09.07.2020 | How Axpo Iberia supports the career of female managers

“No obstacles to women's professional development”

Zara Martín Mangas, Head Risk Management at Axpo Iberia, is one of the few women holding management positions in the international energy industry. In an interview with the Spanish magazine Energética XXI published a few days ago, she talks about what it takes to be a female leader in the energy sector – and what needs to be done in order to encourage more women to join the industry. Axpo publishes Zara's statements with the kind permission of the magazine.

Zara, you’ve been working with Axpo Iberia for many years already. Can you shortly describe your career path?
Zara Martín: Almost 12 years ago, I decided to step into the energy sector by joining Axpo Iberia as a financial controller. At that time, we were only 17 employees in the Spanish subsidiary. Today, more than 250 people work with Axpo in Spain and Portugal – we have grown massively and it’s great to be part of that development. After joining the company, and little by little, I was trained to specialize in the field of risks. The next milestone for me was being appointed as Risk Manager, and meanwhile I’ve become part of the Management Board of Axpo Iberia

What does your work consist of, which type of projects and services are part of your daily business?
Axpo in general and Axpo Iberia in particular is characterised by a clear focus on service flexibility and adaptation to the needs of the clients. This implies a detailed analysis of all scenarios and proactive state-of-the-art risk management. The main function of my team is to control both the credit risk with our counterparties and the market risk derived from positions and price fluctuations.

You are one of the few women who hold management positions in the energy industry. What do you think are the difficulties or obstacles that women face in developing their careers in the energy sector?
I really don't think there are objective obstacles for the professional development of women in the energy sector. There’s simply some socio-cultural factors that have made the energy industry generally speaking, a more attractive place for men than women. In my specific case, I have never felt any kind of discrimination. On the contrary, I have been able to combine my work and professional development with my personal situation as a mother of two children without any problem.

Do you think it is possible to increase the number of women holding management positions or being part of the boards of directors in the energy sector? What measures would you propose?
I believe in equality between men and women. In my opinion, positions should always be allocated, taking into account exclusively the value of each person, regardless of their gender or other variables. Diversity and inclusion should be a source of richness and creativity in organisations, and never a hindrance.

However, the reality is that there’s only a few women in the energy sector.
Yes, for instance, when it comes to applications for any job, we see that there is a clear majority of applications from men, of 80%. This issue should be worked on from the outset, so that women can find this type of opportunity attractive when considering a career. I would say that this acceleration has to come from ourselves, from the conviction that we can get what we want if we fight for it.

How can the education sector (from secondary school to university) encourage women's vocations in the areas of science, technology, engineering or mathematics?
I would say that education begins at home. We as parents first observe the skills and potential of our children. In that sense, since they are small we should encourage what they like and what they show a natural ability for. Likewise, the education sector should also move in some way in that direction, deepening the skills of each student, detecting their strengths and potential and encouraging them to follow their own path, regardless of whether that means studying a more complex career or joining a more or less stable working world.

What about companies, what can they do themselves?
As far as companies are concerned, I think this aspect is changing a lot in recent years and gender diversity is starting to become a reality in all kinds of positions and sectors. My own department, for example, is made up of the credit area - where there are only women - and the market area - where there are almost only men - and we try to encourage cross training between both areas so that everyone can discover what is "behind the other door", acquire new skills and perhaps find a hidden vocation.

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