KONE IT Ladies Grassroots Initiative

When people come together, it creates history


KONE IT Ladies Grassroots Initiative

In the room, there are three ladies who diffuse joy and pride. You sense shared history and warmth without yet knowing the story that unites them. We had the honor to get to know the founding story of the IT ladies’ grassroots employee resource group from the viewpoint of Lulu Zhang, Sofiya Utge, and Yu Fu.

KONE IT Ladies Grassroots Initiative


Heya! My name is Lulu and I am the Head of Digital Enabling Platforms at KONE Enterprise IT - Enterprise Platforms & Services . I am originally from China but I have lived in Finland for 20 years. In this context, we could say that time flies, as I just blew out my seventh candle at KONE IT. I am a working mom of two boys, navigating the world of IT with passion and devotion. Oh, and I am a sports lover, hitting the gym on a regular basis!


Hi, I am Sofiya and I am an Automation Lead here at KONE’s Intelligent Process Automation team. I am from India and have been living in Finland for 15 years now, out of which the past two years at KONE. In my role, I focus on AI capabilities within our finance and HR - I just love the technologies! In my free time I am an active member of different communities such as Women in AI, Finland and India Women in Finland, where I drive the mentorship programs. I am also an avid classical Indian dancer.


Hey! I am Yu, I am a Solution Design Owner at KONE Corporate Functions Solutions Business IT. I work on finance solutions for the Record to Report process and work a lot with stakeholders such as business partners and finance teams. I am from China and have been living in Finland for 17 years now. Although I have a long history with KONE, I am celebrating my 10th month as an internal employee. I made the move from external to internal for the great possibilities KONE offers for career progression and for working moms. The flexibility to organize my own work is well appreciated in my life situation. In my own time, I enjoy shopping and watching movies.

KONE IT Ladies Grassroots Initiative

Great things happen when people come together

When stars align and people come together at the right place and time, great things can happen, and in this case that meant the creation of an employee resource group. The IT Ladies' community was born from a couple of colleagues meeting in a corridor of our KONE office in Espoo, Finland. They got talking about how seldom they meet other women working in IT at KONE and wondered why that was. It would be so nice to have a group they could reach out to for advice if needed. This conversation led to the creation of our IT Ladies' Employee Resource Group lives on our internal Teams channel, and through face-to-face events. We rolled up our sleeves and got started, aiming to lower the distance between us IT ladies and increase collaboration.

KONE IT Ladies Grassroots Initiative

Our purpose is our guiding principle:

“We want to connect, we want to share and we want to grow together”

KONE IT Ladies Grassroots Initiative

So we made the conscious decision not to appoint any owner or hierarchy, but to keep this community driven by all its members. We chose to ignore status, role or title and instead keep the group an equal, open and welcoming space for all.


KONE IT Ladies Grassroots Initiative

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Rewind to January 2020, four members of the IT Ladies group attended the European Women in Tech conference in Amsterdam. They later shared their learnings from the conference at our first event, which was themed around Women in tech, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The event comprised units from Security to Solutions and it officially kicked off the community. After that, we hosted several morning breakfast events on topics such as success stories and learnings from books we had read. Interest was growing and so did the group, which had reached 30 members by the time the pandemic hit.

We didn’t organize any events during the pandemic but we kept the group alive and engaged by sharing and discussing remotely. In December 2020, we decided to organize our first remote event called “Magnificent mistakes”, where women shared their failures and vulnerability. It was very emotional and inspiring to hear stories from different people including the management, and the feedback was great. Hearing management sharing their mistakes lowered the threshold for others to do the same. It motivated us to continue because when there is a will, everything is possible, Sofiya says.

At the beginning of 2021, Lulu stepped in to drive the activities forward. She explains: I wanted to focus on creating a psychological safe environment from the get-go. So far 2021 has been our most active year. We organized panel discussions on personal branding and advanced Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on a KONE level. We broadened our network and made allies within KTI leadership. One of the highlights was the inspirational talk by Tricia Weener, our CMO. She shared the story of her career growth, from horizontal to vertical and international experience, as well as why in the end she chose Finland.

In 2022, we were going through structural changes at KONE, and the activities were put on hold for H1. We were however able to make the most of the second half of the year. We organized a sauna and cocktail evening with no specific topic but spent time getting to know each other better. In addition to increasing employee satisfaction and engagement, we organized an empowering session on wellbeing. The focus was on mental and work wellbeing. It is a privilege to witness the impact the community has on its members, some of whom are even now hosting their own podcasts.

As I am now stepping in to drive the activities in 2023, our vision is to have a more lively community, get more internal stakeholders and increase the participation rate, Sofiya says. We aim to expand the community and our allies within KONE, such as with the ITEC Women’s Council in KONE India, as well as increasing the leadership management topics.


KONE IT Ladies Grassroots Initiative

More than just a community

For us, the community is much more than just meetups, it has a real impact on us and our employee experience.

As Sofiya puts it: “behind every successful woman, is a tribe of other successful women who have her back!”. The community plays an important role in onboarding and creating a sense of belonging at KONE. For example, I started my journey here in November 2020, during the peak of the pandemic, and we were unable to meet face-to-face. The IT Ladies community offered me an opportunity to introduce myself and interact with people within and outside of my core team. We have a sub-group called Newcomers where every new member is encouraged to introduce themselves. It is a great way to get to know people, roles, and departments, but it also fortifies the feeling of support. We share the good and the bad and to me, it has strengthened my sense of belonging to the community, as well as KONE overall.

“The IT Ladies' sessions have helped me find role models within the company to look up to and seek advice from,” Yu says. Before starting as an internal employee, I worked for 4 years externally for KONE. During that time, I got to know about the existence of the IT Ladies and it played an important role in my decision-making process - in addition to the interesting career opportunity and what I could learn, the community was something I knew I wanted to join right away. Once I became a member, it helped me to find my current career path. For quite some time, I was working without knowing where I am headed. Joining the IT Ladies’ sessions helped me find role models that turned out to help me find career aspirations to become a Software Architect. I now have a clear vision of what I want!

Lulu adds: “It may seem trivial and small, but the community’s impact is big for women working in IT at KONE”. We started with a small group of 10 women and now we are close to 80 members and our activities don’t go unnoticed. In fact, our actions snowballed into the creation of the local DEI community, where some of us actively participate. As Sofiya and Yu point out, the IT Ladies’ community affects the overall employee experience such as the onboarding and induction period, increasing the sense of belonging and helping with career progression. We are happy with our impacts and seeking a more sustainable strategy for the future is on our roadmap.


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