Kristine Kvam, technical director in a Norwegian company, about what it’s like to lead a team of men and about the role of virtual reality in eliminating violence against women and girls
Kristine Kvam is a young woman of only 31 years old, but she can already be proud of success in her career. Kristine is the Technical Director in the Norwegian company “Fynd Reality”, a VR and AR company, i.e. virtual reality. The company’s activities are based on numerous tools and techniques for creating training simulations and operational support software.
Date: Monday, February 22, 2021
The collaboration between UN Women and Kristine started in 2018, when she was involved in a programme dedicated to eliminating violence against women and girls. “I have developed a pilot project in order to test the use of virtual reality in training police officers to efficiently intervene in cases of violence against women”. By staging a role play situation, the participants at the activity for testing virtual reality tools have described positive and negative behaviours of police officers in different situations of violence against women, like when encountering situations of violence against women on the street while patrolling, the way they talk with the aggressors, the work of the police with the centres for the protection of victims of violence, issuing of emergency restraining orders, and other situations.
Based on the positive and negative attitudes and behaviours, the prototype of a virtual reality application was created, which looked like a 3D game.
According to Kristine Kvam, following this programme for the identification and testing of potential situations, as well as target groups, a script for a virtual reality tool was developed in order to prevent gender-based violence among young people, regarding the clear definition of the differences between sexual harassment and flirt, including the education of empathy in schools.
Kristine admits that a job in the IT field was a true challenge for her but she also says that she was lucky with her chosen field of activity: “I like the IT field very much and, generally, I was very lucky to work beside people who appreciate ethics and a healthy work environment most of all. There is a perception that IT is more male oriented, but with a profile in virtual reality the opportunities are unmeasurable in comparison with the traditional IT fields, for example”, says Kristine Kvam.
“I believe that there aren’t any reasons why women shouldn’t choose a job in IT. Anyone who has access to a computer can learn the basic elements online and there are a multitude of free learning resources. It is also one of the fields where the employer would prioritize experience over education, and a good portfolio can often be more important than a diploma”, says Kvam.
The reason why she chose to study game development was also her passion for creation and art. Kristine says that she belongs to the last generation of young people who grew up without computers and smartphones, and now it is more important than ever to understand the way everything around us works and develops all the time.
However, when she first started working for the Norwegian company “Fynd Reality”, she faced a true test of resilience. “I was the only woman in the company. The activity was focused on the security sector and represented developing VR trainings for managing crisis situations. Half of my colleagues had experience in the military field, having previously served in the Norwegian army. At the beginning, I think the most difficult aspect wasn’t the fact that I was a woman, it was the fact that none of my colleagues could fully understand the technology that was being developed.
I believe that the most important element was to make them trust my skills and to listen to my advice. I was very lucky that I had a boss who understood the importance of the new concepts and technologies”, says Kvam.
Of course, confirms Kristine, in a male dominated workplace the humour and the tone of the conversations are different than in company managed by women.
“There are advantages and disadvantages of being the only woman at the workplace, but, in the end, the attitude of the leader and of the team are the decisive factors regarding the functionality of a company. I have always faced all challenges with professionalism, and I made sure that there were people with healthy attitudes around me. And this is actually valid for all aspects of life.”
Starting with 2015, UN Women Moldova has introduced in its activity innovative methods, recognized at international levels. One of them is the approach called “positive deviance”, which is based on the observation that in each community there are persons or groups who managed to find solutions to the most common problems, which, combined with Virtual Reality, could contribute to the acceleration in achieving tangible results in the field.