Elisabeth Wächter-Schäper

The chemical industry has always been a sector where women tend to be underrepresented. That's true at Kuraray as well - especially in technical jobs. We therefore asked some of our female engineers whether they come up against any particular challenges in their work and the reasons why they chose their degree or vocational training course. 

Elisabeth Wächter-Schäper has a physics degree from Paderborn university and has been head of process control technology at Kuraray since 2017. "I was always interested in physics - but I liked art as well. So I started to train as a teacher for both subjects. However, when it came to the practical side I soon realised that I would find the rigid curriculum very restrictive. Interdisciplinary learning was important to me and back then it was not possible.” She therefore changed to a different course. As a physicist she decided to take a job in the chemical industry because she was looking for something really challenging. Variety and integrated thinking and action are certainly not lacking in her day-to-day work as a manager: complex issues need intelligent solutions and that is only possible with a high degree of creativity, flexibility and a good team. 

Does she think her experience has been different from that of her male colleagues? “30 years ago, my job interviews lasted much longer than those of male applicants because interviewers tested my specialist knowledge particularly thoroughly. Fortunately a lot has changed since then,” says Elisabeth Wächter-Schäper. Despite her earlier scepticism, she now believes quotas for women make sense for technical jobs, and especially for managerial positions: “Managers often select people who are similar to them - so a significant proportion of female decision-makers would help give women a chance. And naturally that applies equally to men in traditionally female professions.” She also advocates programmes to support young women in science, technology and IT: “Because girls find it easier to explore areas outside the traditional role ascribed to them if they are not competing directly with men.”