Comment: Challenging the status quo

3 min read

To celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we asked chemical engineer Evrydiki Fekka, head of lithium batteries product management at international technology and energy storage companySunlight Group, about her career journey. She discusses her own inspiration to become an engineer and addresses some of the challenges that women in the industry face.

We all know that women are underrepresented in STEM, but for me it was a natural choice to become an engineer. My father owned a factory producing metallic accessories for clothing. It was an end-to-end production line: from sourcing the raw materials, to designing and creating the moulds, to manufacturing the end products – zips and buttons. From the age of about six I used to go there and watch how people manufactured things on the production line. Ever since then I have been fascinated by how we actually make products and how they work.

As an engineer, anything is possible. If you can think of it, you can make it happen and that is what inspires me on a day-to-day basis. One of my pledges during my very first steps as an engineer and scientist was to work towards a greener future and help societies meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

We are never going to solve this puzzle of sustainable development without first finding a viable, environmentally friendly solution for energy supply and storage. We need to work out how to provide clean energy without putting an extra burden on our planet – a burden that the environment can no longer bear.

What challenges do women face in the industry?

The energy sector nowadays is particularly demanding. To become an engineer in this industry you need to put in long hours of studying and even longer ones once you join the workforce. There are no strengths or weaknesses between the genders when it comes to this. Women and men are equal and just as capable of putting in the time.

"I would tell women entering the energy sector now to never give up, be bold, speak up and lead the way, even if you are the only woman in the room"

But the energy sector has been traditionally dominated by men, especially in its more conventional aspects, such as fossil fuels power generation. The tough reality is that women have always had to work harder to gain their seat at the table and, once there, to prove their worth; while men, on the other hand, have enjoyed a head start.

However, with the introduction of renewable energy this is gradually changing. More and more successful women are entering the energy sector, and at Sunlight Group I am both thrilled and honoured to work with female peers and colleagues determined to create a greener future to tackle climate change.

What can women offer?

If you talk to women around the world, from older women in small villages, to younger women studying and working in big cities, they all have a story to share of how they plan to – first and foremost – change their own world.

All the women I have met in my life have a success story of their own to share, an inspiring tale to tell that helps all of us believe we can change things that do not work anymore. This is exactly what is needed in the energy sector: women who can challenge the status quo, women who believe they can do the impossible.

The energy sector needs unconventional solutions that will enable all countries to reach net zero and preserve natural resources. Women historically have been the ones who introduce unconventional solutions to solve big problems. The energy sector needs their out-of-the box thinking now more than ever.

Advice for future generations of women in science and engineering

I would tell women entering the energy sector now to never give up, be bold, speak up and lead the way, even if you are the only woman in the room, which is still quite common in the energy sector. We are undergoing a huge transition, not only towards greener technologies, but more importantly towards a different mindset, with gender balance being a definite part of the solution for a sustainable and greener future.

MORE ON INTERNATIONAL DAY OF WOMEN AND GIRLS IN SCIENCE HERE

And whenever in doubt, remember there will always be Rachel Carson in our hearts, who fought fiercely to stop the Silent Spring around the world, while in a male dominant environment. We, as women in the energy sector, must continue what she started back in the late 1950s with the same passion and diligence. It is what we owe to her generation, our own peers and future generations alike.