Following this year’s International Women’s Day, we’ve interviewed some of the faces behind the communication strategies of our industry. People who work daily to demonstrate the effort of an industry towards climate goals, such as decarbonisation and electrification, while sharing messages of the industry’s work to achieve sustainable targets, science progress and innovation.
These are the professionals who are responsible for the communications of a long-standing industry, so essential in the digital world. They deal with a considerable amount of daily information and they’re able to transform the complex world of science to policymakers, business people and citizens in dynamic and understandable ways. And guess what? Many of them are women!
But why is it that the role of comms has become more important than ever? And what can these experts in the field tell us about the relevance of “sci-comms”?
According to Tammy Stankey, Director of Communications at The Doe Run Company, innovation in comunication is key in order to be modern and relevant, whilst for Fareha Lasker, Communications Manager at the International Lead Association, these are very exciting times to work for the lead and lead battery industry:
"The industry presents a dream messaging scenario — huge market demand combined with a key role for our technologies in the clean future of the planet means it’s a time of obvious and great opportunity. We know that the next 10 years will see unprecedented growth in demand for battery energy storage to support a clean energy future and that advanced lead batteries have a key role to play in applications which will enable rapid electrification of our economy and society".
The group agreed that it’s "essential" for investment in the industry’s comms departments, and as Niamh Owen-McLaughlin, Communications and Digital Manager at CBI, explained, it’s about telling a story of an experienced industry that has witnessed not only evolution but also "innovation, progress and research" and it’s also important to share the "importance of the technology" for the future :
"Without comms, a lot of our stakeholders would never hear the story of innovation that we have to tell, and would never think of advanced lead batteries as a technology which is used all over the world for clean energy storage, for vehicles, for low-emission vehicles and in so many more applications".
Tammy gave an example on how a strong comms department brings even more success to the industry :
"When I first became involved in the industry I was invited to sit on the Public Affairs and Marketing committee of what was then the ALABC (now CBI). As a communications professional it was obvious to me that our industry was suffering from a lack of visibility. Our committee pushed hard to have demonstration projects promoted at high-profile events such as The Battery Show. The greater visibility that these projects received, the more interest was created among companies to fund basic science research and demonstration projects. The effort is paying off, as we now see government agencies (such as the U.S. Department of Energy) proactively reaching out to our industry to identify the greatest opportunities for research and technology development to support the Energy Storage Grand Challenge".
But how is comms driving innovation in the industry?
"The more that we can communicate the innovation underway in lead batteries, driven by the efforts of the global lead battery industry, the more we can increase funding and opportunities for further research and development. We are showing that our technology is not one of the past but instead one that is currently used all over the world in so many diverse and critical applications, and that we’re confident through continued research that the innovation journey lead batteries are on has only just begun", Niamh continued.
Considering the amount of legislative and regulatory proposals in the pipeline around the world designed to improve and accelerate sustainable technologies, "by communicating the innovation in lead and lead batteries across many of these – from lead cables enabling wind power to lead batteries supporting EVs – we are ensuring our industries stand out among those. Communicators across our industry are successfully bringing together the right influencers across policymakers, regulators and industry to understand and appreciate that we are part of the innovative solutions to achieving their low carbon goals. In keeping us at the front of their minds, we’re ensuring we remain at the heart of the energy transition", completed Fareha.
Progress in the industry should also target goals of diversity within the workforce, as Lisa Dry, Vice President of Strategic Communications - Battery Council International and Essential Energy Everyday, explained :
"BCI’s leadership has recognized that the lead battery and recycling industry needs to reflect a more diverse and inclusive culture. One step in that direction is the new Women in the Global Battery Industry professional organization to help women in the industry grow their careers. Studies show that women are better employees than men in several categories including organizational development and coaching talent. At a time when the competition for employees is fierce, it’s critically important to help current employees reach their maximum potential."
There’s clearly a common desire to see more women working for the industry and reaching leadership positions, but to attract and retain bright minds we must be willing to reach out to a more diverse audience, something that the industry is very open to do:
"I have seen firsthand how open and welcoming the industry is to others and I have personally benefited from the comradery of the industry by getting involved. This has allowed me access to participate in various committees and even the executive committees of associations. I encourage other woman to look for opportunities to share their expertise and build their network in this industry", added Tammy.
