Woman forges ahead in a male-dominated field


At Freudenberg, the technical professions are not just a man's world

Weinheim. January 5, 2012. The automobile and automotive components industry is often still seen as a man's world. However, women have long since proved that they can do a very good job in technical professions. One example is Dr. Hannah Köppen, who works for Freudenberg Research Services. The 31-year-old mechanical engineer works on the latest process engineering innovations for the automobile industry. Many people still think that engineering is only an attractive profession for men. The Freudenberg Group would like to combat this prejudice and supports women working in technical and scientific areas.

"What women still need are role models, women who have made their way in male-dominated areas," Hannah Köppen explains. Köppen, who holds an engineering doctorate, already developed her passion for science in her parents' home. Both her parents are engineers. Her mother, a precision mechanics specialist, showed her that engineering need not be a noisy, dirty profession, despite common prejudices to this effect. As a project manager in process engineering, the 31-year-old works on innovative production processes for rubber compounds with long shelf lives used in O-rings and other sealing solutions.

Köppen was attracted to Freudenberg by a project during work on her doctoral thesis. She was convinced by the family company. "The innovative power and especially the long-term orientation of Freudenberg are remarkable. Research and development work is based on potential for the next few years and decades and not just for the next quarter, as in the case of many other companies," she says, explaining her decision to join Freudenberg.

What women want
Another argument in favor of Freudenberg is work-life balance. Köppen is convinced: "In order to recruit qualified women, work must be compatible with family life." Thanks to the flexible working time at Freudenberg Research Services, she can ensure the optimum work-life balance. According to Köppen, the Girls Day at Freudenberg is an ideal way of providing girls with an introduction to technical professions. This year, the Group took part in the national event for the ninth time. Over the past few years, Freudenberg has succeeded in interesting hundreds of young women in male-dominated vocations. "Freudenberg and other companies should go further in this direction to give even more girls and women the confidence they need to chose a career in science or technology," says Köppen.

Mixed teams work best
According to the Freudenberg engineer, confidence in your own abilities and confidence in general are essential if a woman is to survive in the male-dominated world of engineering. She often faces the prejudice that women cannot reach the same levels of specialist competence as men. "There is a general lack of awareness that women can do their work just as well as men. Often, people start by just laughing at us. We have to perform well to be taken seriously," says Köppen, voicing a word of criticism. "But women really combine specialist and social competence in an ideal way," she adds.
Freudenberg Research Services carries out research and development work for the Group and other companies in fields including polymer materials, rubber compounds and polyurethanes. "We have a good balance between men and women in our team," Köppen reports: "I am convinced that mixed teams perform the most productive work."