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Michelle Cañada

“It’s important to have role models who inspire”

Michelle Cañada is chairperson of Malvina and the contact for its main partner ÅF.

Michelle, can you tell us a little about what Malvina is?

Malvina is KTH’s (Royal Institute of Technology) female network and a student association in the KTH student union. We bring together female students/technologists across all sections and programmes and have over 1,200 members. The aim is to create a community and personal development opportunities for all our members. We work in two groups: business events and social events. The aim of our business events is to connect students and companies. We want our members to have contact with companies that have good values ​​in general, that advocate gender equality and that work actively to hire more women. The aim of our social events is to create a community and personal development opportunities for female engineering students. This could include everything from workshops and case-solving to dinners.


What is your role as chairperson?

My role is to lead the work. I’m ultimately responsible for us reaching our goals, focusing on objectives and making sure that everything is done right I’m also the contact for ÅF, which is our main partner, as well as other external contacts such as the student union. I chair all meetings and am like a living Wikipedia for the entire board. I answer questions, am always available and help the others when they need it.


How does this work in combination with your studies?

It’s a challenge! This week has been chaotic, but generally it works well. I’m used to having things to do besides studying, and I understand that it takes energy and good planning. But it also gives me back a lot of energy and I like what I do.


How is it that Malvina has ÅF as its main partner? What do you get out of the partnership?

ÅF has been a partner for many years now. The reason why we want ÅF as our main partner is that we agree with ÅF’s values, that everyone has equal value. ÅF has really shown that they care about getting more women into the technology industry and about other important issues like sustainability. ÅF shows that they care about the world and its people. The company’s breadth is also an important parameter for Malvina because we target all technology programmes. It’s good to have a partner that’s valuable to all members. 


What is the partnership between Malvina and ÅF like?

The board and ÅF meet and do team-building exercises, for example.  We’ve usually had two events per year where members are invited, and this year there will be an event now in May. ÅF also participates in the inspiration dinner we have for our members in their first year at KTH. ÅF is usually there to talk about what it means to be an engineer and what you can work with at ÅF. We also write a lot about ÅF in our newsletters so members can keep up to date with what’s happening there. 

What is your view on the future of women studying technical subjects or working in a technical field?

There’s a strong tailwind! I see it clearly in areas like the computer and IT industry where there have been many initiatives to attract women. All technology industries will need to attract more women. I feel that now more than ever it’s attractive for women to study engineering and technology. There are so many forces out there, beyond Malvina, that really want to motivate and ensure that it becomes the norm for women to work in technology professions. Things have already been set in motion, and it’s very exciting and fun to see the developments taking place now and to be a role model for other young women. Both as chairperson and through my blog I have the opportunity to inspire others.


What do you think companies should do to attract more women?

It’s important to have role models who inspire! And to change their image and show that it’s not just the “suits and ties” who can work their way up. You have to demonstrate that it’s possible for a woman. That’s what inspires me anyway. I think working openly to recruit women is also important. And make sure it’s not just a women’s issue. Men need to push this issue together with women, change the culture and work actively to do it.


What is a role model to you and who is your role model today?

Someone who has gone against the stream and dared to do something other than what was expected. Those who succeed at something that others see as impossible. My role models in technology are mainly the older students that I came in contact with when I started at KTH. They’re now out working and doing well, so they are definitely my role models. I think it’s important to have some personal role models, not just someone you read about in the newspapers.