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Maria: »I don’t apply for management positions anymore«

Nine persons tells how difficult it is getting into the Swedish finance industry if you have a foreign background, and that advancing in your career is just as hard. Here is Maria’s story. Her name has been changed to protect her identity.

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In 2021 Finansliv wrote about Maria. Back then she worked at one of the major banks and had high ambitions to take on a higher position. But despite praises from her managers, the opportunity never came. Instead, management positions went to significantly less qualified, sometimes even to candidates who completely lacked the right professional experience.

– I accept that there may be those who are better than me, but it is very difficult to accept that I don’t even get a chance. When the opportunities have showed up, I am invisible, no matter how well I perform.

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Today, Maria works at another major Swedish bank. But the situation is the same, she says. Despite strong feedback from her managers, the way up is closed.

All the fruitless efforts has taken its toll in recent years, in the form of both a severe and prolonged depression. Maria says she has now let go of her hopes of reaching a top position.

– I’m not looking for management positions anymore. I have been depressed for years because of the discrimination, but I don’t want to think about it, so I have accepted that this is the way it is. That’s why I don’t work as hard as I used to. I am no longer a high achiever, because there is no point, she says.

How does that make you feel?

– I think you will never fully accept it, so deep down it feels sad. But I also don’t want to work myself to death until 10pm every night and end up getting nothing in return.

Maria is critical of both her former and current employer, mainly the previous one.

– The bank offers fantastically exciting tasks, but the culture is terrible. They could certainly show you great numbers that show they are a modern bank who places great emphasis on diversity, but the fact is as an immigrant woman you don’t stand a chance.

At the same time, Maria has no plans to change industries.

– I love the job. Maybe not the environment, but the tasks. They are so challenging, so I don’t think I would want to work with anything else.

In order to tackle the problem, the industry needs to get much better at looking at merits, Maria says.

– The level of knowledge in the industry is quite low. You’d rather give the job to a less strong candidate than a high performer because that person won’t be a competitor in the future. It’s something I’ve experienced myself. I have been rejected for roles I have a lot of knowledge about for candidates that’ve been chosen purely on connections. I think one must ask what the cost is to the society of shutting out high achievers, and who ultimately pays the price.

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