Science in pink

 By Ginevra Crescenzi

The United Nations set up the 11th February as the International Day for Women in Science in order to ensure women’s equality access and participation in such an important field. Eni intends to contribute to the second edition of this commemoration day by telling the stories of some of its women who stand out in the scientific areas. To do so, we have travelled a little bit around the world…

Let me start telling you about my compatriot Giuseppa Gioia, also known as Giusy. Right after graduating in Environmental Engineering, she attends the prestigious MEDEA Energy & Environmental Management and Economics Master. She describes as “thrilling” the opportunity to deal with other 90 students – here the female quotas are about 30% – in a cultural context made up of youngsters coming from 27 different countries.

Her academic successes give her the immediate opportunity to confront herself within an international environment through the “Training on the job” project, addressed to the company’s young graduates. She first starts her work path in Eni Upstream in HSE: from Milan to Egypt, then Algeria, Tunisia, Angola. She grows professionally and obtains her first contract in Libya. She lands in Abu Attifel, around 300 kilometers south of Benghazi, where a camp of 500 men waits for her to join it. Not an easy challenge: she has to manage to involve them in her Water Risk Assessment project. “It’s hard to assert the authority of a young woman into typically men contexts” Giusy admits, “but once you prove your competences fairly, the positive feedback you get from them is the greatest acknowledgement”.

Giusy continued her experience in Libya with enthusiasm: “The efforts you make give you an energy which enrich and motivate you…when you find a contact point with a different culture you create a common channel, and you can take all the good of what diversity has to offer”. Encounters, which have overcome cultural, and gender barriers and that, thanks to the mutual respect and appreciation, become long-term friendships.

After stopping in Malta to follow the HSE activities in the offshore exploration, she is back in Val d’Agri (in Basilicata), ready for a new adventure off to Gela (in Sicily).

Waving goodbye to Giusy we step into Iraq, where there is another story waiting to be heard. Alhasnawi Nadeyah Fadhel Sabti, Nadia for her friends, has typically female passions like fashion, decoration and interior design, but she works in a far more male-dominating environment.

Alhasnawi Nadeyah Fadhel Sabti

The name Nadia means “hope”, a good starting point. Although Iraqi girls, in respect of male students, are less likely to continue their education beyond the primary level, Nadia studies chemical engineering and graduates from Basrah University. She tells me how her parents supported her: “My mother inspired me, she gave me a good education with a glance at the future in order to become an independent woman”. Also her father always told her to pursue her dreams: “Gain your rights and fight for them”.

Nadia started working in the South Oil Company in 2005 in the production department where she worked as a site engineer in degasing stations for 4 years. “This experience was very useful to me,” she says, “At the site, I managed several production activities, dealing with different difficulties and challenging obstacles”. In 2009, Nadia started a new chapter in her career by taking over a role of responsibility within production, which until then had been “an only men enterprise”. “It was very difficult to me”, she admits, “but I decided to insist in developing and investing in my career and I finally achieved good results”. “I focused on my competences in the HSE field and strongly worked on how to transfer my “know how” to our people.

In 2015, Nadia received Eni’s prestigious Award of HSE excellence, distinguishing herself for the strict implementation of her operational plant’s “Permit To Work” procedure. Today she is the production focal point for three Iraqi degasing stations and her next goal is to further enhance her skills and work abroad, outside Iraq, maybe in the Unites States or Europe…travelling is another of her passions!

We then fly off to Kazakhstan, to meet three women with some very interesting stories. The experience of Gulnara Daulova started in 1999 by joining Karachaganak Petroleum Operating (KPO), as an administration assistant to a Safety Section Manager.

Gulnara Daulova

At that time, the demand for Kazakh nationals with a good command of English was high and, with a degree in the English Language, she got the job. “My duties were mainly translations but also involved carrying out simple tasks like keeping HSE records and statistics. She soon realized that she wanted to grow in the HSE area and needed to broaden her knowledge. In 2001, she entered a Technical University in Uralsk, and got an Engineering Degree in the O&G Fields Development. “Honestly that wasn’t easy at all” she tells me, “in addition to the complexity of the studies, I had to balance between work and family – my son was only 4 years old – but I received great support from my family and I finally succeeded.”

In 2010, she was promoted Corporate Safety Manager in KPO. “In addition to daily routines, I had to take at times, the role of Incident Manager, in case of emergencies. That, beside the ownership of specific competences, required the ability to take decisions fastly and making the team working under stressful conditions”.

Gulnara now works in Nigeria.

Back in Kazakhstan, Assel Tukusheva tells me about her childhood. She was born in a small village in West Kazakhstan to a poor family, in the Soviet Union time. Since she was a child, she wanted to study and get a good job to become a doctor or perhaps to enter the O&G industry, despite how tough that would be. “Everyone knows it’s a male industry”.

Assel Tukusheva

She tells me that in their culture, girls are brought up believing their place to be at home, looking after children. “I am happy to share my personal story because I hope it will inspire the young women of Central Asia to move into science”.

 Assel clearly knew she needed to achieve high academic results in order to live her dream. She studied chemical engineering at the Kazakh National Technical University in Almaty, graduating with distinction. After that, she was accepted in the KPO Graduate Engineering Program where she was praised for reaching the highest scores in the final assessment within a class of 30 males and 3 females. Thanks to these results, her career took off. She became a Process Engineer and a Senior Production Chemist later in the Operations Dept. She is currently Head Project in the Engineering Development Team of the Pre-Feasibility Project Department. “Through my professional evolution I had to win many challenges and I am proud to be a focal point: this will be driving women to make a change in the O&G industry”.

The story of Lailo Pulotova starts with a romantic onset. As a child, she would often ride a train that passed by the oil fields. She was familiar with the habit of looking at the plants with admiration and wonder, to men working in brightly colored red and blue uniforms with their shiny helmets reflecting the sun as well as Lailo’s dreams.

Lailo Pulotova

Once completed high school, she decides to pursue a Petroleum Engineering career in Kazakh-British Technical University, one of the most prestigious petroleum schools in Kazakhstan.

After her bachelor’s degree, Lailo decides to apply for Eni’s scholarship to get an MSc in Petroleum Engineering from Polytechnic University of Turin. “I remember the moment when I received the news announcing the scholarship award. I knew it would be a turning point for my life. It was an exciting journey, an unforgettable experience. Living in Turin, meeting with international students, having the opportunity to know Italian leading academics and working on my final project in the Netherlands”.

Following completion of a two-year educational program in Turin, she joined KPO as a Production and Asset Data Management Engineer in 2012. In 2013, she was assigned the role to Integrated Field Modelling Engineer. “Our working environment is very friendly and the management always provides equal opportunities for all its employees. Having worked in the O&G sector for 5 years by now, I would say that I could never imagine myself elsewhere because every project I work on allows me to learn something new about our field and that is very exciting. I believe now to be the time for young women to choose a career in the engineering and research field”.

She smiles when she tells me that her dream of working in a colored uniform hasn’t realized as she has always been working in an office. However, she is happy to be where she is and that sometimes she goes for a walk in the oil plants, looking towards the train she used to ride as a child and thinks that maybe, other little girls are on that train, with the same dreams she used to have…

SEE MORE: Making an unconventional choice by Rob Davies

about the author
Ginevra Crescenzi
A decade in Eni’s sustainability department. Her head stuck in the clouds and her children’s smiles in her heart. Not too sure what she wants to be when she grows up…