To promote the full and equal access and participation of females in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), the International Day of Women and Girls in Science takes place on 11 February every year. Within FlashPhos are many inspiring women who are contributing to the project’s progress. One of them is Sustainability and Innovation Certified Specialist Maria Cristina Pasi: At Italmatch Chemicals she works as a Project Manager Advisor and Senior Consultat. The following interview gives an impression of Maria Cristina’s work, inspirations, and ambitions, offering a glimpse into her journey in STEM.
What is your academic background and why have you decided to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and more specifically your field of work?
I am a Doctor in Chemistry, UniPV, and qualified as a Post Degree Specialist in solid state photochemistry at the University of Kent, UK. Then, I qualified as Master’s in Sustainability at the Imperial Business School of London, I got a Master’s degree in Innovation Management and an IMP Diploma (International Management Program) at the Heinrich-Emanuel-Merck-Schule Darmstadt, in Germany. Since the early times, 1993, I have always looked for professions in which I could adopt a wide-open multidisciplinary approach. Also, multicultural contexts were among my top priorities. Therefore, let me say that I decided to pursue STEM to demonstrate that my preferred wide comprehensive perspective of technical problems could provide better solutions, or at least reduce those cascade problems which usually are generated by adopting a straight narrow technological vision.
My field of work has always been Chemistry, in a very polyedric way. In my 31 years of experience, I played in the Specialty Chemicals, within the advanced industrial technologies, water resources protection, advanced and novel materials science, cosmetics, coatings, plastics and graphic industry, covering a wide cross-section of activities and responsibilities from business & strategy development to enabling Innovation to large scale markets, including cross-fertilization actions. In 2012 I founded Izar, an individual consulting firm operating internationally with Industries, Academies and Public Institutions. As in Izar we believe that Knowledge, Competence and a wide-open multidisciplinary approach in multicultural contexts are pillars for a sustainable, equality-based and significant growth. And, in fact, I was appointed to the Water Smart Industry VLT cluster at Water Europe and I am leading the European Recycling & Sustainability cluster for the IPCEI EuBatIn, representing 15 European organizations operating actively at international level in the e-mobility battery value chain. I am also a member of the BoK Water scarcity in the Mediterranean area, KIC Climate. So Science and STEM for me were the key to opening all the doors towards my ambitions as a person in the human community.
What are you doing at Italmatch and what is your role in FlashPhos?
The company played a strong role in my latest developments. Within the company I am responsible for the successful development of several strategic corporate projects, highly focused on innovative processes, models, products, and value chains as well as highlighting the spillover effects and related novel market potentials within the Beyond Innovation Cluster. In FlashPhos I support the Italmatch team in the project coordination and in the development of the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA). The SEIA constitutes one of the pillars, together with the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), for demonstrating the sustainability improvement of the novel solution we are developing versus the state of the art. Italmatch, as a fact, is one of the major players in the world for Phosphorus Chemistry and FlashPhos is about Phosphorus!
What motivates you to work in FlashPhos?
Two main reasons: The first lays in my strong belief in circularity-based economic models which can contribute to mitigating climate change and the consequent decline of the planet. It would be great to be able to demonstrate that significant highly impacting processes can be shifted towards highly sustainable ones. The second one is the opportunity to work in a multicultural context – even if 100% European – from a geographic, educational, gender and seniority perspective. There is a lot to learn! FlashPhos, for me, was also the opportunity to work side by side with an Italmatch Senior manager of unique value in terms of competence, management ability and networking skills. Again the motivation is in the learning, because widening our knowledge is the key to a deep cultural progress, especially in STEM where novel solutions and new technologies can sometimes show good and bad cascade effects.
Are there female role models that inspired you throughout your training or your career?
I have always been inspired by Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel. She has been capable of exploiting her talents. All of us should be proud of our origins and able to create and construct by implementing and meliorating our natural gifts. The ability to adapt to the historical and social changes inspired me in finding and developing the proper tools according to the real situations. Additionally, she was a great observer and properly understood the people’s needs in her sector.
I was also inspired by Angela Merkel, since she is a chemist in education, but also a great politician – another example of the importance of multidisciplinarity in reaching important goals.
But… my „bosses“ have always been men…..:-(
What are your expectations and wishes for the future regarding the role of women in science? What advice can you give girls interested in a career in STEM?
I think that nowadays women can get everything they want and society is ready for this. Me as well, I have played roles such as CEO, Global director… I was appointed director at 35 years old! But that’s not what it is about. The real topic for me is to guarantee equal possibilities and opportunities for all the highly competent women! This is my expectation and wish. Therefore my advice to girls interested in STEM is to keep and develop an open-minded attitude, a real open-minded attitude, that means observing, listening, studying, exploring, asking questions, even about the details without fearing to be judged “too analytical”, because I think that a good synthesis, a good construction can only begin with the basic concepts and principles discovered by a proper analysis. Only a proper evaluation can reduce the probability of mistakes and dangerous consequences.