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How to succeed as a woman in R&D

Bridging gender gaps in the gasket industry: Meet Jane Abi Aad, a leading force in gasket R&D, making strides in the male-dominated STEM field

Jane Abi Aad manages the Research and Development branch of Group Efire in France. Her PhD in physical chemistry allowed her to overcome barriers in a male dominated industry.

As a Research and Development (R&D) Manager for Group Efire – KLINGER’s long-term sales partner for France and the French-speaking Africa -, Jane Abi Aad clearly understands the implications of the human factors in the R&D process. When asked her thoughts on the gender gap in STEM professions, she immediately points to an example that color codes the earliest possible phase of human development: “Have you seen gender reveal videos? Pink is for girls; blue is for boys. Start with parents, not with teachers, if you want to eliminate the difference.”


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Her astute observation is no accident. While earning her master’s degree in physical chemistry, Jane juggled her schoolwork alongside a job as a special education teacher in a pilot program for students with cognitive and neurodevelopmental difficulties. The juxtaposition of the number of women she saw in higher education, when compared to that of her young protégés, was striking.

Jane Abi Aad, Head of R&D and Engineering Office at Sealing division at Groupe Efire

„Many of the ones getting high grades were women. Yet the more you move up, the more you find almost all men. All the women – where are they?“

Jane Abi Aad, Head of R&D and Engineering Office at Sealing division at Groupe Efire


The only woman in tech

After earning a scholarship to complete her PhD in France, Jane left her native Lebanon to continue her academic journey. Upon graduating, she joined Eynard Robin as the company’s first research and development engineer. Creating a department from scratch was a challenge, but also an opportunity. As the only woman on the technical side of the company, Jane was determined to prove her mettle and her knowledge. “When you're a woman and you’re young, no one takes you seriously until you prove your skills. But when they see that you’re not surrendering, you keep on fighting, you keep on moving in your project? Of course, they change their mind.” Her hard work paid off, with a promotion to manager in less than two and a half years.

Fact box

What does STEM stand for?

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It represents a broad field of study that includes various disciplines like physics, computer science, civil engineering, and applied mathematics, among others.

Management by Participation

With the chance to run her own department, Jane had a clear vision for how she wanted to proceed. Her team was going to emulate the best parts of academia, while still maintaining the private sector agility necessary to encourage cutting edge research and development. Clearly, her plan is working: again, she was just short of two and a half years into her first management role, when she earned another promotion, this time to Manager of R&D as well as the Engineering Office of the entire Efire Group. When asked about her obvious talent for leadership, she humbly points towards collaboration and the combined talents of her colleagues. “It's a very different way of management than what I got when I started working. It’s more similar to what I got when I was doing my PhD. I'm more into listening and more into discussion, I'm more into taking the opinions of everyone. It's not a way of management that I'm the boss. It's not like in the industry, where we see that everywhere.”

Career goals and personal development

With an intellectually hungry team at her side, Jane knows that a passion for the work is the key to keeping them inspired. Frequent conversations about career goals and personal development keep her tuned in to each person’s professional path. As she explains,

Jane Abi Aad, Head of R&D and Engineering Office at Sealing division at Groupe Efire

„We’re seeing the results. I’m interested in what every engineer or technician would like to do, would like to become. Caring about their needs motivates people.“

Jane Abi Aad, Head of R&D and Engineering Office at Sealing division at Groupe Efire


When one new team member was feeling uncertain about a stretch project, she specifically assigned him to a customer whose work required a lot of interaction and feedback, so she would have the opportunity to work beside him and provide course corrections as needed. As his confidence grew, she pulled back, until he was handling the bulk of the project on his own.

Despite her successes, the challenge of being a woman in engineering is never far from her mind. Her experiences as both student and teacher, as both employee and manager, have given her powerful examples of what to do - and of what not to do. Still, as much as she hopes to encourage and mentor other women in her field, she is keenly aware that motivating women to pursue STEM is a change that must start much earlier in life. As she says, “It's not that women are not motivated. It starts from an early age; we have to play with girls in the same way that we play with boys. We have to give toys to girls that we would give to boys. And so on.”

How to prevent burn out

Even though Jane enjoys her job, she knows that relaxation is the key to preventing burn out. While her workday is often spent deep in the weeds of intellectual calculations, she likes to balance her time off with more physical pursuits: dancing and hiking are among her favorite past times. The mountains of France provide a wealth of views for the avid hiker, and weekend trips with her family and friends provide a welcome respite from desk work. Furthermore, Jane works as a volunteer for school support giving math lessons once a week.

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Jane Abi Aad joined Eynard Robin as the company’s first research and development engineer.
Jane Abi Aad joined Eynard Robin as the company’s first research and development engineer.

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