Meeting Šárka Fialova and Petra Conckova was really pretty inspiring. Both women work in Teva api’s Opava manufacturing site in the Czech Republic, with Šárka being the sole woman on the production team. Both are super passionate about what they do, and in this blog, we’ll see what drove them to their fields, and what they think about the men women divide.
What exactly does your job entail?
Šárka: I’ve been working as an API operator in the production team for 12 years now, and I’m the only woman on my team. Our team produces two immunosuppressive substances – cyclosporine and micophenolate mofetil. We work in 12-hour shifts around the clock because the machines we use cannot stop due to the chemical reactions they’re making.
Petra: I’ve been working in the Quality Control (QC) department for 11 years. Originally, I was a quality analyst but after a few years, I was promoted to quality laboratory planner. Essentially, I take the samples provided to us by the production team and work out exactly what tests and what analyses need to be done for each customer.
Šárka: Say I produce around 100kg of a substance, I’ll pass just 20 grams over to Petra!
How did you get into this field?
Šárka: Growing up, I always loved my chemistry classes at school. My sister was also a chemistry teacher and used to do fun experiments with me. We’d do color experiments at home and make mini eruptions too. These experiences paved the way for my career, as right when I finished school, I applied for a position in the production team at Teva, and I’ve been here ever since!
Petra: I’ve known about this plant ever since I was a child, as part of my family worked here. Some of them are still here today! I studied Pharmacy at university and worked as a pharmacy assistant for 8 years before hearing about and opening in Opava and moving to Teva api.
Šárka, how is it to be the only woman among so many men, in a field that is heavily male-oriented and involves a lot of manual labor?
Šárka: For me, it’s totally fine. I’ve never really given it too much thought. I’ve always been very strong. I’m from a small village near Ostrava, so as a child I was always doing a lot of manual work in the house and the field – cutting grass and tending to the animals. There was never any distinction made between girls and boys in my childhood. I think women in the chemical industry have to be physically and mentally strong and should also have a lot of self-confidence. I think I’m optimistic and the men think I have a good sense of humor.
Petra: I agree, and I had the same experience growing up. It was just me and my sister at home, and we had to help around the house. I remember carrying heavy bags of coal that we used for heating (in the days before we had gas!)
Do you think as a woman you bring anything unique to the table?
Šárka: Yes, I think I bring new ideas to the team and to our working practices. In general, I think women are more disciplined than men and bring order to the workplace.
Petra: I agree. In QC, there tend to be more women than men. In the lab, you need to be very precise and thorough which is why I think it’s more suited to women.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Šárka: I love nature, spending time with my parrot and my horse, and riding my motorbike!
Petra: I like to relax by reading, walking, or going to the cinema. I’m also really into geocaching these days which is great if you want to travel but you don’t know where to go. You just look up where they have geocaches and that’s your next destination.