In this latest LEAN IN Equity & Sustainability instalment, we speak with Yara Póvoa, a Social Responsibility & National Content Manager in a Major EPC Contractor for the Mozambique LNG Project, Mozambique.
Yara, where did you grow up, and what did you want to do when you were a little girl?
I grew up in Mozambique, south of Africa, and spent all my life in the capital. When I was little, I wanted to be an architect as my dream was to draw and build different kinds of infrastructures, creating never seen designs of buildings. I always had the vision to build a huge orphanage shaped like a shoe and coloured as a rainbow.
Can you describe what you do today?
I have worked for different industries, from manufacturing to non-governmental organisations and Oil and Gas. For the past seven years, I have been involved in a mega Oil and Gas project in Mozambique, working with local SMEs and providing support on how to upskill to respond to the energy market’s demand.
I have also engaged in vocational training for young people in the north of Mozambique to increase their employment opportunities.
I have worked on different social projects where the purpose was to empower women and encourage them to have a standing in their communities and society – breaking the Mozambican culture bias that women are destined to stay at home taking care of the house and family.
These projects arm women with a different perspective showing they can be good moms and housewives while simultaneously being wonderful employees, entrepreneurs and even more, supporting the development of the new female generation.
Why did you choose this sector of activity?
I am an industrial engineer; I chose this sector first because I love logic, I love maths and physics, but also because when I joined it around 2006, in my country, engineering was dominated by men. My purpose was always to prove to people that those prepossessions were wrong. So, I embraced this area to prove to myself that I am capable, to prove to people around me that women can be whatever they want and that knowledge, skills, and talents have no gender and will never have.
After working in different industries, I have chosen to work for the energy sector, considering that was something new in my country, and I have seen a great opportunity not only for personal and professional growth but also to give my contribution to upskill my country in such an industry.
What are the benefits of working in this sector?
One of the greatest benefits is to engage with different stakeholders – from governments to people from local communities – and multicultural environments and understand that we can all learn from each other.
What is your most challenging experience as a woman in the energy sector?
As a woman, I can say that the most challenging experience is to understand that your opinion/contribution, even if it is the most correct one, will always have to make an extra effort to get accepted. In the energy sector, doubt always rises when it is a female voice.
I had male co-workers who gave me wrong reports to see me fail in my job, just to say to others, “she wasn’t supposed to be here”. I had to prove to them that we could all work together and that my presence was merely to do my job and to do it well. I was not competing with them or taking their places.
Having to prove my right to be there was a challenge that, fortunately, I have fought hard to overcome.
What would it be if you had one piece of advice for young girls?
To never give up. You can do anything you put your mind to. It is not easy for sure, but giving up is not and should not be an option.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give aspiring women in the industry?
Never stop learning. Learn from books, learn from colleagues, learn from life and most importantly, learn from your own mistakes.
What’s the message you would give to your male colleagues?
Do not put my knowledge to the test just to prove me wrong.
And lastly, what would you wish for our planet today if you had a magic wand?
Above all, I would wish for a mentality change. Change in words and actions. There is a place for everyone, and together we can all go far.