Now in its eighth year, International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) on 23 June focuses on the theme of Engineering Heroes, putting the spotlight on the amazing work that women engineers around the world are doing.
In this blog, we showcase five of our own Engineering Heroes by talking to Dr Youyou Wu, Singapore Lab Technical Manager; Anne Lene Haukanes Hopstad, Principal Engineer (Norway); Kenza Chraibi, Senior Consultant (France); Jo-Anne Tomkins, Principal Engineer (UK) and Ran Long, Senior Consultant, Energy Storage (Canada) about their work and experiences as women pursuing a career in the energy sector.
All five of our Heroes work across ambitious projects, which are great examples of the opportunities in engineering available to women in the energy industry.
For example, Jo-Anne is excited to be involved in a number of projects focusing on transitioning current natural gas transmission and distribution networks to a hydrogen blend, or a 100% hydrogen system. Many of these projects aim to be the first to demonstrate the safe delivery of hydrogen to consumers, paving the way for conversion.
Currently a project manager for several safety-related studies which will be used to inform the design of an offshore facility in Brazil, Kenza works with a team that includes colleagues from the UK, Brazil and France.
“It’s challenging in terms of planning, coordination, resources and the technical knowledge needed,” she says. “But I’m proud to be part of such a talented team of people and very grateful for their trust in me to do the job, when I know that most of them have more experience than I do.”
The most challenging project of Youyou’s career so far has been a full-scale pipe test for the Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline to investigate a failure. This involved performing bending tests on pressurised line pipes with diameters close to 1 m and a length of 15 m to assess the strain capacity of girth weld joints.
Ran is currently working on HERO – DNV’s Hybrid Energy Resource Optimiser, which is the commercial version of our dispatch optimization and merchant revenue valuation tool.
Anne has been responsible for leading the development of DNV’s standard for floating wind turbine structures since 2009. She’s confident that more women are choosing engineering as a career path than they were when she first started working on the standard over 10 years ago.
“My impression is that engineering has gone from being a somewhat odd and nerdy choice to being increasingly selected by women as a career,” she says.
“And I also see more female engineers focusing their careers on a technical specialist track, as well as the more traditional leadership and HSE-related paths.”
Breaking down barriers
Yet while it’s encouraging to see such progress, some factors continue to hold women back from pursuing a career in the industry.
IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) has found that women make up 32% of the global renewable energy and 22% of the oil and gas workforce – a figure far short of gender parity.
“I feel lucky being part of a company where I have always seen women in leading positions,” adds Kenza. “However, during my career I’ve worked in different countries with different companies and, in general, I have the feeling that a woman has always got to prove that she can handle ‘technical’ topics. We’re challenged to prove our skills.
And I can still remember a visit to a plant where there wasn’t a bathroom available for women in the workshop, but only in the administration area. That was very surprising, but I’ve since realised that it wasn’t an exception.”
Hope for the future
Despite such challenges, all five women are hopeful that efforts like the INWED campaign will help encourage an onward rise in the number of female engineers across the world.
“I think more women are moving into higher leadership positions,” says Jo-Anne. “I hope that is leading to more diverse thinking and a recognition that a team is best made up with a variety of skillsets and backgrounds.”
Ran is also hopeful that she’ll see a rise in the number of female engineers over the next 10 years.
“I would certainly expect to see more female engineers, leaders, and role models, which is the best way to encourage young women into the field and to change the current gender imbalance in the workforce,” she says.
“With the growing presence of women in engineering, I also hope that we can all comfortably be our authentic selves while achieving success and not be worried that we’ll be stereotyped.”
When asked about their own sources of inspiration, our Engineering Heroes not only named notable figures such as Marie Curie and Margaret Hamilton (whose code helped Apollo 11’s safe landing on the moon), but also the women who work hard on a day-to-day basis to make a contribution to the field and who support others around them.
At DNV we’re continuing to fight gender bias and do our part to help create a more inclusive space for women in the workplace and the energy industry. Part of that is celebrating and highlighting the achievements of our female #EngineeringHeroes like Youyou, Anne, Kenza, Ran and Jo-Anne – and we’d love to hear about yours.
To nominate or celebrate your own Engineering Heroes, use the official hashtags #INWED21 and #EngineeringHeroes and let everyone know who inspires you!