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Stories by Hydro

Meet Ana Vázquez Avilés – What’s happening here?

“What was so strange with my first job in aluminium is that women were not working there,” says Ana Vázquez Avilés. “When you arrive, right from university, from your engineering studies, and you realize, okay, there are no women here. We are not in the 19th century. So what's happening here?”

Things are happening now, however, that is for sure. And Ana is part of the change. She works as a vice president for Hydro, responsible for the company’s aluminium extrusion operations in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain. In total, the businesses employ more than 1,500 people.

Talk about some of the experiences you had when you started working in the aluminium industry.

I do not think mine are complicated stories, but we are talking about the experiences of women. And I think that all of us who have a bit of experience, or are senior in the organization, have experienced some things that have made us the way we are today.

I remember when I started working as a process engineer, I was the only woman on the shop floor in the plant. And when I wanted to go to the toilet, I had to walk through the plant and to the offices. This is where they had the toilet (for women). I also remember being asked whether I would have kids. These are the kinds of questions you would get. And yes, I have two children.

How do you combine the responsibilities of being a mother with being a leader?

I combine these responsibilities the same way as my male colleagues do, with some external support with the family. You know, this is not a specific problem for women. This is a problem for everybody today in our society.

You have worked for Alcoa, Sapa and now Hydro. How important is company culture in terms of staying with a company or leaving?

I think that company culture is getting more and more important. It’s completely different than what we gave to company cultures 15 years ago. I think that company culture is everything. It is what makes you stay or not. I think the Hydro culture is the ideal one for women who want to work in operations.

I have been discussing with some colleagues, why we are staying with the company. And we stay with the company because of the people, of course, but mainly because we feel supported.

Throughout your professional life, the many, many years, you have good moments and you have bad moments. And the times you have bad moments are complicated times in your life. When I have had these moments, I have felt completely supported by the company. And this for me has been the difference, and the key. I said to myself, "okay, this is my place."

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