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Thought Leadership
29 March 2022 By Maaike Leene Global Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Manager
International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022 encourages us to imagine a world of gender equality, free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. We spoke to nine inspirational Fugro women about what drives them to succeed and what they do to ‘break the bias’.

The outbreak of war in Ukraine has sent shock waves around the world, yet despite these challenging and distressing times, the courage and strength of women around the world continues to shine through. It’s vital that we stand together and support each other and those affected, regardless of our cultural or political affiliations.

We asked nine Fugro women why they believe we should celebrate IWD and what their own experience as women in the workplace has been like. They also provide some top tips on breaking the bias.

Work hard

Samira Moloo, Regional Head of Finance MEI, believes IWD is important because it celebrates the contribution of women and encourages them to break through barriers. She said: “It also creates awareness to provide an equal platform that is free from gender discrimination. It shows the world that young girls can also achieve their dreams if they work at it.”

Be fearless

When asked how she would inspire her younger self about her future career, Mariluz B. Slezinski, Civil Engineer, answered: “Don’t be afraid of your own strength. Don't let anyone tell you what you can or should do with your career. Dream big and realise these dreams because you are more capable than you think.

“Face prejudice, especially prejudice against yourself, and know that you can do what you want, learn what you want. There is nothing a woman, or anyone, cannot do.”

Be authentic

Nancy Chan, Director – Offshore Engineering and Laboratory, has always worked in a male-dominated environment and while gender bias hasn’t been an issue for her, she believes that a lot more work still needs to be done in pursuit of gender equality at a global level.

“It’s a despairing situation to still have gender inequality in many parts of the world in this age,” she said. “That’s why it is important to continually raise awareness on gender bias across the globe.”

Nancy’s advice to her younger self centres on sincerity: “Do not be afraid to speak up. Be yourself. Be authentic.”

Speak up

Motherhood has made Talia Sherrard, Service Line Manager – Hydrography, reflect on the lessons she will teach her six-month-old daughter. “I want her to be a strong individual, living her life, knowing that she is supported in everything that she wants to achieve,” she said.

“I try to speak up more, to have a seat at the table and to be kind. It’s still a problem that women don’t have a seat at the table, so when you join a meeting with 20 men and you are the only woman, speak up. Open the dialogue, challenge the things you hear and express yourself. This goes for everyone, men and women.”

Grow into the professional you want to be

Wendy Lee, Business Development Manager, is clear about how she breaks the bias: “By listening and building mutual respect based on knowledge and open conversations.”

She added: “It helps to have role models within the organisation, such as a diverse management team. It should be possible to grow into the professional you want to be, no matter what background you have. It should be about skillset, personal development and trust.”

Wendy’s advice, push yourself, push your boundaries so that you are always learning, and you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve.

Fight the silence

Lilian Maier Swinka, Service Line Manager, sees IWD as an invitation to reflect on how our society treats women. This applies to family and social interaction, issues related to the labour market and the violence that women suffer in the world. IWD is a day to fight the silence surrounding inequality.
“Keep in mind that today, you can be anything you want, whether it be a businesswoman, a mother or an expert in the field. Don’t give up and follow your dreams. The journey towards gender equality is an ongoing one, and while we are constantly struggling to improve, we also have many reasons to celebrate,” she said.

Be inspired

Gioia Bezemer, Geotechnical Engineer, has noticed and felt bias in the workplace, particularly when working offshore. Albeit with good intentions, male colleagues think they must help women with heavy lifting or technical repairs which makes her feel that she’s not good enough and not part of the team.

Thankfully, Gioia has impressive role models. “I’m really inspired by my female colleagues who have been doing this job for more than 10 years,” she said. “They have technical knowledge and the skills to work offshore without feeling insecure and left out of the team. I look up to them.”

Speak your mind

Sarika Ranadive, Country HR Manager, believes in setting a fine example for her children. She said, “My partner and I don’t set boundaries or restrictions for the work that we do at home, showing to our kids that men and women are equal.

“When I look at my career, I believe that the most important thing is to speak your mind. I will carry myself with dignity wherever I go. If you respect yourself and have confidence in yourself, others will respect you too."

Contribute and be seen

Based on her own experience, May De La Cruz, UAE HSSE Country Manager, understands the importance of raising awareness and recognition of IWD and feels everyone should celebrate how far we’ve come whilst calling out inequality. She offers the following three top tips for women professionals. Firstly, realise that you can’t do it all on your own: “Surround yourself with people who inspire and have perspectives and experiences that are very different from your own.”

Secondly, always be your authentic self: “Avoid attempting to mould yourself into a shape that doesn’t fit you and your values.” And thirdly, speak up and share your values and principles: “Do not hesitate. Put it confidently on the table to discuss with others.

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