Because the Norwegian battery industry has the magical combination for career success: gender equality, work-life balance and cultural diversity. “Follow your dreams, and Norway can help you achieve them,” says Surabhi Gupta, Research Scientist at Morrow Batteries.
Many women like Gupta are making their mark in the Norwegian battery industry, where the gender distribution rivals any STEM industry in the world. Morrow Batteries, for example, employs about 40 per cent women and 60 per cent men. Yet for women scientists, Norway is not often on their global job-hunting radar. It should be.
Norway’s battery industry is still maturing. The country has three battery cell manufacturers – all of them new, innovative and green. It also has a complete battery value chain. This provides a unique opportunity for battery scientists globally, regardless of gender.
“Those already working in Norway love it because they get to work closer with the technology. They can be more ‘hands-on’ and their voices are heard more easily compared to larger companies,” says Nora Rosenberg Grobæk, Head of Batteries at Invest in Norway, the official investment promotion agency of Norway.
“Norway was not a country I had considered before, but then I learned about Beyonder’s pioneering work with sawdust in battery cell production. This piqued my curiosity. Using abundant, renewable wood is a brilliant idea. I believe I can have an impact here,” she says.
“I started my career in oil and gas, but I wanted to switch to a green industry,” says Gul. “After considering other job offers in Europe, I chose to work at FREYR in Norway. I know that here my contributions will make a difference in the world. It isn’t only about my own career.”
Gul also appreciates the environment around the industry, noting that universities, companies and the government all work together to make battery technology more sustainable and, ultimately, circular – from production to recycling and reuse.
“Women have a high level of autonomy in our industry,” confirms Rosenberg Grobæk.
While still not perfect, gender equality is a value so ingrained in Norwegian society that it almost seems to be taken for granted.
“Honestly, I haven’t seen any gender inequality in Norway. People respect each other regardless of gender, and I feel this connects me to their culture,” says Gupta, who is originally from India. She has a PhD in materials science from Japan and holds five national and international patents.
Adriana Navarro-Suárez of Colombia agrees. “In Norway, equality between the genders is a given. This is apparent when conversing and collaborating,” she says. Navarro-Suárez, R&D Manager at Morrow Batteries, knows what she is talking about. Among her accomplishments, she has served in leadership roles to promote women in science globally, leading to her nomination for a Women That Build award.
On the flipside, what Norway is NOT well known for is its cultural diversity. Historically, weather and geography have kept the country relatively isolated, and thus homogenous by global standards. But the battery industry is busting the myth of homogeneity by recruiting the best talent from around the world.
“Morrow Batteries is multicultural by nature. Scientists are diverse as a group, and the battery field is a global industry,” says Navarro-Suárez. “I was worried coming to a small town that I wouldn’t feel comfortable. But 25 nationalities are represented at Morrow, and everyone speaks English. We have created a friendly environment where everyone’s opinions are appreciated.”
Gul says the same about her workplace. “FREYR is like a cultural soup, so to speak, with three locations in Oslo, Trondheim and Mo i Rana. I like the exposure to many different cultures, from China to France to India. I have Norwegian friends and international friends. It’s great being part of an international landscape where everyone is working towards one goal,” she shares.
Known for its pro-labour laws, Norway ranks among the top three countries in the world for work-life balance. Expats in Norway are highly satisfied with their work-life balance (72 per cent) and their working hours (77 per cent).
As Pires says, “In Norway, we are not a slave to our work. No company wants tired, stressed out employees.”
This is not the reason why Gupta chose to work in Norway, but she has quickly come to appreciate the benefits. “Norway has an outstanding and friendly ecosystem to sustain both your personal and your professional life,” she says.
She is particularly impressed with Norway’s generous parental leave policy, which she may take advantage of someday. She and her husband, an R&D manager, moved to Norway together when they both received job offers from Morrow. Like Beyonder and FREYR, Morrow gave them expert assistance with relocating and settling in when they first moved.
Navarro-Suárez emphasises the peace and quiet of small town Norway. “Your way of life stops being so stressful,” she says.
Along the same lines, Gul highlights Norway’s outdoor life: “There is beautiful nature to explore. Lots of skiing and hiking and other outdoor activities.”
For Pires, Norway has grown near and dear to her heart, despite the cool, northern climate. “People in Norway are open minded. Communication is easy, the country is beautiful, and the nature is amazing. It’s magical here,” she concludes.