Four Perspectives to Celebrate and Advocate for Women in Engineering Day

Four Perspectives to Celebrate and Advocate for Women in Engineering Day

Their sense of order, logic, method, and organization… Within a few minutes of chatting, the typical topics of Engineering emerge, and Belén Bogarín, Martha Melo, Amaia Torrontegi, and Laura Del Hoyo take them with the intelligent humor of those who recognize themselves in them. All four are women engineers, and although with nuances, they have always had a clear vocation since they were very young. Each has experienced a different professional trajectory, but all four are proud of their education and work, and they are eagerly looking forward to celebrating International Women in Engineering Day on June 23. Amaia, Belén, Martha, and Laura have responded with laughter and humor, but also with a critical spirit, to several questions that show their vocation and the clarity with which they advocate for the presence of women in the world of Engineering.


How and when did you realize that becoming an engineer was a realistic and attractive option for you?


Belén Bogarín (Barcelona). ): I always wanted to be a doctor since I was very little, but when I entered high school and started going to the lab, everything seemed super interesting: converting things, doing experiments… I was fascinated by the reactions and wondered why these things happened; I wanted to understand why they occurred. At that moment, my curiosity began to grow, and by the time I went to university, I had decided I wanted to be an engineer, specifically in Petroleum Engineering, a very specific specialty in Venezuela.

“Initially, I wanted to be a Petroleum Engineer, but then I shifted to Chemical Engineering.”

The petroleum world was booming at that time; there were a lot of oil companies, and this specialty was very accessible. But when I started my Petroleum Engineering degree, I quickly shifted to Chemical Engineering because I realized I could carry out any material transformation process, be it oil, food, cosmetics, or anything else. Additionally, my father was an agronomist, and although I am not conscious of his influence, it was something always present in my home.


Laura del Hoyo (Igorre). I always had a strong study capacity in school, and Engineering was one of the most demanding degrees. So, on one hand, I saw that I had the ability to do it, and on the other, I chose Chemical Engineering because I love chemistry and pure Science degrees had very few job opportunities at that time. It was a very rational decision.

“I am very structured, analytical, and do things step by step; all of this shows what engineers are like.”

Over time, I realized that I am very methodical, structured, and analytical, doing things step by step, which ultimately shows what engineers are like or how I was then. There were no family precedents in engineering, and my parents always encouraged me to pursue a university degree, with Engineering being a better option. Since my teenage years, I always saw myself in the industry, in chemical process design, and I was very interested in oil refineries.


Martha Melo (Barcelona). Since I was little, I spent my time doing small jobs around the house, organizing things… when an appliance broke, I would immediately disassemble and try to fix it: the radio, the fan… And when it came time to go to university, although I wanted to study Engineering, in Colombia, they were all private.

“I did a year of Dietetics and Nutrition because Engineering was private and I didn’t want to burden my aunt with whom I lived.””

And since I was raised by my aunt and not my mother, going to university was a significant financial burden that I didn’t want her to bear, so I started studying Nutrition and Dietetics. I did a year of Nutrition and Dietetics, but then public faculties for Industrial, Agronomic, and Mechanical Engineering opened. I saw the opportunity and switched to Industrial Engineering.


Amaia Torrontegi. My perception was very similar to Laura’s regarding study capacity. Besides, I studied in a mixed school with 80% boys, and the go-to career path for good students was Engineering; it was very well regarded. When I studied Engineering at San Mamés (EHU-UPV Bilbao), it was a six-year degree and very tough, much harder than current degrees. It required perseverance and responsibility.

“Engineering was a challenge because all the good students went for it. Why not? I’ll give it a try. And here I am.”

My choice was partly because I was a good student and partly a challenge: if boys were going into this technical field and I liked math and sciences, why not? I’ll give it a try. And here I am. When I started, most of the students were boys, about 90%, and some professors would make jokes at the expense of the girls, like calling us to the blackboard if we wore miniskirts. There were moments when they made you feel like you were just filler. Initially, I leaned towards electrical engineering, but I soon realized I wasn’t as technically inclined as others, so I opted for Industrial Organization. When I retire, I might revisit electrical engineering.


Can you share a memory or anecdote that illustrates your passion for Engineering?


Belén Bogarín (Barcelona). I have always been very meticulous with expenses, keeping a strict Excel sheet, especially at the beginning of my relationship. My husband was amazed and would ask, “Do we have to go to this extent?” And I’d say, “Yes, we need to account for everything.” At home, I manage the finances because I’m very organized; otherwise, we wouldn’t know what’s going on and might miss important things. (Laughter). For example, last year, when enrolling the kids in a summer camp, other parents didn’t know the pick-up times, costs, or meal arrangements… I said, “Give me five minutes. Here are the schedules, pick-up times, meals… everything.” They were amazed.

“An engineer’s mind works differently, like a spreadsheet. I need to see everything organized; I can’t handle loose data”

The mind of an engineer works in a different way, like a spreadsheet. I need to see everything organized, I can’t see loose data: it’s better to organize it and then we have everything clear. From that moment on, the mothers at the school, whenever they need it, ask me for a spreadsheet that includes everything. I believe that what engineering studies do is to change the way of thinking. When I am presented with a problem, my mind has been training for five years to work on how to think and how to solve it. That’s why I can’t look at something messy, I need to organize it so I can look at it more efficiently.


