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Still a man's world? Catalan women speak out about their jobs

Catalan News speaks to a maritime authority, a livestock farmer, an engineer, and a businesswoman

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07 March 2021 01:24 PM

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Cristina Tomàs White | Barcelona

There are some signs this is slowly changing, but it’s a well-known fact that certain jobs are, to varying degrees, gendered. 

More men tend to work in construction or finance, for example, than women, while there are far more women than men in care occupations such as health or teaching and domestic work. This definitely is true in Catalonia, but similar patterns are found all over the world. 

But what happens when women choose to go against the grain and defy gender stereotypes? This week Catalan News spoke to four Catalan women—the head of the maritime authority in Tarragona, a livestock farmer in the Pyrenees, an engineer in Barcelona, and a businesswoman in Switzerland—to see what they had to say about this. 

Núria Obiols Vives, Head of the Tarragona maritime authority

Núria Obiols, who studied navigation and maritime transport, says that when she was a university student there was quite a lot of sexism in her department, which had only begun to welcome women in the ‘80s. 

This was especially true, Obiols said, not so much amongst engineering professors, but those who had been merchant marines. “They would even ask us if we were looking for boyfriends!” she recalls. 

  • "Colleagues are competing with you and using all of your weaknesses"

    Montserrat Corominas · Intergroup Partners CEO

When she finished her degree, there were also companies that wouldn’t hire people like her simply for the fact that they were women. This, Obiols says, is thankfully no longer the case as their presence in the field is steadily growing, and Obiols herself has been able to have a successful career, gradually rising through the ranks to where she is now. 

Helena Guillén Díaz, Montmelús livestock farmer 

After graduating from university in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis and, unhappy with job prospects, Barcelona-native Helena Guillén could no longer see a future for herself in the city, which is why she decided to move to the Pyrenees with a group of friends. 

For the past few years, Guillén has run a farm called Montmelús near the small town of Ger, making various kinds of goat cheese—and she is one of the few women in the area in this line of work. 

Yet, when asked about whether she has faced discrimination at work, Guillén does not feel it has been the case there more than anywhere else: “I’ve never felt less valued as a woman at work but it’s also true that we live in a sexist and patriarchal society.”

Montserrat Corominas, Intergroup Partners CEO

After many years in the tech industry, Montserrat Coronominas has run her own Zurich-based company, Intergroup Partners, for the past 11 years. Part of her mantra for success in the industry as a woman, she says, is to focus on opportunities rather than inequality, although she does acknowledge its existence. 

When she was younger, Coronominas explains, she experienced more sexism from colleagues than from her superiors. “Colleagues are competing with you and using all of your weaknesses,” she said, claiming that his changed once she rose to managerial positions. 

Núria Martínez López, Process engineer

On the other hand, automotive sector process engineer Núria Martínez López doesn’t think her gender has had much of an effect on how she is treated at work even though there are very few women in her field, especially in factories.

“I’ve never felt discrimination against me,” says Martínez. “I’m very straight forward so if I found something that I wouldn’t like I would just say it and stop it right there,” she posits. 

One thing she does believe, however, is that women should be able to enter the sector if that is what they want to do and that in doing so, their diverse perspectives can be an asset both for society and for companies. 

This opinion was echoed by the others, who insist that being a woman should not mean you need to pursue a typically male-dominated occupation, but rather that not being a man should not be an impediment to achieving certain career goals. 

And to help make this a reality for more and more women, Corominas believes that assisting others is key to normalizing their presence in these professions. “If you can give a chance to other women or do some mentoring, do it because sometimes we don't help each other out that much.”

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  • Helena Guillén, a livestock farmer at the Montmelús farm, in the Catalan Pyrenees (Photo from Montmelús' website)

  • Helena Guillén, a livestock farmer at the Montmelús farm, in the Catalan Pyrenees (Photo from Montmelús' website)

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