Women in Wind Q&A: Natalia Zacur (Argentina)

 

The Women in Wind Global Leadership Program sat down with Natalia Zacur, one of this year’s Participants, to chat about her pathway to renewable energy and issues facing women in the wind sector. 

Natalia grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she is currently based. She is an electrical engineer and graduated from Universidad de Buenos Aires. She is currently pursuing a master degree in Renewable Energy and specializing in Wind Energy at Universidad Tecnológica Nacional (UTN). She works as an electrical designer for high voltage substations at TECMAS. She has also served as a project manager for medium-voltage projects at ABB and project leader for electrical safety certification at IRAM. She previously worked in the market regulation area at AGUEERA, evaluating energy contracts and teaching courses.

How did you first become interested in renewable energy and joining the clean energy transition?

Clean energy transition has always been a matter of my concern, even as a child. I was especially worried about the future of endangered species. Then, as a grown woman (and as a graduated engineer), I realized that I could contribute in several ways to this cause. Therefore, I started specializing in wind energy. That was not only a turn in my academic career, but also an easier way to “spread the word”.

Tell us about your expertise and passion in the sector. For you, what is the next “space to watch” in renewable energy?

I am an Electrical Engineer and I am also pursuing a Master´s Degree in Renewable Energy, specializing in Wind Energy. I work as an electrical designer for HV substations and I have also performed several pre-feasibility studies regarding electrical power system analysis for wind farms. 

I believe the next “space to watch” is hydrogen technology: It is an environmentally friendly energy vector which, in the future, will allow big-scale storage. I look forward for this kind of technology to continue its development.

We still have job offers which say that only men can apply and interviewers never miss the chance to ask if you have children or planning to have children... Another issue is that in your work place, your opinion is dismissed only because you are a woman. Of course, not everybody is to blame, but it is a common situation: When asked on a technical matter, a man's voice would be considered to be more important than yours.

What sort of challenges did you encounter in entering the sector?  Can you tell us about an achievement wherein you overcame such a challenge?

I found several challenges. However, there are two that stand out. The first one is job opportunities. In Argentina we still have job offers which say that only men can apply (men exclusively) and interviewers never miss the chance to ask if you have children or if you are planning to have children. 

The second issue takes place when you are in your work place and your opinion is dismissed only because you are a woman. Of course, not everybody is to blame, but it is a common situation: When asked on a technical matter, a man’s voice would be considered to be more important than yours.  

If you had to pick one key issue facing women in the wind power sector, what would it be and why? 

If I had to choose a key factor, it would be maternity leave. That is a matter that cuts across work in general, not only in the sector.  In my country, women have three-month paid maternity leave, while men have only two working days. That difference leads to many inequalities. In the first place, employers choose men over women because they have a shorter leave. Secondly, it promotes role differences according to gender; that is “men’s priority is work, women’s priority are children.” Finally, it does not help men to create a closer bond with their kids. Some legislation encourages “family leave,” where both parents (regardless of gender or family composition) have the same amount of time to be with their children. I strongly believe this is the path we should pursue.  

Finally, what do you hope to achieve as a participant of Women in Wind Global Leadership Program? How will you contribute to the next generation of female leaders in the sector?

My country has several challenges to overcome: an infrastructure with a radial form which benefits its capital and its surroundings and leaves other regions behind, as well as energy market policies which are associated to ever-changing regulations.

The Women in Wind Global Leadership Program is an excellent chance to learn how other countries were able to manage and solve these issues and to discuss the best alternatives for Argentina. I would like to specialize in planning, combining my technical skills (related to electrical designing and power systems) to regulation and management.

In addition, I would like to seize this opportunity to investigate gender policies round the world and perform comparative studies. I think this helps to exercise our mind, to see that everyday there are new and better ways to deal with gender inequalities.

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