June 2022 OES Beacon

Intro Giulia De Masi – WIE Propel Laureate

Giulia De Masi, WIE Propel Laureate 2022-2023

I am very honored and excited to start this new role of WIE-OES Propel laureate, promoting and sustaining women in engineering and technology, particularly in Marine Science and Engineering. I am currently Principal Scientist at Technology Innovation Institute and Visiting Faculty at the Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi.

I am also IEEE Senior member and currently part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) section in Region 8, since I moved in this country from Italy 6 years ago, with my family. I decided to take this challenge, even if it was not easy to settle in initially with my 3 young kids. I was interested to have an experience in a very international country, bridge between Asia and Africa, also hosting many expats from European and American countries. In fact, this choice was rewarding. Every day I am exposed to a very multicultural environment both at work and in daily life. Remarkably, I have been introduced to the local professional world by the IEEE-WIE local section. In one of their events, I met other colleagues and from that moment I could establish my career in UAE. I am always very happy to share this experience because I am one of the examples where really WIE membership can change the life of scientists and engineers in their professional path.

My background is between Academia and Industry. In the industry I spent 9 years working in an Italian company operating worldwide in the Ocean Engineering sector as lead scientist. In UAE, I am leading research projects in Marine Robotics of interest for local stakeholders. I am also co-organizing the “Distinguished Lecture Series on Cutting edge technologies for Underwater Communication” which is an online free-access Seminar Series organized within my institution.

In the Academia, I had the opportunity to teach in very diverse Universities from Italian ones to UAE. I mentored students from Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Europe, Egypt, and UAE. I like to provide moral support and scientific guidance to my students, particularly women.

I know that there are some moments in life where it is hard for a woman to manage the increasing commitments and expectations in the family (when newborns are coming) and at the same time keep producing high-quality work, mentoring younger profiles and managing a team. Despite still present (hopefully less and less) gender stereotypes that limit the number of women who choose STEM, often women are brilliant during their STEM studies up to the postgraduate level. Afterwards the retainment in their career path becomes very difficult. Forming a family is the main reason women drop out. Interestingly enough, this also emerged during the OCEANS 2022 WIE panel in Chennai, from contributions from women from many different countries.

When I was young, for me it was particularly important to have role models like Marie Curie, Margherita Hack, Rita Levi Montalcini or Sylvia Earle. They have inspired me in my scientific career. At the same time, some colleagues older than me sustained me with their example and support during my early career.

Now that I’m more than 40 years old, I would like to inspire the new generation of women, sharing my experience, transmitting the message that for a woman it is possible to develop her career and satisfy her intellectual curiosity, following her path in science and technology and to possibly have a family at the same time. It can be sometimes challenging, but possible. This is how I try to empower also my female students.

Women can also give their contribution and different perspective to Technology, both among young profiles till corporate boards, where a gender diversified representation is desirable. The increasing participation of women can give different points of view and propose different ways to face and find solutions to emerging problems of humanity and the environment.

As WIE propel candidate, I would like to organize workshops dedicated to women professionals contributing to Ocean Sciences and Engineering, across OES and WIE societies. I strongly believe in human and scientific collaboration, particularly for women. A series of motivational speeches will be of big importance for younger members, as well as panels oriented towards finding which instruments can be beneficial for women during their early and more senior career. Likewise, the ability to network professionally with other women creates the right context for mutual support and inspiration. Cooperation and reciprocal empowerment are key instruments of mutual professional support. I am very happy to receive suggestions on how to implement support actions for the young women in the field and open to start new collaborations!