Tuesday 09-05-2017 - 13:24
We caught up with Susan Hyttinen, student at the University of Aberdeen as part of our Inspire Her Future series. Susan shares her story about staying resilient and not being afraid to put yourself forward for challenging roles.
Your name, current position and college or university.
My name is Susan Hyttinen, and I am a 4th year Politics and International Relations student at the University of Aberdeen. I currently hold two leading positions, being the President of the Aberdeen University Women’s Football Club, and the Chair of Societies Union at the Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA).
Your journey. How did you get into your current position?
With football, I had been a part of the Club since my first year at university. The Club quickly became the biggest and most important part of my life in Aberdeen, so I always wanted to give back and be as involved as I possibly could be, and I was lucky enough to be elected as the President for 2016-17.
With Societies Union, my road to the position of Chair was a much more haphazard one. I joined the Societies Union Committee a year before in 2015, and back then the role for the head of the committee was that of Societies President, a full-time, paid, sabbatical officer. Long story short, we went through some structural changes in AUSA which ultimately lead to the full-time role being changed into a voluntary one. As I was the only one continuing from the previous committee I was encouraged to put myself up for the brand-new post to try and make the transition as smooth as possible.
What barriers have you faced?
As my role as Societies Chair was a completely new one I faced many challenges this year. Overall it has been an extremely demanding year especially because of the changes happening in AUSA, due to which I have had to configure the new role and restructure and train the committee itself. The role also entailed a level of responsibility I had not held before, being essentially responsible for the representation of the 150+ societies, including a myriad of tasks ranging from various meetings to mediation, grant allocation, event organizing, and whatever happened to arise. As we were in the midst of reforming AUSA itself, we also had to do a lot of work on creating policies for societies and the committee. Overall juggling both major roles – the role of Societies Chair being a particularly time-consuming one – alongside dissertation, Master’s applications and final year studies has meant that I have consistently faced both smaller and bigger challenges truly testing my resilience.
What advice would you give to women aspiring to be in your position?
Take a chance and put yourself up for even the more demanding roles. While the year has been challenging, I have learned immensely and also grown a lot more confident in my own abilities. The best way to really develop yourself is to go for positions and projects that truly challenge you. There’s also no shame in going for something and not succeeding; I was only elected President of the Football Club the second time I put myself up for the post. You just have to keep trying and not get too disheartened when facing obstacles, there are plenty of different roles to go for. I personally used to be very bad at dealing with failure but things not going according to plan has actually lead to some pretty great things and added a lot to me as a person, and my abilities to eventually take on the kind of roles I currently hold.
What do you think can be done to get more women into sport?
I think the so-called barriers of entry need to be lowered; women should not feel like they need to be a master at a sport right away. In terms of our football club here, we have made it one of our main goals to cater for all levels, and be open to anyone who wants to try out or even just join primarily for getting to know new people and play some football on the side. So many girls can feel hesitant about starting football, perhaps at least in part because it is traditionally seen more as a ‘boys’ sport’. However, surprisingly many girls seem to be more interested in joining our club after we tell them no experience is required. There is so much to be gained by playing sports, much in addition to getting better at the sport in question.
What impact do you think having more women in sport would have?
I think sports give women a lot more confidence. For me, football has taught me and given me so much throughout my over 13 years of playing. I can honestly say my life would not have been the same without it. Football was also the first thing that engendered any kind of concrete ideas and opinions on feminism. Football is a huge sport for girls in Finland where I’m from, yet women are consistently given less appreciation and worse facilities than men. I also got comments from boys telling me women’s football is rubbish and that it’s not a real sport. From a young age, I found myself being very disappointed and angry at this taking place in such an equal society as Finland. This is prevalent in Scotland, as well as globally, exemplified for example by the fact that football, when played by women is referred to as such – women’s football, whereas men’s football is just ‘football’. I think getting involved with sports is a way of empowerment for women that can teach many valuable lessons and raise awareness beyond sports as well.
Find out more about the stories of inspiring women students in Scotland here.