March 9, 2021
Geologist Katja Sahala heads a 30-strong mine-engineering and geology team at the Kittilä mine. She has six subordinates who report directly to her.
“Even though I don’t have a lot of experience of female managers or directors, I believe leadership style has very little to do with gender. I think it’s more about personality,” says Katja, who continues, “This may sound like a stereotype too, but age, culture, and upbringing play a bigger role than gender.”
Katja has extensive experience in the mining industry. She studied material science and rock engineering for three years, and then she got interested in geology through a rock-mechanics project and transferred to the University of Helsinki to study that subject. Before coming to work at the Kittilä mine, Katja worked at the Pyhäsalmi mine and gained experience with rock mechanics, mining geology, and mining engineering. In addition, she has been involved in the planning of drilling and charging.
Katja reports that she has not been subject to belittling or condescending treatment at work. In contrast, she does recall a job interview at which she was asked about her plans for the future, as a young woman. “I doubt male applicants get asked whether they are planning to start a family in the near future,” says Katja.
When she started working at the Kittilä mine, in spring 2019, moving to Kittilä was rendered impossible by her spouse’s work. This didn’t pose any problems, though, because Katja was offered the opportunity to work remotely. “Working remotely made getting to know people more difficult at first, but I’ve gotten to know my colleagues now,” she says.
According to Katja, the main tasks of a supervisor include asking questions, listening, and facilitating the team’s work as well as possible. “I have so much respect for my team. These people are smart and creative, and they have so much potential,” explains Katja.
Matters related to well-being too are important in management. Katja says that differences in managerial skills related to well-being at work have more to do with personality than gender. “This may have something to do with the person’s age also. I think that younger generation may be more prepared for ‘feelings management,’” she says.
Katja believes that issues related to gender will be solved over time. “I have a lot of respect for all the people who have highlighted matters to do with sexual harassment as part of the #metoo campaign, and I want to show support for them. I feel optimistic about the future and hope that future generations won’t have to deal with these issues,” says Katja.