Macarena Lopez Insausti
Project Manager – Advanced Facilities,
Electronics, Jacobs Engineering
Director of Project Services – Life Sciences Ireland, UK and Nordics Operations, Jacobs Engineering
Carla Lopez Smitter
Process Engineer – Advanced Facilities,
Electronics, Jacobs Engineering
Three women from Jacobs Engineering share their experiences of working in the STEM field and how family influences helped inspire them to join the sector.
Q: How did you get into STEM?
Macarena: I guess you could say my route into STEM was quite conventional. I have been interested since school as engineering and architecture were both considered normal subjects to study. My eldest brother was also an engineer and I come from northern Spain, which has a big background in engineering.
Carla: My uncle was a chemical engineer and would often give me his books to read. The family connection helped me to become interested. However, when I started a PhD, my friends said I was aiming too high, but I felt it was an opportunity to keep a connection to my university. Girls these days often do not know how to fit in and I feel this is an opportunity to guide them.
Niamh: I am a quantity surveyor and was interested from a young age because my uncle was one and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. But it was different in Ireland, I was at an all-girls school and engineering was not an option so it was a real struggle. If it hadn’t been for my family, I’d never have got in.
Q: Are there any common myths you have experienced in the STEM profession?
Niamh: I think a common one I’ve found is that women cannot do it and that we are treated differently. I have only met one man who treated me differently because I was female. Otherwise, all the men I’ve met have treated me with respect and as an equal. I am now also a part-time lecturer which I find a good way of passing on knowledge to the next generation.
Macarena: For me it was that people think that women have to be at home to look after the family. COVID-19 has shown we can have a work/life balance and do both. Many companies now prioritise giving equal opportunities to everyone and encourage women to have good ideas. For me it is the fact that women were normally the ones sacrificing their professional careers to look after their families. Nowadays many companies provide the option of flexible working, allowing you to have a better work/life balance without sacrificing your career. COVID-19 has shown us that the flexible working model works.
I think people from different backgrounds enrich the workplace in terms of experiences and perspectives.
Q: Do you have a role model in your career and how have they inspired you?
Niamh: It was my grandmother who instilled in me that I could do anything I wanted. She could command a room, whether filled with men or women, she made sure her opinion was heard. I never thought twice about being a female in a male dominated field, because of her I grew up believing it didn’t matter what gender you were, as long as you knew what you were talking about.
Carla: I was inspired by my mother. She was a hard-working woman and always try to keep the right balance between her personal life and job responsibilities. Yet, despite all the challenges, she always has time to share with her family and encourage me to pursue a professional career.
Macarena: My parents. Both of them worked their entire life but always ensured that there was the right work/life balance at home for my brothers and myself. They taught us that work is important but spending quality time with your family and friends is important too.
Q: How important is a diverse and inclusive workplace?
Carla: I think people from different backgrounds enrich the workplace in terms of experiences and perspectives, bringing new ideas and solutions to the project’s challenges. An inclusive workplace creates a positive environment where everybody feels welcome, improving their mental health and performance in their professional activities.