Interview to Luísa Coutinho - Executive Director of the European Federation for Welding, Joining and Cutting
“Technological areas, where the demand for qualified technicians is superior to supply, also offer women prospects of interesting and well-paid professional careers.”
On Women's Day, we interview Luísa Coutinho. Through her professional career we realize that it is possible for a woman to achieve success in the world of welding, if not let’s see: Luísa Coutinho is Executive Director of the European Federation for Welding, Joining and Cutting (EWF), consultant of ISQ (the Portuguese welding institute) in addition to being a PhD in Welding and a professor and researcher in the Mechanical Engineering Department of IST (Instituto Superior Técnico).
Electrex: With so many fields of study in mechanical engineering, what motivated you to follow the field of welding and to do a PhD in this area?
Luísa Coutinho: A good teacher! At Instituto Superior Técnico I had Engineer Dias Alves, from Sorefame, as professor of mechanical technology. He was a great teacher who linked theory to practice and aroused interest in welding technology. Later, ISQ put me in touch with Prof. Apps at Cranfield University, where I went on to do my PhD with a scholarship from the Gulbenkian Foundation.
Electrex: A question we cannot escape: Was it difficult for you as a woman to enter a mostly male world?
Luísa Coutinho: It is well known that in Portugal women find it more difficult to have their skills recognized and promoted in their professional careers than men. My case was no different.With work, dedication and persistence the recognition finally arrived, first internationally and only later in Portugal.
Electrex: In April of last year, you said that Europe is at risk of implosion. Do you still have this concern? What paths should Europe follow?
Luísa Coutinho: Europe continues to experience difficult times, with a mosaic of electoral results in several countries that create situations of political, social and economic instability. Economic growth has, however, brought many positive aspects. I continue to believe in a united and strong Europe.
Electrex: What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue the field of welding either as an area of academic study or as a welder per se?
Luísa Coutinho: Welding and, more generally, manufacturing technologies are not appealing areas for women. I am now in Brazil and today I visited Senai Technological Center, a reference in professional qualification in Brazil. One of the aspects mentioned in the meeting with the Management was the need to make inform of the professional options of welding to secondary school students. We have addressed several initiatives in this direction implemented by European welding institutes.
Technological areas, where the demand for skilled technicians is superior to supply, also offer women prospects of interesting and well-paid professional careers.