To mark this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, ERTICO is launching the campaign #womenonthemove2019 to celebrate women and champion their successes and achievements in mobility and innovation. The campaign will focus on women working in the mobility sector and the career challenges they face in this predominantly male industry. But it will also bring attention to the challenges that all women face, such as in their daily commute to work. Throughout the year, we will feature a series of interviews with women who stand out for their performance in mobility. These amazing women will share with us what gender balance means to them and their experiences throughout the course of their careers. Our belief is that their stories will spur on younger women aspiring to pursue a career in this incredibly exciting sector.
In this first interview of the series, we sit down with Irina Patrascu-Grant, ERTICO’s Communication and Partnership Development Director. Her keen interest in the automotive industry has taken her to the European Commission, the FIA and ultimately led her to ERTICO ITS-Europe.
Irina has been working for ERTICO ITS Europe, based in Brussels at the heart of the EU, for nearly two years now and is very motivated about her role and the industry. “Mobility is central to human existence and we are at the point where due to technological developments, mobility and the solutions that drive it, we can really push forward in the way we consider our mobility options. Being part of shaping the mobility of the future and thus contribute to improving our quality of life is a big motivation for me and a privilege.”
Irina understands that there are challenges of working in this kind of industry, and in particular for a woman: “I began my career in the transport industry in my 20s. For a young woman, working in a predominantly male industry means that besides working hard to prove your abilities you also need to make yourself visible. Women are not always taught how to take credit for the work they do or make their voice heard. I’ve learned this along the way, but there are still times when I have to remind myself that I should speak up and take credit for the things I achieve.”
Irina is particularly interested in promoting the role of women around her, her colleagues and also providing opportunities for women in the sector. “We need to stand up and talk about the immensely important role women have in our society, in the workplace, home as mothers and as friends. It’s a subject close to my heart. ”
Gender equality for Irina has a clearly defined meaning. “Gender equality is about equal rights and opportunities in the workplace as well as being treated with the same respect as men are and being heard and respected for what you say. Your gender should not count in getting opportunities. ”
A common stereotype about women is that they compete with each other. According to Irina there is more to gain if women work together and support each other. “My motto when it comes to women in the workplace is ‘Sisterhood is powerful’. I’m a firm believer that it is our duty as women to instil the idea of collaboration in the workplace and with those who are new in the workforce. This is the type of environment I encourage amongst the ERTICO team and every day I feel proud to see it in action.”
Unusually, in ERTICO’s team women are in the majority and even more unusually, the Executive Management is gender balanced. “For me ERTICO is an example of gender equality achievement. Our CEO, Jacob Bangsgaard, is very committed to gender equality. We have an excellent Director of Innovation and Deployment, Dr Johanna Tzanidaki, who works closely with a team of 25 experts all specialised in smart mobility.” The numbers are certainly encouraging, so is there room for further improvement? “We are very fortunate in ERTICO to have a good representation of women in our team, although for the future I am hoping we will be able to recruit more women engineers. Traditionally engineering is not an area that is favoured by women, but this is changing and we are gradually seeing more and more women graduates with engineering degrees. I hope this will be reflected in our team here at ERTICO sooner rather than later.”
Women empowerment for Irina should translate in equal rights and opportunities, but this does not mean men and women are exactly the same. “We are different and this diversity is important. Women bring new attributes to the table, for example empathy which is considered an important attribute to being a good manager or flexibility, creativity and resistance to stress. The work environment as it is today is catering for men simply because it was built for them as they were traditionally the ones working. Women are coming in and slowly changing that for the better. It has been shown that companies with a diverse gender workforce outperform those which are less diverse.”
Huge steps forward have been made, but more still needs to be done. “There is still a long way to go but I think there are many women out there who are pushing boundaries and changing perceptions. For me it’s also about making it easier for the next generation of women to fulfil their full potential and if they wish to, be part of the Board, the Management team or become the CEO.”
There is the will to bring about equality, but as with any change, it takes time. “It is important that as women we keep ensuring gender equality remains a topic for discussion, that there is awareness about what we do, that our rights are respected and that we continue to talk about our successes. This is what the campaign that ERTICO is launching is all about and I am proud to be part of it.”