Ann Deschildre studied bioengineering
at the University of Leuven in Belgium. She is now head of technical,
production and quality co-ordination for four paper tube plants within
the VPK Packaging Group
and she is playing a key role in the EU-funded PAPER KIDNEY project. For
her, intelligent career planning and self-confidence are the keys to getting
ahead in what was once a man's industry.
"Getting off to a good start in your career is
very important," says Deschildre. "You have to know what you
want first. Jobs in areas like engineering and the hard sciences are often
linked with long working hours, especially when you reach levels of higher
responsibility, and this can be difficult for some women to contemplate.
For those who do choose to follow such career paths, it is very important
to keep your eyes open and to know what you're getting into. Maintaining
contacts with different services and departments in a company or research
institution can allow you a clearer view of opportunities. Recognising
which of your colleagues can see through the stereotypes and appreciate
you for your real capacities is also important. Once you're off to a good
start, the respect and trust of your fellow workers and your belief in
yourself will carry you through."
||Taking a leading
leader of the full-scale testing phase of the PAPER
KIDNEY project at the Oudegem Papier paper mill in Belgium,
Deschildre represents a key link in a consortium comprising research
institutes, water treatment companies and paper production plants
from five European countries.
Paper and board production are among the most
water-intensive of industrial processes, consuming an average of
20 cubic metres of water per tonne of paper produced. The flow of
water through a paper mill can be compared to the flow of blood
in the human body, requiring regular cleansing by the kidneys to
prevent the build up of toxins and contraries. In a paper mill,
the recycling of recovered paper also leads to an accumulation of
contaminants arising from additives and foreign matter and resulting
in deterioration of end-product quality.
The PAPER KIDNEY project is investigating a
number of new biotechnological treatment systems in the hopes of
developing a trouble-free recycling process.
||Getting more women
into the mix
world of science and technology is still seen by many as a man's
world," says Deschildre, "and much of the under-representation
of women in industry is the result of the situation at the academic
level, where women themselves are still not choosing technical subjects.
Measures for increasing the representation of women in such areas
should focus on drawing more young women into high-level technical
and scientific studies."
"Unfortunately, the increased competition
among women for the few positions of responsibility open to them
can be a source of trouble in itself. Being a team player and sharing
your knowledge and expertise with others can be difficult when you
feel that others are trying to keep you down. On the other hand,
women in tough working environments tend to be tougher on themselves,
setting higher standards and sticking to deadlines."
Setting high standards is something Deschildre
would know about. As a key player in European research and technological
development, she serves as an important role model for young women
looking to establish a place for themselves in a sector where hard
work and dedication can still pay off.
VPK Packaging Group