We are the Catalysts of Change

Minna Rouru is Wärtsilä’s Human Resources (HR) Director for the Middle East & Asia, and also a member of the Gastech Women In Energy Advisory Committee.

With just days to go before Gastech 2015 kicks off, Minna shares some insights on the activities of the Advisory Committee, how they plan to move forward as a leadership group, and what her peers can do to attract more talented women to the marine and energy sectors.

Congratulations on being appointed to the Women In Energy Advisory Committee. Can you say, briefly, what this group does?

The Women In Energy (WIE) group was originally put together for Gastech – the half-day event, what is the agenda and purpose, what are we hoping to achieve, and so on. However, in the first meeting itself, we agreed that we could leverage this forum. So now, there is a LinkedIn group called Women In Energy. We have lots of ideas, but it still requires further facilitation, and there is still some way to go. This group meets on a quarterly basis, so I’m confident we will realise and implement some of these ideas after Gastech.

Interestingly, our meeting has also led to peer-coaching. For example, I received a message from one of the committee members who wished to engage with me in a coaching relationship, because I am the only HR person in this committee. Also, there is a lot of interest in Gender Diversity, and being part of the Diversity committee in Wärtsilä, I’m able to bring knowledge and experience into that discussion.

What are the Committee’s plans for Gastech 2015? Three hours have been set aside for this committee meeting, and inviting 150 more to participate. What do you hope to achieve?

We had a long list of themes and subjects. Some have been selected for further discussion – topics such as diversity, women leadership in the region and how to get more women into energy companies. We also agreed that not all speakers should be women, so we’re lucky to have BG Group’s Steve Hill, Executive Vice President, Global Energy Marketing & Shipping, speaking in one of the panel sessions.

Most of the women in the WIE Advisory Committee are in technical roles, with very few coming from support functions like HR and Communications. Was this a conscious decision?

It doesn’t really matter which functions the women in the Advisory Committee come from. We all see the same issues or challenges in our organizations, so it was not difficult to communicate with one another. We discussed matters such as access to jobs, salaries, and gender balance in teams, just to name a few.

Despite the composition of the WIE Committee, there is still an issue with women taking on technical roles in industrial and engineering companies. Why do you think this is so?

This is a shared challenge, and that challenge is about getting more women into industrial and engineering companies, and encouraging them to take up technical roles. In fact, the challenge begins even before women consider applying for roles in our companies. It begins at school, where they need to fall in love with maths, chemistry, and engineering. So this is something that already needs to be tackled at school. Girls need to see that there is benefit in doing well in those subjects, and that there are good careers awaiting them in such companies.

All these companies want women in leadership positions – whether it’s in engineering or general management. They are searching high and low for women with skills to join them, but there are very few out there. Perhaps the way our companies are portrayed to young women who are ready to build their careers needs to change.  And women in leadership positions in engineering companies can act as change catalysts, and should take on the role of being flag-bearers, because if they stay hidden and don’t speak up, the trend will not shift.

How can the WIE Committee stay relevant even after Gastech?

That was the basis for the LinkedIn group. It’s a good group of ladies, and we should have a common understanding about how to take our own internal targets – such as diversity action plans – forward.

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