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Other innovations 18/02/2021

Science needs women!

On the occasion of The International Women's  Day on March 8, we are publishing a series of portraits dedicated to women working in Tech, science or research at ENGIE. 

It is on a daily basis that we must demonstrate that there is no difference between men and women.

We must not rely solely on technology to initiate and succeed this evolution

Han Huynh - CO2 as a Resource Lab Manager at Laborelec

Our second heroine of this serie is Ngoc Han Huynh Thi, CO2 as a Resource Lab Manager at Laborelec

Hello Han, tell us about your professional background

Han - I got to know Laborelec during my studies as a chemical civil engineer and it’s been  my employer since the end of my studies.
I joined the Water Chemistry team and was thus able to work on desalination topics, in addition to what Laborelec was doing at the time. I have carried out numerous operational expertises in on-site support, plant start-up and installation design around water chemistry topics. I also had the opportunity to work in Research, through the management of major European projects such as Matching, a project focused on reducing water consumption in the energy sector.
I was then involved in subjects relating to the capture and storage of CO2, applied to the Group's thermal assets. In this context, I was able to participate in various R&D projects, the Hitachi pilot project and the ROAD demonstrator project. Since 2018, I have taken over the coordination of the "CO2 as a resource Lab" within ENGIE Research.
I have taken on very different roles, such as expertise, research, management or project coordination, on a wide variety of subjects. I really appreciated this diversity, the ability that was given to me to work on a lot of different topics in my professional career for the past ten years.

It is therefore the energy sector that has chosen you!

Han - Yes. During my chemical engineering studies, we had many visiting professors from the industrial world. It was my meeting with one of them, who was then Head of the Sustainable Processes Department at Laborelec, that allowed me to discover the multi disciplinarity that exists around the production of electricity. I found my way there.

Do you think that in this sector being a woman is more of an asset or a handicap?

Han- Initially, being a woman is a certain handicap in the sense that I felt I had to demonstrate my abilities twice as much as a male colleague. I also look younger than my age and the question of my expertise has indeed been raised.
My role on site was to carry out audits and make recommendations to mainly male contacts on how to improve processes. The first few days, I had to prove my abilities. However, once this step was over, I observed that they really listened and that the actions I recommended were taken into consideration.
Regarding my project coordination work, this happened in a more diluted way. In the beginning I always had to demonstrate my competence, much more than a male equivalent should have. Once the employees trusted me, being a woman became almost an asset.

How do you see the future of Energy in the world of tomorrow?

Han - The two are linked. Whatever the sectors, the stakes are particularly important and complex - in terms of CO2 or environmental footprint in the broad sense, in terms of water ... They will require the implementation of technological, behavioral changes which are complex and interconnected.
I think we are moving towards an increasingly collaborative system if we are to meet these challenges. For me the distinctions between sectors, centers or expertise will fade. Everything will have to be interconnected to be successful.

For you, do women have a specific role to play in the race for carbon neutrality?

Han - I think so. We often think technology is at the heart of the system. But for me the behavioral aspect is also important in order to achieve carbon neutrality or to succeed in the major challenges of tomorrow. However, on a daily basis, women are showing greater leadership in behavior change.
For instance, in addition to our professional activities, with Hélène Grandjean we have launched Now Citizens Now Citizens, a start-up which aims to help citizens change their behaviors related to zero waste, carbon neutrality and sustainable development. We have observed that on a daily basis, women pay more attention and take more action in these areas. They also manage to mobilize those around them and integrate it into their dynamic, particularly on zero waste topics.
I think the stake in behavioral change is high. We must not rely solely on technology to initiate and succeed in this evolution. It will certainly be an important element, but it is also essential that everyone does their part.

Can you tell us about a project that you are particularly proud of?

Han - I don't have a specific project in mind. What makes me very proud is to have been able to tackle subjects and make them progress and grow within the Group. One example is the Desalination project within Laborelec. It was starting up and then it really took off and, along with other employees, I was able to win an Innovation Trophy.
The same phenomenon was repeated with the subject on the capture and recovery of CO2 where I was able to collaborate with other employees and grow the subject and position it as a necessary option in the energy transition.

Do you have a message for women?

Han - I think the field of Science, like others, really needs women. My former department had a fairly good representation of women, particularly in management functions. My boss used to say that a woman is better able to achieve goals and develop a long-term vision, to manage a man's world. Women should gain more self-confidence, choose scientific or R&D fields, and aim for positions of responsibility. But let me add that I never asked myself this. Though I’m particularly feminist, I believe that it is on a daily basis that we must demonstrate that there is no difference between men and women. I act every day by proving my worth and allowing people to recognize it

Drawing: Marie Désert ©ADAGAP, Paris 2021

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