prioritizes this issue very highly, which will have positive effects in the future. I’m sure of it.”

At Arnon AB, Nina is so far the only woman in production. She is also the first in her role, which includes the installation of switchgear that has been developed in consultation with partners and these are exported around the world. The parent company in Finland has come much further, and women in the production unit are a fairly common sight.

“In Sweden, there is still a way of thinking and justification about what boys and girls should be like, and who belongs in which camp, but I still want to believe that specifically in technology, the winds of change are blowing. Just as companies need to have a targeted approach in order to reach out to new potential workforce, so we women must also take that step and really dare to apply for jobs and training. A problem is rarely solved by just one party.”

Sanna Arnfjorden Wadström agrees:

“Absolutely. We are all dependent on technology, and during the pandemic, the technical possibilities have simply exploded. We may use technology in different ways, but it is still one of the cornerstones to enable our lives to work. It offers enormous opportunities in future.”

Figures from Statistics Sweden (SCB) underline how skewed the gender distribution is in several of the industry’s primary occupational groups.

  • Installation and service electricians – 2 per cent women
  • Machine installers and machine operators – 15 per cent women
  • Electronics engineer – 16 per cent women.
“I believe quite clearly that women can be a catalyst for strengthening Swedish industry. Sweden needs a well-functioning industry with strong work teams consisting of both men and women. That way, everyone’s a winner,” says Nina Wali.

Name Nina Wali

Age: 37

Job: Electrical installer and electrical engineer at Arnon AB in Österhaninge

Education: Bachelor of  Science in Behavioral Science at Umeå University, trained as an electrical engineer at Nackademin.

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