H2 View (H2V): Nino, Libi and Ronit, thank you for giving H2 View your time today. We’re celebrating the women working in hydrogen this International Women’s Day. So, what first sparked your interest in hydrogen and working in this industry?
Nino Borchtchoukova: I started 20 years ago when I had several job interviews; thanks to my experience with catalysts, I was offered a job in the hydrogen renewable energy industry. I saw that I could leverage my experience within the fascinating sector, so I decided to build my career in this direction over other options I was offered.
H2V: What’s something that has surprised you about your chosen career path?
Ronit Sharabi: My doctorate focused on the battery field, and I expected to continue my career in that direction. During my post-doc I was exposed to fuel cell chemistry, and I understood that hydrogen technology would be a key player in the future of energy, so I decided to take this path. Today at GenCell we are carrying out a very ambitious, innovative and cutting-edge green ammonia R&D project and women’s versatility and ability to multi-task contributes significantly to this project.
H2V: The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. What does this mean to you? And what advice would you give to women experiencing bias and unconscious bias?
Libi Polin: Both in my undergraduate and graduate studies, there were a majority of female students, so I didn’t notice a strong bias. When I entered the workforce, I became more aware of gender bias impacting salaries, career advancement and how they impact women in science. My advice to young women is to trust their intuition, believe in themselves and not let anything stop them from fulfilling their dreams.
H2V: What are the challenges facing women in hydrogen today, especially the next generation?
Nino Borchtchoukova: Women have limitations in working with hydrogen energy, for example in the field testing of our off-grid fuel cells.
Ronit Sharabi: I don’t agree at all! Women on our team can do all kinds of physical tasks including heavy lifting of the fuel cell stacks and other challenging tasks.
Libi Polin: I am doing cross-fit training, so I feel very comfortable doing physical work – sometimes the guys on the team have difficulty with the equipment and I help them out – we help each other. Young women today are not as concerned about typical gender roles as in the past.
H2V: Tell us about one woman who has positively impacted you in your career? Wat lesson did she teach you?
Libi Polin: I can’t put my finger on one specific women, but I have received inspiration from many women in my academic and industrial career. My mother is a doctor, my best friend is an engineer, and I am proud that GenCell has chosen a woman as their R&D Manager, who can be an example for all the women on the team.
Nino Borchtchoukova: I remember that my academic advisor in the university was a woman professor, she was extremely intelligent and taught me a great deal about how to manage research.
H2V: Finally, what’s the key message you’d like to get across for International Women’s Day?
Nino Borchtchoukova: Women shouldn’t be afraid to enter this sector. They can overcome the challenges and have many important and unique characteristics, which contribute to the advancement of scientific progress in the hydrogen space. Women are smart, responsible and very dedicated, these are extremely important qualities needed for technology development.
GenCell wants the women in our company to advance and develop their knowledge and careers and I as R&D Manager am doing all I can to promote talented and committed women scientists.