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Mentoring contributes not only to individual growth but also to the overall strength of the industry.


For this month's interview, we're delighted to have Suzanna Holmqvist, Chief Marketing Officer, Svenska Bio. Suzanna was a mentor in the previous edition of the UNIC Women's Cinema Leadership programme.

Here she reflects on her career path and shares useful pieces of advice.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR DAILY HABITS THAT KEEP YOU INSPIRED AND MOTIVATED.

My daily habits - I wish I had some! I’m a woman with a total lack of daily habits and that is partly why I love my job in the cinema industry. The dynamic nature of my work keeps me on my toes, and every week brings new challenges and opportunities. Inspiration can easily be derived from the individuals I meet in my work, and I try to do breakfast regularly with a variety of colleagues from the industry and beyond. One-to-one breakfasts without agendas, just to touch base or exchange ideas. I find it really rewarding. But apart from that there are limitless possibilities to be inspired - it has more to do with being curious. And curiosity is a wonderful habit.

LOOKING BACK AT YOUR CAREER JOURNEY, WHAT ARE YOU THE PROUDEST OF?

When reflecting on my career, it's not about personal achievements but the collaborative efforts within the industry that bring me satisfaction. The recent unity among distributors, producers, and exhibitors is a significant milestone and it has grown in the last few years. The realisation that we are stronger together, working towards common goals, has been a source of pride. It's not just about the success of one cinema chain but about elevating the entire industry and promoting the unparalleled experience of watching movies on the big screen.

WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU ENCOUNTERED THROUGHOUT YOUR LEADERSHIP JOURNEY?

Being the daughter of the company's owner and CEO has its advantages and challenges. While it opened doors, I had to work twice as hard to earn respect based on my own capabilities. The challenge lies in dispelling any perceptions of nepotism and proving that I deserve my position. Striking the right balance between being a family member and a leader requires a delicate approach, ensuring that decisions are made on merit rather than familial ties.

HAVING A DEMANDING ROLE, HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR WORK AND PERSONAL LIFE?

Our family lives and breathes cinemas and we, for four generations now, feel a great passion to make our cinemas and the industry thrive. My work and personal life is therefore entwined so there is no balance to talk about. I’m a lucky one that gets to call my hobby my job.

FROM YOUR CAREER OF 14 YEARS IN CINEMA, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS HOLDING WOMEN BACK? WHY DO THEY REMAIN UNDERREPRESENTED IN SENIOR POSITIONS IN THE CINEMA INDUSTRY?

Addressing the underrepresentation of women in senior positions is a complex issue. One factor is the tendency to recruit individuals who resemble those already in leadership roles. When decision-making bodies and leadership teams lack gender diversity, there is a tendency to perpetuate the status quo. Without diverse perspectives at the top, it becomes challenging to address systemic barriers that may hinder the professional growth of women. Men, consciously or unconsciously, may be more inclined to select other men. Networking plays a crucial role in career advancement. Men, historically, have had more established networks, making it easier for them to navigate career opportunities. The UNIC Women’s Leadership Programme is playing an important part in filling that gap. Encouraging diversity in recruitment processes and actively seeking out talent beyond immediate circles are essential steps to overcome these challenges.
On a positive note, we are on a good roll in Sweden now. Both exhibition and distribution see many women in leading roles, a shift that has been more rapid in the last years. Perhaps it’s when women finally get a seat at the table that we can include more of us and the positive change into gender equality can finally happen.

WHAT ARE THE CURRENT CHALLENGES FOR COMPANIES WHEN IT COMES TO ENSURING AN INCLUSIVE CULTURE AND AN INCLUSIVE LEADERSHIP?

In our industry, a notable obstacle is maintaining a strong presence. Given the widespread distribution of cinemas resembling satellites across the expansive landscape of Sweden, regularly visiting each venue poses a logistical challenge. At a managerial level, staying connected with the individuals interfacing with our customers daily becomes a complex task.

Nevertheless, creating an inclusive culture involves overcoming the challenge of presence. It's about ensuring that all voices are not only heard but valued. This requires a conscious effort to break down barriers and eliminate biases. It involves promoting diversity in all aspects, from hiring practices to decision-making processes. Embracing different perspectives fosters a culture of innovation and adaptability.

AS AN EXPERIENCED MENTOR, WHY DO YOU THINK MENTORING IS IMPORTANT? DID YOU HAVE MENTORS ALONG THE WAY?

From the onset of my journey in the company, my father has guided me. This mentorship was never formal; rather, he immersed me in the heart of operations, actively engaging me and fostering my development. It’s been invaluable to me. Someone once called him a key holder who unlocks the most intricate doors and that’s how I see him. To resolve difficult situations and tasks with a positive mindset is something I keep in mind.
Mentoring is a vital aspect of career development. It provides a roadmap for navigating the complexities of one's professional journey. It's a reciprocal relationship, as mentoring is not just about giving but also about learning and growing together. Mentoring contributes not only to individual growth but also to the overall strength of the industry.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

Be kind to yourself. There is no stress in finding your true call, the experiences you’ll have on the way will be rewarding and valuable. Be bold and learn to know a lot of people. Give back to others and ask for advice, ask for help. Let people know your thoughts and don’t overthink.


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