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Women in Wind Q&A: Allison Luz Olivares (Mexico) 

 

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

Allison lives in Mexico City, and has been working at Vestas since 2015. She began her career as a trainee in PMO construction for Latin America, and then moved to PMO Coordinator Latin America. Since 2018, she has been working as a project engineer on Construction Latin America North. She has worked for one of the biggest projects in Vestas Mexico (Reynosa III 123 WTGs) and Vicente Guerrero (33 WTGs). She is currently beginning the project of Guzmancito in Domenican Republic (16 WTGs).

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

I studied engineering in sustainable development, where I learned more about solar, wind and geothermal energy. I liked that a lot because a professor taught me everything very well. Also, at the time of studying (2015) my country Mexico was working on a new energy law including renewable energy as a priority, with an achievement goal of 2030.

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

I worked as project engineer on the construction phase for wind farm projects. I worked in a project on Reynosa (one of the most dangerous cities on Mexico) in a project of 123 WTGs and Cd Victoria in a project of 33 WTGs. I learned the process of civil and electrical works, erection and commissioning of the wind turbines.

Internally one of the areas that we need to work on is the inclusion of women on the field; there is usually only one or two women, and only in administrative work. The sector needs to open space for women engineers and technicians for work directly on the turbines.

Externally, the sector needs to work a lot on the inclusion of the neighboring communities on the process of construction, explaining the impact of the project, the benefits for them. We also need to explain the benefits for the country and educate children about the sector.    

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

One of the biggest challenges I first had was the cultural differences between people from all over the world. As Vestas is an international company, I am in contact with people with different cultural perspectives and learned to take into account their different ideas and how to communicate my ideas, so we can work with a positive atmosphere and solve problems in a better way.

Working as a project engineer I have to communicate some activities to my partner’s team, discuss some themes with subcontractors and customers and organize activities. I noticed that some men are taken aback when I command these activities or when we discuss issues, because I am a woman. So I learned to be strong and win my place in the project, showing them that the options or the activities I present are the better options for the team. When they get a sense of my knowledge, they start trusting me. 

Working as project engineer I have to communicate some activities to my partner's team, discuss some themes with subcontractors and customers and organize activities. I noticed that some men are taken aback when I command these activities or when we discuss issues, because I am a woman. So I learned to be strong and win my place in the project, showing them that the options or the activities I present are the better options for the team. When they get a sense of my knowledge, they start trusting me.

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

Respect of women on-site, as well as respect of their ideas, is a big issue. In my country it is common that men can bother women with inappropriate comments or discussion about their appearance, and this behaviour tends to happen more when there are few women on-site. Also, some men are not as considerate of women’s input on technical topics because they think of us in administrative roles. These are the issues that I have faced in different moments of my work.

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?

I want to learn about how women are growing the sector around the world, and what they do when faced with gender discrimination challenges in their professional activities. I want to learn some aptitude and knowledge in order to support women in my country and to achieve my professional goals. I want to do these things so that one day I can be a professional leader and help other women to achieve their professional goals, and teach both women and men better working practices, more positive working atmospheres and stronger teamwork.

Let us know your reactions or thoughts on Allison’s interview at womeninwind@gwec.net!

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