Martha Melo. Listening to Belén, I think this has something to do with the Latin mentality because when I bought my car through a leasing plan with 30,000 kilometers per year, from the first moment, I made an Excel sheet divided by months to track the distance from my home to Barcelona, etc. At one point, I calculated that I would exceed the 30,000-kilometer limit, so we started alternating public transport with the car. My son would ask, “Why do we have to take the bus instead of the car?” “Because otherwise, we’ll exceed the limit and have to pay,” I’d explain.

“I keep a spreadsheet at home for electricity and water consumption and check the efficiency of appliances like the oven: it had high consumption, so I changed it.”

My tendency has always been to analyze things deeply. In the Organic Chemistry class, I had a very strict professor who taught in a highly practical way. He would write a chemical compound on the board and ask us to figure out how to obtain it from which raw materials and with what processes. Although I started that class with a lot of fear, I ended up enjoying it immensely.


Laura del Hoyo. My tendency has always been to analyze things deeply. In the Organic Chemistry class, I had a very strict professor who taught in a highly practical way. He would write a chemical compound on the board and ask us to figure out how to obtain it from which raw materials and with what processes. Although I started that class with a lot of fear, I ended up enjoying it immensely.

“Regarding organization, I’ve always been very orderly; as a child, no one ever had to tell me to put away a toy.”


Amaia Torrontegi. As a child, I was very geeky: I had all the kits that involved “tinkering” like chemistry sets and magic kits. My mother was the one who handled fixing small appliances, and I was her little helper. But I never liked boasting about being an engineer: if you’re good, you’re good, and if not, you’re not. Once, I had a design problem in my apartment, and the architect tried to justify his decisions, which made no sense. He was getting arrogant, and at one point, he said, “I’m an architect,” to which I replied, “and I’m an engineer,” and he had to back down. That moment made me feel very proud. In other areas like order, I’m a bit more chaotic, but like Laura’s example with the doctor, I always go to the doctor prepared to confirm a self-diagnosis or argue against something I don’t agree with.


How would you describe Walter Pack regarding the presence of women engineers?


Belén Bogarín. At the Barcelona plant, there are many women, but Martha and I are the only engineers. Many women at Walter Pack in Barcelona have been with the company for many years. Although not many women study Engineering, I feel some have leaned more towards the healthcare sector and later ended up in jobs related to this field.
Martha Melo. In my previous job, also in the automotive industry, I was the only engineer, and overall, the number of women was much lower.
Laura del Hoyo. What I can say is that the automotive sector still has a lot of sexism. It’s not just that there are more men; it’s that there is sexism, where in a meeting, you’re deliberately ignored because you’re the only woman talking about technical issues. I can provide many examples because I’ve been in the automotive world for over eight years before Walter Pack, and it has happened to me many times. It’s not just about the number of women but the treatment we receive compared to men, even if they are in a managerial position.
Amaia Torrontegi. I completely agree with Laura. It’s sad, and it seems we’re making progress, but not as much as it might seem at first glance. Regarding Walter Pack, there are quite a few engineers, and some of the managers are also engineers. I’ve been with the company for 18 years and have seen the progression. Initially, Itxasne (Cruz) and I were the only women, but now more women are joining and moving up within the organization.

More Directly…

Belén Bogarín, Quality Area Engineer.

What skills and perspectives do you bring to your position?

One aspect of my job is solving problems with customers. I believe it’s about having a conciliatory character and a certain way of speaking and discussing things, which can greatly help in resolving issues with clients. In the internal quality processes, the five years of studying my degree have helped me ensure that everything “runs smoothly.” I try to keep everything well organized so that a specific problem doesn’t affect the rest, allowing us to be efficient. Everything needs to be in place to achieve certain quality levels: internal quality, parts management, documentation, reports, measurements… everything must be correct to provide optimal service to the client.

Martha Melo, Commercial Area Engineer

How do you perform your job in a predominantly male world?

I have always had a lot of support from men and never had any problems. I think the automotive world is increasingly aware of the presence and involvement of women in this field.

Amaia Torrontegi, Sustainability Area Engineer.

How do you feel, and what do you contribute as an engineer in the field of sustainability?

I think being an engineer helps me not to fear challenges; in fact, I’d get bored in a more monotonous position. Although I’m not very organized, I am very strict with other things like deadlines, commitments, and timelines, something I don’t see as much in men. The recent addition of more women has shown me that I’m not the exception. Whether this is due to our engineering training, the tensions and conflicts we’ve experienced, or because we are women, the response from them is different.

Laura del Hoyo, R&D Engineer.

How do you feel and navigate one of Walter Pack’s strategic areas?

In ten days, I will celebrate a year at Walter Pack, and it’s a good time to reflect. In this continuous process of reflection, I keep questioning where I’m going in this still-forming department. The R&D area is in constant change and evolution. I navigate it with ups and downs and considerable self-imposed pressure because of who I am, how my mind is structured, and my high expectations. I feel pressured by myself because I want to do things very well, for the area to yield results, and for it to function optimally.