#IWD2024, Celebrating some of the brilliant women we have working at Donite Plastics: Lorena Sánchez

As part of this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations, we spoke to some female members of our team about their career to date, and how they are breaking the stereotypes of women in manufacturing and engineering!

First up is our Mechanical Engineer, Lorena Sánchez.

When did you join Donite Plastics and what is your current role?

I first joined the company in Summer 2022 as an engineer intern thanks to the Erasmus+ plan. After six months, once the internship period was over, I was offered a position in the company as a design engineer.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I was born in Spain and did not leave my city until after the lockdown, which happened right when I was about to present the final thesis for my Mechanical Engineer bachelor’s degree. I decided then that I wanted to study in a more specific field, and that I could do it away from my family. I didn’t go too far though, but I liked the course so much that a year and a half and a master’s degree in product design later – I took the opportunity the university gave me to work abroad, and here we are!

What made you decide to go into a role that is seen as ‘traditionally male’?

I believe that the way my parents brought me up helped a lot with the idea I had about science and female roles. They showed me how to be curious and use logic, and to question how much use did science have. They never made anything of the fact that I was interested in those things while being a female, so it was only normal for me. I ended up being good with subjects related to STEM and the idea of working around those appealed to me, and it was less risky than entering into the field of arts, so I just went for it.

What, if any, unique challenges have you faced in your career as a woman? How did you overcome them?

Even if society is overcoming these prejudices, you can find this way of thinking more often in older individuals, unfortunately those are holders of the majority of the power and influence and they can make a lot of noise if they want to.

I would say that I have personally encountered a few of my teachers and my superiors that had some ideas I did not share, and I found the circumstances more challenging with the first group. The disagreements usually took the form of uncomfortable comments, although I have always tried to stand my ground in those cases, trying to make my point if it wasn’t being heard, but with respect.

However, I have to say that I have also encountered the opposite situation of people going easier on me because I am a woman. It might sound like less of a challenge but in fact I think it is more difficult to react to something that goes in your favour even if it is unfair, how can you complain to somebody doing you a favour? How to dare to turn good intentions into something negative?

Which mentors or role models have positively impacted you in your career, and what’s one lesson that they taught you? 

As I said previously, my parents taught me a lot and nurtured my curiosity in the topic. I also had some pretty good science teachers throughout my career.

Are there any women in the industry that have inspired you in your career?

There are many women in science whose story reached me, starting with Marie Curie, Edith Clarke, Jane Goodall… but for some reason ancient physics and astronomy have always had a big impact on me, more than recent discoveries. That is why Hypatia of Alexandria is a name I keep remembering. Probably the fact that she lived so long ago and still left her mark on science struck me in a very romantic and hopeful way.

Why do you feel it’s important that more women take up a career in engineering in the future?

I would like to encourage women to take a career in engineering, as much as I would encourage them to go for any other career. I feel like women should be everywhere, because we represent half of the population but we experience specific challenges all the time, and we perceive the world on a different manner. Don’t get me wrong, I am talking in general terms here, each person is different; but while society keeps having roles and there are still differences in how our brains work, both narratives will be needed on the table. And you know what they say, if you want something well done, do it yourself.

What advice would you give to young women and girls hoping to pursue a career in STEM?

I can only talk about the engineering industry as it is the area I have real experience in, but I would say that any opinion or idea is important, innovation doesn’t happen if you don’t break any moulds.

Starting by creating a good environment is a good idea, surround yourself with people that already value you and are open to try new paths. Make yourself heard by always speaking if you have something to add, do not be afraid to be wrong at the beginning; you are learning, and ask for respect if you have to. If you follow my advice, however, you will deal with the opposite often; prepare to really listen to other peoples’ point of view and to be vulnerable enough to admit you were in the wrong, it is the best way to truly learn.

The theme of this year’s IWD is ‘Inspire Inclusion’. How, in your current role, does the team at Donite ensure that they Inspire Inclusion?

I can think of one of the most recent incorporations to the company. She has recently become a mother and to balance home care and work she has started a part-time role in the office, and sometimes gets involved in the engineering process too. Apart from that I don’t think the company is trying to necessarily inspire inclusion, but it is practicing it. I would say the company is definitely not afraid to give women, young people and people in different situations or with different backgrounds the opportunity to be part of the team.

What do you feel is the importance of Inspiring Inclusion in the workplace?

I believe that inspiring inclusion is crucial to make people feel included or welcome in the industry, more than inspiring more teams to be open to the idea. Conveying the message that they can find their place in a company will encourage them to see it as a real option to pursue, rather than a “what if”.