Empowering women in deep tech: Insights from two Senior Process Engineers on gender equality in the workplace.

Written by
Renee Jameson
Published on
April 17, 2024
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International Women's Day (IWD) is an important occasion to acknowledge the progress towards gender equality, especially in leadership positions within the deep technology sector. However, we know there is still a long way to go to ensure gender equality in the workplace.  

According to McKinsey, gender diversity on executive teams is linked to higher profitability. A 2019 report showed companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than those in the fourth quartile. Our team are the first to admit that there is room for improvement in gender balance at Mint, and we are committed to doing better.  

We have spoken with two of our Senior Process Engineers at Mint to gain insight into women's workplace challenges. They have valuable experience and knowledge to share about their career journey and how we can create a more inclusive workplace.  

Let's first get to know them a little better and learn about their work.  

1. Please tell me about yourself, your background, and your role as a Senior Process Engineer at Mint.  

Zhen: Hi! I have a university degree in chemical engineering and several years of experience in the manufacturing industry, specifically in chemicals, minerals and metals, and food and beverage.  

Joren: I studied Chemical Engineering at Mapua University in the Philippines, and my family moved to New Zealand five days after my graduation. I then completed a postgraduate certificate in General Engineering at the University of Auckland while working at PaknSave part-time. I then got an internship with Mint through Callaghan Innovation, moved into a permanent role as a Process Engineer, and was promoted to Senior Process Engineer.  

As Senior Process Engineers, both Joren and Zhen described their day-to-day responsibilities as scoping, designing, implementing, and optimising industrial processes and operations. This involves working both on-site at production sites and from an office. They collaborate with other engineers, scientists, operators, and project managers, and guide and advise junior engineers in their teams.

2. Can you share with us your journey to becoming a senior engineer? What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering, and how did you navigate your path to leadership?  

Zhen: I really liked science and art at school, but thought I’d give engineering a go at university and discovered my passion for problem-solving and critical thinking, which allows me to make a real difference in the world. After graduation, I tried different industries and kept learning. I took on leadership roles and worked my way up to a senior position. Although my journey wasn't always smooth, I aim to stay flexible and continue to push myself to grow.

Joren: There are multiple people that inspired me to pursue a career in engineering. My high school chemistry teacher was amazing. Her teaching style sparked my curiosity and motivated me to learn more about it. My high school tutor was studying chemical engineering, and when he told me what they were studying in university and his projects, it clicked to me: “That’s cool, I want to study that too.” So I chose to take Chemical Engineering at university. But thinking about it more, I’ve always been fascinated with problem-solving and understanding how things work. My parents also instilled this growth mindset. They’ve always encouraged us to continue learning. They would often say, "learning doesn’t stop, no matter how old you are.” So, these combined experiences and mindsets have led me to this path.

3. As a senior woman leader in the deep tech industry, what challenges have you faced along the way, and how have you overcome them to reach your current position?  

Zhen: Imposter syndrome is a struggle, and that, combined with the fact that there are fewer women in this industry, makes you feel alone and like you don’t belong. But I’ve learned to constantly remind myself of my achievements and give myself credit where it's due. I also find that finding a supportive network amongst other peers and leaders helps me find strength and solidarity in the community.  

Joren: When I started, the biggest challenge was navigating my way through being a minority in most settings, which can be really daunting, especially as a recent graduate. Over time, I transformed this intimidation into motivation, using it to fuel my desire to learn and grow in confidence. I think it’s important to recognise that I am extremely privileged in a way because I have not experienced outright discrimination due to my gender or race. I have been extremely lucky to be surrounded by managers and colleagues who are very open-minded.

4. Why did you choose Mint as the place to grow/expand your career and what’s kept you here?  

Zhen: I joined Mint because it's all about innovation–we're developing new technologies, pushing the boundaries of electronic waste recycling and driving change. What's kept me here is the people. Mint is the kind of place where you actually look forward to coming to work because you're surrounded by awesome folks. And the work itself is challenging but in a good way. My work is meaningful and I feel like I'm contributing to something greater than myself. Mint's culture, opportunities and mission align with what I want to do.

Joren: I love the fact that I can be a part of developing a ground-breaking technology that would have a massive impact on the world. As cliché as it might be, I’ve always wanted to do work that would make the world a better place, and Mint is doing that exactly. I’ve also always found it exciting that we are turning this amazing idea into reality. But the main thing that kept me here is the amazing inter-team camaraderie. We’ve cultivated a culture of “you’ll never walk alone.”

5. Can you share a significant milestone or accomplishment in your career at Mint (or elsewhere) that you're particularly proud of, and how it has contributed to your growth as a leader?

Zhen: One of the proudest moments in my career was becoming a Chartered Chemical Engineer – it’s like getting a black belt in engineering! This involves a rigorous process to demonstrate technical competency, leadership skills, commitment to ethical conduct, and continuous professional development. Earning this has not only validated my skills but also helped shape me into a more capable and effective leader.  

