Metallurgy Research Centre

  • 8 de marzo de 2023

International Women's Day: Interview with two women from AZTERLAN

Naiara Bravo (left) and Erika Garitaonandia (right), a testing technician and a researcher at AZTERLAN Metallurgy Research Centre, share their personal experiences and thoughts regarding women's presence and role in metal-mechanical industry and technology.

Naiara eta Erika

Can you briefly explain your field of work and your professional career?

Erika: I'm a biochemist. After graduating, I took the AZTERLAN Foundry course and, later, I started working at AZTERLAN in 2003. In my beginnings I held different jobs, first, as a receptionist and preparing test reports. Later, when the Environment and Sustainability research line was formed in 2006, I joined it as a researcher.
Currently, I coordinate and collaborate in projects related to circular economy, waste recovery (molding sand, steel slag...), introduction of environmental improvements, reduction of emissions, etc. Our projects are usually developed in collaboration with companies and institutions, both at a local or state level or at a European level.

Naiara: I am a mechanical technical engineer. When I graduated I became part of the AZTERLAN physical and mechanical characteristics testing team, where I belong since 2008. During this time we have experienced many changes and we have grown in volume. Today we are almost twice as many people as when I joined.
My job consists of executing advanced characterization tests, mainly, I specialize in fatigue and fracture mechanics testing.

What is your perception of the participation of women in the technological and industrial field?

Naiara: I think it's still a mostly male environment. In my particular case, I am the only woman in my department and most of my interlocutors (clients, inspectors...) are usually men.
I believe that in technical and engineering careers not linked to the health, the weight of women has traditionally been lower and that is reflected in the work environment. When I was studying my degree, in my class we were 9 girls in front of more than 60 boys. I want to think that this trend is being reversed and that this will be reflected in the companies, but I think that we are still far from 50-50%.

Erika: In my case, I interact a lot with foundries and technical personnel linked to the foundry. I think the foundry is still a very masculine environment. Generationally, it is also a sector in which the average age is quite high, especially in positions of responsibility. In these environments, the presence of women, although, logically, there are exceptions, is usually represented above all in administrative or assistance profiles. Coincidentally, two weeks ago I had a meeting in a Polish foundry, and of the 15 people who were at the meeting I was the only woman.
In our case, in my area within AZTERLAN, we are a majority of women. Aspects such as the environment and sustainability are areas that, a priori, may seem friendlier and less rude... the truth is that an important part of our work is also carried out "in" the foundry.

What do you think this is due to?

Erika: I think that women continue to have a greater weight and responsibility in different social and family spheres. Especially, in relation to the care of children and the elderly. It is still more common for women to be the ones who choose to dedicate more time to this area (usually this also happens because it is the member with the lowest salary who takes the option of reducing their working our for this purpose) and this can suppose a significant cost for the evolution of the professional career. The number of women accessing command or responsibility positions is significantly lower, in all areas.

Naiara: I agree. I also think that we still have some social pressure to continue like this or to fit into certain stereotypes or models of behavior. In my case, as a working mother who has not chosen (or has not been forced to) reduce my working hours to care for my daughters, I have also felt judged by my decision. I believe that balancing family and working life is precisely that, a family issue. And each family has to assess how it is managed in the best way.

What do you think are the keys to turn this scenario around?

Naiara: I think that the main thing to get the current situation to evolve is to educate in equality. Transmiting to our daughters and sons that they can do and be whatever they want and that there are no social, work or family roles that are exclusive to one gender or another. I think that this is inculcated from the way of playing, the way of behaving between the different sexes, from the use of language... that is, from all relational areas.

Erika: I agree that education is a fundamental area. Transferring our daughters that they are valid, that they can and there is no space or field of action they cannot access is essential.
For example, an initiative that I really liked, in which my daughters' school is participating by means of the University of Deusto, is aimed at promoting scientific and technical vocations among girls. The campaign is called "Inspire STEAM" and it focuses on three important points: firstly, the need to have references and visualize professional opportunities, secondly, the need to free oneself from limiting and conditioning stereotypes and, finally, the importance of the involvement of families and our ability to influence the decision-making of our daughters and sons when it comes to opting for science and technology studies and professions.