Being brave isn’t always easy

This International Women’s Day, Namo Marouf, Sustainability Lead/Business Developer – Urban Design, Ramboll Sweden, shares her thoughts on the freedom of being who you are.

Portrait of Namo Marouf, taken in 2023 for her role in Ramboll’s Thought Leadership programme.

“Today, I’m thinking about those who have helped me become who I am today”

For Namo Marouf, International Women’s Day is about remembering what got us to where we are today – and about remembering that there is still a long road ahead. As a civil engineer and urban planner, Namo works from our Stockholm office as sustainability lead for the Urban Design and Smart Mobility divisions in Ramboll Sweden.
8 March is International Women’s Day. What does the day mean to you?
Namo: Sometimes I feel like International Women’s Day has been made into some kind of corporate Valentine’s Day, and I end up wondering why the focus is not on highlighting the issues we have in front of us. For me, it is about remembering the struggles women have been through to get us where we are today – women who were not celebrated for their hard work – and realising that there is so much more to do.
If I am to think about it from a personal perspective, it is also very much about intersectionality. Being a woman alone is not my biggest challenge – it never has been. There are layers to it. My first obstacle has always been being a person of colour in a country where white is the norm. I became more aware of the challenges around being a woman when I started university. But then it was not just about me. I started to see how women around me were being treated – and I am a person who speaks up when I see something unjust, and I believe it is important to stand up for each other when you see others who maybe do not have the same tools . And those tools, well I overcame a lot of obstacles as part of my upbringing. I identify with other minorities and their struggles, and this helps me to tackle microaggressions and more obvious situations where, for example, sexism and racism is present. Being brave is not easy – knowing when to speak up – but it is necessary when we want to create environments where people are allowed to be themselves, where people feel included.
You mentioned that being a woman has never been your biggest challenge. How do you experience intersectionality?
Namo: Intersectionality is when individuals may experience multiple forms of discrimination simultaneously. But I have made these multiple experiences my superpower. I feel very strongly connected to my Kurdish background, and to being brought up in a working-class area where there was a mix of cultures. I also identify strongly with being Swedish. But this took me a while since society saw me as being different. There is a whole generation that has the same experience as me, and I feel like we have created a broader notion of what being ‘Swedish’ means, and I am proud of that. It has been challenging, but I also believe it is a blessing. It taught me so much, like how to be a chameleon, how to act in a conflict, how to read other people, and how to instantly read a room. And in my division in Ramboll, I feel as if my background is considered to be one of my skills, just like my education is.

“And in my division in Ramboll, I feel as if my background is considered to be one of my skills, just like my education is.”

Namo Marouf
Sustainability Lead/Business Developer – Urban Design

We are focusing on inclusion this year. What does inclusion at work look like to you?
Namo: Inclusion is something we can all do. It basically means seeing the people around you and making them feel that they are seen. Sometimes, we are all too caught up in our own agendas and we are not conscious of those around us. This is why understanding intersectionality is important. If we cannot understand, we have to want to understand by being curious and by doing our homework – there is so much research done on this! Especially when it comes to leaders, who need to be advocates for inclusion to work. We need diversity in our leadership teams.
Being in a position where you have power or privilege means that you need to set the standard – and managers and team leads at Ramboll have the responsibility to lead by example. I believe words are more powerful than people think, and we all – especially our leaders – need to be conscious of the language we use and the way we make others feel. My division manager really understands how to be inclusive and has created a culture in our department where we celebrate our differences. Like I said, I grew up in a working-class neighbourhood that was very ethnically diverse – almost every kid had a different nationality. My division manager understands this to be one of my strengths because I know how to talk with clients that work in those areas through my urban planning skills but also my experiences. Our skillset is not confined to what is documented on paper.
Are you thinking about any specific women today, on International Women’s Day?
Namo: I am thinking about my mom and sister, who both support me so much and have helped me become who I am today. I get inspired by people like them who are brave enough to be themselves because that takes a lot of courage. My mom showed me how to be brave, to stop fearing failure, and to avoid overthinking things. She also taught me to take my space in a humble but brave way. My sister has given me the power to take the right choices and create my own path in life. And I am thinking about the women who fought so hard for us to progress to where we are today – and hoping that we are brave enough to continue this work for the generations to come.
Article author: Debbie Spillane.

Want to know more?

  • Beata Pyszniak

    Global EDI Manager

    +49 1522 2582202

  • Tina Gaardsøe Albrechtsen

    Director, Global Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

    +45 51 61 61 97