International Day of Women and Girls in Science on Feb, 11th 2024
Despite notable strides, a significant gender gap persists in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields, confirming the United Nations’ (UN) core objective: Gender Equality. This is one of the pivot points of global economic development, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and is actively promoted by the UN.
Constance, Technical Support Engineer at Laketricity, embodies how women can brilliantly impact cutting-edge fields. In this interview, we explore Constance’s challenges and celebrate her achievements, as a representative testimony of a reality that aims to be more inclusive and innovative, but still has a long way to go.
Discover Constance’s full testimony in this interview, carried out on the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
- Can you share a bit about your journey and how you became interested in science and technology?
After my science Baccalaureate, I took 2 years of intensive math and physics classes to prepare for the national competitive exam to get into French engineering schools. I got into Centrale Marseille, a top engineering school, where I studied general engineering. Then I joined a double degree program with KTH (The Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm on Renewable Energy Engineering. I wrote my thesis about snow mitigation systems for FPV within Laketricity.
After that, I joined a French developer as a back office new project manager, first for wind energy projects and then also for PV projects. This is where I discovered and got interested in GIS tools. I have now been back in Laketricity team for more than a year, managing GIS tool for all offices around the world and I am also leading the study on the effect of snow on floating PV system. I am fully satisfied with this mission, as I can touch both technical and market issues in my daily professional life.
- What inspired you to pursue a career in the renewable energy sector?
The renewable energy sector quickly became an obvious choice as it combines my personal desire to support sustainable development and my appetite for technical challenges! I also wanted to keep an international dimension in my work as part of my study abroad. I currently have a position with GIS tool management and snow study, an atypical mix of subjects that is 100% in line with my expectations.
Some observations, yet nothing to dampen motivation and inspiration
Can you tell us about a challenge you’ve faced as a woman in this industry and how you overcame it?
I would not call it a challenge, but rather an observation: the more technical the position, the fewer female profiles there are. I first noticed this during my studies in France when we were only 25% women. So, it makes sense to see the same trend in companies.
Even if the energy sector has historically been more of a male sector, in renewable energy we can feel the influence of sustainable development and companies tend to be more mixed and are close to parity. Especially when it comes to management positions, in Laketricity or in my previous company, I have always had women as managers. Unfortunately, parity has never been respected when I look at technical teams, as is the case in Laketricity, as I am the only woman in the technical team worldwide. I have always managed to find my place in these teams, but a part of me still have to fully convince myself that I belong here.
How do you stay inspired and passionate about your work?
What first attracted me to floating solar was the innovative aspect that creates synergies between activities. The emergence of such solutions allows us to expand the market and push back the limits thanks to technical solutions. This is why I am happy to be involved in the study of the interaction between floating solar and snow. We are looking for a solution to a practical challenge that has not yet been fully explored: we know where we want to go, but we don’t know exactly how.
This satisfies my need to be intellectually stimulated on a regular basis, to take on new challenges and to learn more about technical topics. The international dimension of my job means also that I meet people from all over the world and see projects and people in different ways. This diversity allows me to create links and synergies between different countries, enriching the way we work.
Do you think of a woman as a role model who has inspired you in your career choices?
First, I would say my mother. I know it is a bit of a cliché, but I have seen my mother, an engineer herself, manage her career with a full-time job and have a great family with three children. She always insisted that she wanted both professional success and a family. So, it was natural for me, as a woman, to be an engineer and be successful.
But then I do not have many examples of women who have succeeded in a scientific or technical field. During my studies, most of my professors or speakers were men. It brings the question of representativeness of woman in technical field, because when someone ask for inspiring people in technical, I am almost certain that the first name will be a man, which is a pity, and will not help to change the current statement.
- How do you see Laketricity’s projects making a positive impact on the world?
For me, the most important part of Laketricity’s vision is that we build projects that make sense and fit into their environment. Our projects are useful and relevant locally because they meet multiple needs, like clean electricity generation and water conservation. We do things with an awareness of our impact and, most importantly, in line with our personal values and sustainable development.
As a woman in a STEM field, do you have any advice for other women considering a career in science or technology?
Don’t hesitate to go for what you like and what makes you dream. Your voice deserves to be heard, and you don’t have to question its legitimacy. Create your own path, do what makes you seethe without question, and go for it!
Tempted to join the Laketricity adventure like Constance?
How can we challenge and break gender stereotypes in the workplace to encourage more women to pursue careers in STEM and cutting-edge fields?
I sincerely believe that we need to change some of the preconceived notions that are still too easily conveyed that « science is not for girls ». How often have I heard « girls can’t do math », which was never my case, but I think many have come to believe it. I have seen the effect of these beliefs through my experience in Sweden.
This country, whose credo is « Lagom är bäst », which can be translated as « The happy medium is the best », provided me with a wonderful example. In fact, in the master’s program, we were at parity, whereas in France, only 20-25% of the students were women. And the reason for this lack of female representation is linked to our career choices, which are strongly influenced by our environment, our culture, and the society we live in. I think that giving more visibility to female scientific profiles, as the association « Elles bougent » does is a first step to change mentalities, but it is not enough.
Future of Renewable Energies
Are there any emerging technologies or trends in renewable energy that you find particularly exciting?
The development of technologies through innovation will enable us to make great strides towards today’s energy transition and, more broadly, climate change goals. We use technology to find solutions to real problems. In the case of floating solar, I can cite offshore solutions, or even us with our numerous projects under extreme environmental conditions, with a lot of snow.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experiences or insights, especially on this International Day of Women and Girls in Science?
Nothing is impossible, as long as you give yourself the tools to succeed. It is like engineering: if you face a problem, sooner or later you will find a solution.
Auteur : Constance Dallery