Sci-comms is critical to demonstrate the innovation underway in our industry, and these communicators are responsible for sharing accurate messages in times where misinformation is a trend. This is our tribute to each and every professional behind a strategic comms role in the scientific field, where diversity is still not a reality.
In the words of the United Nations, both science progress and gender equality are fundamental achievements to reach the SDG Goals as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
For this to become a reality, it is crucial to demonstrate the importance of having more women working in fields of science, and most of all to create conditions that empower and facilitate women to work in a sector traditionally dominated by men.
In 2015, the UN General Assembly declared February 11 as the “International Day of Women and Girls in Science”, as a way of fostering change in this field and turning these below stats around:
UN data from 2021
In this case, and like in any other sector, combining the strengths of all genders in the workplace can only create more space for better ideas, innovation, and progress in science.
Why is it so important to value women in science, but also in our industry in particular?
To better understand these issues and to see how they can be applied in our own industry, CBI spoke to four women who work in the global lead battery industry as researchers: Sibel Eserdağ (R&D Division Manager in Inci GS Yuasa), Sophia Bauknecht (Engineer at Technische Universität Berlin), Begüm Bozkaya (Technical Manager at CBI) and Maria Penafrancia Roma (Technical Collaboration Leader at Advanced Battery Concepts).
The idea was to show their perspectives, as women who work in mostly male environments, but more than that, to demonstrate why they are still working for the industry, why they believe their talent is crucial for it and why do they invite more women to join them in this challenging world.
According to the previously mentioned data, “women represent only 33.3% of all researchers” but considering the technological growth and the urge for progress and innovation in science and research, our group of four women agreed that is absolutely “crucial” to have more female researchers. Not only because of gender equality issues, but also due to the fact that it can bring more diversity of thinking which can only enrich the working groups, their talents and potential to do better things for the industry.
Sophia shared her thought:“that only with a higher number of female researchers it is possible to fully use the existing innovation and talent potential within a research area” and Maria noted that an “increased number of female researchers worldwide means that women with equal or even better capabilities are being given more opportunities now than in the past”. This will hopefully have a significant impact on other areas of the world, she continued: “this will mean that low and middle-income countries will see more women working on scientific and technological issues that can uplift their quality of life. Diversity and statistics will always lead to more revolutionary ideas that can change the world”.
What do women bring to science and to our industry?
According to Begüm, in many research areas “women face new challenges to meet the goals and targets in all levels of science”. Therefore, there’s a common “need” to provide a broader range of understanding and creativity:
“Encouraging the participation of women is essential, as men and women bring different perspectives to research and innovation. The diverse research groups in both academic and industry should combine various skills and abilities”.
But let’s be clear, “women can generate the same ideas and deliver similar results as any other gender in the room”, continues Maria. However, “there is a dearth of examples of this happening in the lead battery industry right now”. As Sibel highlights “like men, women bring their passion, patience, hard work and energy to the science and industry. But the important thing that women bring to science and industry is “diversity”:
“The lead battery industry seems to be a male-dominant industry from the outside however, it is proven by many articles and researches that diversity leads to innovation, so for innovation, industry and science we need more gender-balanced workforce.”
One thing is for sure, there’s a lot of admiration amongst women within the industry as they bring not only the obvious empowerment to each other, but also their perspectives, different backgrounds, skills and visions that add “a considerable value” to the industry, according to Sophia.
So, what advice would you give to a young female researcher starting/considering a career in the lead battery industry now?
We could not end this article without mentioning and promoting other women who are relevant references for our interviewees such as Dr. Kathryn R. Bullock, “whose vision, research and leadership led to revolutionary changes in the lead battery industry. She was a giant among men and the only female recognized by the Gaston Plante Award Committee in its 32 years of existence” (mentioned Maria) and Dr. Julia Kowal, a professor at TU Berlin who is “highly engaged in many committees to represent women in every aspect. She is carrying this additional workload to support other women in their academic career” (stated Sophia).
It's February 2022 when the “International Day of Women and Girls in Science” happens and CBI would like to celebrate every talent who is aiming to be a part of this exciting future for research and innovation, especially in the lead battery industry!