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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Cross-disciplinary projects > Women and science: Engendering European research culture > Ann Deschildre
Graphic element Ann Deschildre: putting your best foot forward

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.

Ann Deschildre

"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 role

As 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

"The 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

Taking a leading role
Getting more women into the mix

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