Women in Sustainable Hydropower Case Study: Alexandra Saary

Meet Alexandra Saary, Head of Commercial and Contract Management at Voith Hydro North America in Canada

Alexandra Saary, Head of Commercial and Contract Management, Voith Hydro North America, Canada

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Voith.
My name is Alexandra Saary and I started with the Voith Group in February 2007 as an Internal Auditor, responsible for traveling to and auditing our worldwide subsidiaries. This was a great opportunity to get to know our Voith colleagues, as well as our markets, products, and customers. Following this role, I worked for two years as Division Controller for Voith Paper, and subsequently moved in 2012 to Montreal as Controller for our Canadian operations.

Although I always enjoyed the analytical side and the broad company perspective of finance and controlling, I wanted to work more closely with our customers. In 2016, I accepted the role of Commercial Manager, which allowed me more insight into the customer’s reality and our approach to hydropower projects. As of May 2023, I am responsible for both areas of commercial management in Canada – proposals and contract management. I also completed the McGill-HEC Executive MBA program in Montreal in February 2024.

Tell us more about the work Voith is doing to ensure gender equality in the workplace and how you have benefited.
Voith has recognised the importance and advantages of gender balance and has taken action to support women in having equal opportunities. Excellent groups such as Women@Voith bring women together to support and advise each other, which is a crucial part of success. However, more still needs to be done especially as we look up the leadership pipeline and see a stark decline in female representation. Women need role models, opportunities to have an impact on results, mentorship and sponsorship, and a clear development path forward to support retention and bring change to the current situation.

Voith has several programs in place to support school-age girls in developing their interest in STEM fields and pursuing careers in engineering. This in turn increases the hiring pool of female candidates. In every hiring process, companies need to make a concerted effort to seek out female candidates. Its also important that job postings use inclusive language and ensure that they are formulated in a gender-neutral manner.

As a successful female role model for other women interested in working in the hydropower industry what advice would you give them?
Hydropower is the most reliable and powerful carbon neutral energy technology available on the market to date. It’s exciting to be a part of making the world a greener place and playing a role in the achievement of the global objectives for decarbonisation!

Personally, I enjoy working together with a variety of people including engineers and visiting manufacturing facilities as well as hydropower production sites. There are many important roles in the hydropower industry, and you don’t have to be an engineer. Finance, controlling, commercial and contract management, project management, business development, ESG management, operations management, and communications are just a few examples of important areas of work, where you can have impact on results and your career can grow. If being part of an industry that has a real impact on people’s everyday lives is interesting to you, then a career in hydropower could be very fulfilling.

Why do you think the industry has historically fallen behind in establishing female representation and how do you think this can be changed so we no longer need to have these conversations?  
In my opinion, action needs to be taken on various levels. Once women are hired, it’s imperative that the company culture supports inclusion of diverse voices and perspectives. This also includes ensuring that programs are in place to support and advance women throughout their career development. Mentorship and sponsorship is also crucial, especially during important life moments. It’s important that women know they don’t have to choose between career and family, and that flexibility and support mechanisms are in place to help women progress if they want to. Companies have a major role to play in ensuring that women know they can be successful at balancing work and their personal lives.

Is there anything else you would like to share? Undoubtedly, more needs to be done to help girls enter the STEM industry and help women up the pipeline of organisational leadership, to have more role models, and change the current picture. I think a lot of initiatives are already on the right path. Initiatives such as this activity for International Women’s Day highlight the importance of the topic to the industry and play a role in supporting more change.

IHA has joined forces with GWNet to create Women In Sustainable Hydropower (WISH), a space where women in, and interested in, a career in hydropower can connect, share experiences and provide support to other women. This will help guarantee the development of a gender-balanced sector that makes the most of 100% of the global workforce available for driving the clean energy transition.

Find out more here.

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