Joren: My most recent significant milestone is my promotion to Senior Process Engineer. I am really proud of this achievement. This role has challenged me to enhance my decision-making abilities, communication skills, and strategic thinking, which are some of the keys to becoming a good leader. This step up has empowered me to take on more challenges and have a more positive impact within the company.

6. In what ways (if any) does Mint foster an inclusive environment for senior women engineers to thrive and develop their leadership skills?  

Zhen: Mint invests in the professional development of our team, and people can attend internal and external workshops or training programs to grow their networks and leadership skills. However, I think every company has a work in progress in this area: encouraging more women into leadership roles and building a culture where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to succeed.  

Joren: Mint fosters an inclusive environment through encouraging to go on mentorship programs and learning and development programs.

7. What advice would you give to aspiring women engineers who aim to study process engineering and/or reach leadership positions in their careers?  


  1. Don't be afraid to stick your hand up for opportunities, even if you're unsure if you're 100% capable - that’s where you’ll learn the most.  
  1. You'll hit roadblocks or stumble along the way – we all do. Just dust yourself off, learn from the experience, and keep moving forward.  
  1. Engineering is always evolving, so keep learning and stay curious about new ideas and approaches.  

Joren: Always stay curious, don’t be afraid to dream big, break barriers, and make your voice heard.

8. As a senior leader, do you actively mentor and support other women in the engineering field? If so, how?

Zhen: Yes I do, both as part of my role and outside of it – I share my experiences and give advice on navigating the ups and downs of the field to junior engineers in my day-to-day role, for example, why and how I became chartered. Outside of Mint, I often volunteer with the Women in Engineering Network based at the University of Auckland, usually by mentoring undergraduate students, providing mock interviews, and speaking to high school students about this space.  

Joren: I am quite new in this senior leadership position. So, I haven’t really had a chance to mentor anyone as of yet officially. However, I have always been an advocate of fostering a supportive community and empowering women to navigate their career paths (whatever that may be, not just engineering) successfully. This can be through a catch-up with a colleague/friend over lunch, encouraging them to negotiate their pay, increasing their visibility within the organisation, etc.

I think this is something that Mint can work on and put more effort into—encouraging mentoring within the company. This can be done as simple as putting aside budget for a one-on-one/coffee date not just with our supervisor but any woman in the company you would like to get to know better and/or learn from.

There is also this unspoken notion that if more than one woman turns up at a table, they are instantly seen as competitors. We need to unlearn this scarcity mindset and always strive to lift/champion each other instead.

9. How do you balance the demands of your role at Mint with other aspects of your life, and what strategies do you use to maintain that balance?  

Zhen: This is something I constantly need to work on. There are always so many interesting and important things going on, but you only have a limited amount of time and energy to use on these things. Figuring out what is most important and focusing on it is a key approach for me to prioritise what can and can't wait. Setting boundaries between work and personal time is also key to making sure time is dedicated to both.  

Joren: I establish a clear boundary between work and personal life. I clearly communicate to my colleagues and supervisor that I won’t check my work email or teams during my time off. Completely detaching from work helps me fully relax and fill my cup. This allows me to come back and do my job even better.

10. Finally, reflecting on your journey and experiences, what does International Women's Day mean to you personally, and how do you envision the future of women in deep tech leadership roles?  

Zhen: To me, International Women's Day is a day filled with hope – hope that one day, we won't need it anymore. It's about celebrating the progress we've made and helping build a future where gender equality is the norm, not the exception. Looking ahead in the deep tech industry, I'm optimistic. I see a future where women are thriving in leadership roles just as much as men, where diversity is celebrated, and where everyone has an equal shot at success. But we still have a long way to go, making this day also a reminder to keep pushing for progress and to keep lifting each other up.  

Joren: For me, IWD is celebrating the women of today, but more importantly, it’s recognising the women and allies that have come before us who have fought the good fight so we can have the rights that we now do. It is important to note that although we are not there yet, we have come so far and made so much progress as compared to 100 years ago. So, for me personally, IWD is both a milestone marker and a reminder that we have so much more work to do to pave the path forward for the younger generation.

I see a future where women in deep tech leadership roles are not something that is considered rare but a norm. I know there is so much work to be done to get us to that point. We need to encourage young girls that they can achieve whatever they want, and we need to show them that it is possible for them to thrive in fields that are traditionally male-dominated fields. This is why representation is so important and one of the reasons I agreed to do this article to tell my story, hoping to shed a little inspiration to anyone who is hoping to pursue a career in a similar field.

A note from the author: A big thanks to Joren and Zhen for sharing their experience within our network to inspire other women into leadership roles within the deep tech community. We are stronger together and will keep striving for change.

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