BABAEngineers of AboitizPower (from left to right) Nes Pascua, Allyson Milan, and Arline de Gracia

AboitizPower Corporation (AboitizPower), one of the Philippines’ largest power producers, celebrates National Women’s Month with #BABAEngineer, a campaign that salutes its female engineers.

Being a woman in a male-dominated field has its challenges.  However, in an inclusive environment — such as the one nurtured by AboitizPower — women are not only able to find their place in the company but also thrive in their roles. To create a culture that values diversity and equity, the company is working to harness the power of women by bringing the most talented females into its roster of leadership and technical positions; continuously finding ways to encourage women to become competent managers and engineers in the energy industry.

Three of the company’s many BABAEngineers in AboitizPower share how being empowered in the workplace allows them to tread on an unusual path while paving the way for other women as they do.

A tailor’s daughter is now a tailor’s engineer

Responsible for designing and implementing the approved protection and control systems of Davao Light and Power Company (Davao Light) is Nesvelle “Nes” Mae Pascua. The daughter of a tailor of modest means, Nes is a cum laude engineering graduate from the Mindanao State University and was a scholar of Davao Light. After passing the board exam, she joined Davao Light as part of the Engineering Corps program. Since 2019, Nes has been assigned to the Power Systems Planning Department to lead in improving the digital substations of the power utility.  She is also responsible for stimulating and foreseeing protection methods to protect the company’s power system components during abnormal conditions.

One of Nes’ major projects was the powering up of the Calinan Substation, the first digital substation of Davao Light located in Barangay Calinan, Davao City. The project was memorable for her because it was implemented at the height of the pandemic. Following that, she also led several upgrading projects for the Maa Substation and Binugao Substation.

According to Nes, system protection schemes are important as it ensures the safety of electrical devices “such as power lines and substations during electrical faults caused by strong winds, animals, vegetation, or branches falling off trees.”

These system protection protocols also ensure the reliability of Davao Light’s power supply and keep the devices linked to the power company in good condition. These schemes, Nes said, “help ensure that the power supply will not be cut off despite electrical faults, so there is a steady supply of electricity to keep appliances running.”

Her keen intellect and solid work ethic make Nes a very good fit for this leadership post. “I’m used to working in a male-dominated environment, just like any other woman who has studied electrical engineering or is working in the same field. But there isn’t any difference when it comes to opportunities offered to both men and women in AboitizPower.”

Breaking glass ceilings in the workplace

Allyson Milan is a Systems Operations & Substation Engineer at the Malvar EnerZone Corporation. She operates the distribution system of Light Industry and Science Park (LISP) IV, a 212-hectare park in Malvar, Batangas, and is similarly pleased with AboitizPower’s efforts to help women break the glass ceilings in the workplace: “I think that the greatest highlight of my career is that I am the first female engineer of the Enerzone team here in Batangas.”

A Batangueña, Allyson has an electrical engineering degree from De La Salle Lipa. She is entrusted with the Substation Equipment and Electrical Department (SEED) in EnerZone, with an actual powerhouse under her command.

“Being part of the engineering team is an honor. I have this opportunity to showcase my potential as a professional, and do meaningful work as an empowered woman.”

Beyond that, Allyson noted that her position as a woman engineer with AboitizPower is fulfilling. Women like her are rising to positions of trust and power by dint of their skills and work ethic, and their momentum opens more opportunities and doors for future women engineers.

For Allyson, having women in the organization can expand the company’s opportunities for problem-solving and collaboration.

“I provide the softness in the team when it comes to discussions,” she said of her nurturing leadership style. “This allows me to harmoniously offer help, suggestions, and advice to my team.”

Willpower and productive collaboration

For Arline de Gracia, Water Treatment and Chemical Laboratory Superintendent in the Therma Visayas, Inc. (TVI) Toledo plant in Brgy. Bato, Toledo City, Cebu, the highlight of her career was the commissioning of the power facility, considering the complexity that went into its design and construction.

“It seemed like a colossal jigsaw puzzle that needed tremendous effort, patience, and willpower to put together,” said the chemical engineer from the Cebu Institute of Technology about the 340-megawatt state-of-the-art coal-fired power plant. Coming from the mining industry, Arline observed there were significant differences in her previous industry environment in relation to the power industry, but with the help of her team members and co-team leaders, as well as the support of the management, she was able to accomplish what needed to be done.

“Because women are by nature meticulous, planning becomes more effective. Activities and tasks turn out to be well-organized because women have keen eyes for details, the nitty-gritty,” she asserted.

Arline is convinced that having empowered women in TVI is a good complement to her male-dominated company — and the power industry in general — because women foster productive collaboration.

“It is very fulfilling to be able to come together to solve daunting problems. Each challenge is part of the learning curve for the team,” she said. “It’s so gratifying when I see my team members succeed. Seeing them succeed means I’ve somehow succeeded as a team leader.”

The lady engineer affirmed she empowers herself by continuously evolving: “I strive to always be a learner. I condition myself to be open-minded to the inputs of everyone, may it be my team members or team leaders, because I believe that everyone’s ideas are valuable.”

AboitizPower President and Chief Executive Officer Manny Rubio, speaking on the #BABAEngineers campaign, stressed that concrete gains have been made in the past years.

“A more diverse and inclusive workforce brings a healthy mix of different perspectives, interests, and strengths that are essential in encouraging innovation and progress,” he said. “This fosters a productive workplace that benefits not just women, but all team members.”

“We’ve made significant progress in empowering women in AboitizPower. We look at the merits and abilities of each person in our workforce and do not discriminate against others for being their authentic selves. This is how we transform energy for a better world,” he added.

With this new generation of BABAEngineers and empowering management, the future of women in AboitizPower looks undoubtedly bright — and powerful.

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