Breaking Barriers: Happy Women in Engineering Day!

June 23, 2024

International Women in Engineering Day is an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the incredible work that women engineers deliver daily. It also serves as a reminder to encourage women and young girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Engineering still remains a male-dominated field worldwide, including in Albania. However, thanks to agents of change, women engineers are working on the most challenging and complex projects, the landscape of engineering is gradually changing and we are witnessing an increase in the use of technology, innovation, and sustainability in the industry and more women entering the field.

At UNOPS in Albania, we are proud to have several women engineers who, by leading by example, defy gender stereotypes. One of them is Health and Safety Engineer Elena Lopez Sanz, who has been a technical architect (similar to a building engineer) for almost 28 years. Elena has worked on dozens of challenging projects in various countries, including Spain, Madagascar, Niger, Central African Republic, DRC, Cambodia, France, and has undertaken short missions in Haiti, Togo, and Mali.

We asked Elena to share her thoughts on what inspired her, the challenges she has encountered, and the advice she would give to a young woman considering a career in engineering.

Inspiration and Career Path

“My experiences in the field of construction have led me to take a step back in my activity. In this continuity, I try to cooperate with organizations whose impact can be an ideal platform to promote a change in the methodologies, techniques, and materials used in recent decades that have such a disastrous effect on people and the environment. As I’m specialized in eco-construction, I have the desire to take part in the ‘construction’ of a more human society and less aggressive towards our environment.”

Elena’s passion for engineering started early. “Since I was a child, I used to look at the apartment sales plans in the newspaper. I liked to think about different ways of organizing the spaces and I imagined the lives of the people who would live in them.”

Challenges and Stereotypes

When asked if she encountered any gender stereotypes on her career path, Elena responded, “Every day and in every country! However, I have never had any problems with workers on the site, apart from the normal ones in terms of work organization. Disagreements have generally been with fellow engineers at the same level or higher positions.”

Advice for Aspiring Women Engineers

Elena’s advice for young women considering a career in engineering is empowering. “If your professional motivation is this, go ahead! I believe that professional difficulties, such as gender-related issues, exist in all kinds of jobs. However, there are many occasions for personal development if you know how to find and appreciate them. For sure there’s no shortage of challenges and no time to be bored. Nowadays, with climate change knocking at our door, the challenges are increasing exponentially and many diverse opportunities lie ahead of us.”

Join us in celebrating Elena and all the incredible women in engineering who are shaping a better future for all.