I remember when I got yet another email that contained a declination from an Icelandic institution regarding a collaboration with KVENN, the society for female entrepreneurs in Iceland where I’m forewoman, that I had initiated. Declinations that female entrepreneurs experience in the world of innovation is a tale as old as time, though many things have changed for the better in the past couple of years – at least in rhetoric.
Role models are necessary for the coming generations. What has driven me in my visionary work is to make intellectuals, especially women, more visible in connection with inventions and entrepreneurship. The phrase says “No one knows his life until it’s lived” and those are true words. I never thought that I, a graduated geologist, nurse, entrepreneur advisor and teacher, would be in advocacy for intellectuals in Iceland for 25 years.
My experience working with intellectuals began in 1996 when I saw an advertised class with the country’s association of intellectuals and Hugvirkir about the practice of ideas. I then had the idea to use fish skin that is tossed at the fish processing plants of the country and use it as a dog snack. There I came in connection with ingenious intellectuals and felt at home. Following that I implemented the production of my idea, which I still sell to the USA. Better yet, that same year I was asked to join the board of the Intellectuals association. Furthermore I founded alongside group of nordic women the network QUIN, kvinnliga uppfinnare i Norden, in 1998. Since then we have put up shows and conferences in Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Iceland more than once. The goal is always to make women’s ideas available and put them on the market. We made a website in 1998 where women had the chance to put in their products and projects but that didn’t work out because women had such bad internet at that time.
In the 25 years that have passed, I have worked as the foreman of the intellectual society SFH from 1998 to 2007 and founded KVENN, society of women in entrepreneurship in 2007 and have been foreman there ever since. I have worked with the Elementary school’s Entrepreneur competition from 1999 till 2005 but the intellectual society was one of the founders of that competition. I have written many articles, worked with foreign sister companies of intellectuals and women since 1996 and am today the president of The Europa league GWIIN (Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network) and in the executive committee GWIIN and IFIA (International Federation of Inventors Associations). I have nominated over 60 icelandic women and few men to international recognition for their entrepreneurship. I have made over 300 television episodes where I took interviews with entrepreneurs from 2008 till 2018, with the goal to bring entrepreneurs and their products into the limelight. I got good reviews for the episodes, which were shown on ÍNN and know that it helped many to receive grants as a result. I have taken people in counseling and peer education free of charge. I have worked with political parties to influence change and improvement in the entrepreneur environment.
But, in my inbox are also over 50 declinations from icelandic institutions, societies, funds, individuals and companies for cooperation, job applications and grants.
At some point I was starting to doubt myself and therefore sought out specialist education in innovation counseling in Sweden from 2011 till 2012. As a result I found out that I had many things to offer and had a lot of experience within the entrepreneur process and a wide oversight over the entrepreneur environment. I got the highest marks and praises from my teachers at my graduation.
I readily admit that the dismissal from the Icelandic entrepreneur system has taken its toll. I have sought out psychological help, but for a time I seriously considered taking my own life, because being ignored is deadly serious. But I have decided to return the shame that follows this exclusion back. Ignorance, circumvention and exclusion from the system gives you the feeling that there is something wrong with you but really it is those that are in positions of power that should feel ashamed. I therefore return the shame to them!
To you who stand with me and follow my footsteps I say, don’t give up. Women have plenty of reasons to be in the innovation world even though we are made to believe otherwise. Apply for those grants, have conversations, ask for cooperation and work together to make women visible as inventors and entrepreneurs. That’s how we make progress.
Education, age, sex, origin or residence does not matter when it comes to ideas, it is a unified effort, the right supporting environment and that to give people the chance to perform their ideas, that are the key points.
Finally I want to quote Ólína Þorvarðsdóttir’s book Spegill fyrir skuggabaldur:
“It is no cliche that we live in an anti-merit society. The fact and reason behind it are the choices that politicians that are in power make that society is like this. (…) All the while there are university students and plenty of other specialists, afraid to take part in the societal discussion because they are convinced that it will hurt their opportunity to make a living” (Þórður Snær Júlíusson blaðamaður) (page 231.)
I also want to use this opportunity to thank those political parties that have fought for funding for SFH and KVENN, and other funds and companies that fund women’s entrepreneurship. I thank Ingvi Hrafn Jónsson for giving me an opportunity to have the TV show Frumkvöðlar on ÍNN. I thank my husband for standing by me spiritually and financially, without him I would not have been able to do half of the things I have achieved. I thank friends and fellow members in SFH and KVENN for their support and motivation, especially Valimar Össurarson. Thanks to Þórunn Bjarney Garðarsdóttir for hiring me as a nurse at Múlabær in 2016, because working there has reaffirmed my belief in life and living. Thank you colleagues and clients of Múlabær, without you I would not be here!