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Focus on Women Scientists in Lubricants Industry

August, 2021

Research programs in lubricants industry are often driven by multidisciplinary research teams. Experts with STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) background come together to design and develop lubricants that can have positive societal impact. However, a major drawback of being multidisciplinary is the lack of gender diversity in these research groups. Often, women are outnumbered by men in research. And it can affect collective intelligence and new perspectives in lubrication science. In the next sections we will discuss few factors affecting the gender diversity and the design initiatives by Ducom that has delivered more power to women in lubricants testing. 

“ I am Dr. Aradhana Tripathi working as Chief Manager in the Research and Development wing of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation. My association dealing with lubricants span over a period of more than 19 years. The journey has been truly fascinating and rewarding. 

Lubricants are critical to the functioning of the world encompassing many industries. Career is undoubtedly challenging and demanding because continuous innovation of novel products not only increases efficiency in the functioning of these various industries, but also reduces recurring costs as the life span of the system increases with less wear and tear solutions.
The career in the lubricants sector gives immense satisfaction for having contributed in some way to the growth of the economy simultaneously enriching humanity at large by ensuring renewable energy solutions, a mission towards a cleaner and greener environment. I feel proud, respected and motivated to be a part of this journey. ”


   According to UNESCO Institute of Statistics in 2018, women account for only 28 % of total researchers in the world and the lowest representation of women in research was in the west and south Asia regions. Furthermore, women representation in oil and gas industry (STEM related jobs) was the lowest among all the other STEM related industries, according to a McKinsey report “Women in the Workplace 2018”. Our own observations over two decades of participation in lubricants science related activities is that women are outnumbered by men in authorships, presentations, and invited speakers.

“ I am Kamala Rathi, M.Sc. (Organic Chemistry), I have been working in the Lubricants space for over 3 decades now. Right from my college days, molecular chemistry really intrigued me, and eventually, this inquisitiveness turned into a passion to conserve natural resources. I was fortunate to be able to lead a career in what I am so deeply passionate about. I play a key role in R&D at Hardcastle Petrofer, where I focus on creating next-generation high-performance fluids that are eco-friendly and cost-effective. ”


This gender-science gap is related to small representation of female graduates. A report from National Center for Education Statistics in USA showed that only 13.9 % and 17.1 % are female graduates in mechanical engineering and petroleum engineering, respectively. This happens as women must overcome several layers of psychological, sociological, and cultural barriers compared to men. For example, women in India must overcome the socio-cultural hurdles in their patrilineal society to pursue and sustain career in science. Despite socio-cultural and socio-economic hurdles in India, Dr. Aradhana Tripathi from Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited and Kamala Rathi from Petrofer are making significant progress in the male dominated lubricants industry in India. Please refer to their inspiring testimonials about their career as an expert in lubrication science. 

“ I have been working for Shell for more than 3 years, currently working as Lubricant's technician at Shell Technology Centre Bangalore and I am into Lubricants field for more than 6 years now.Deepti BapatIt feels great working at Shell with a diverse environment and wider opportunities to explore. Working in the laboratory for Lubes team, formulating on various oils to support not only India but APME region helps to understand about different requirements for finished lubricants for different markets. It’s quite exciting to see the automation and transition in this field and working on Four Ball Tester has made life so easy unlike the traditional method. ”

One of the psychological factors is gender stereotypical beliefs about women capabilities to develop certain key skills. In a study published by University of Basel in Switzerland, the female students in secondary schools perceived Math, Chemistry and Physics as masculine subjects that made STEM less appealing in their higher education. A special issue published in Canadian Physics Education Research covered a gender-science gap research report from University of British Columbia that demonstrated gender-based differences in lab activities. It was quite revealing to learn that female students were reluctant to operate the lab equipment’s. From this report we believe that lab equipment’s have masculine identity that was less aspiring for women. If we need more women participation in the research labs, then this notion of masculine identities must be overcome. 

“I have more than 20 years of experience in lubricants R&D in Brugarolas, S.A. Lubricants are  very important and play a very active role in many industries and applications. Eva Ortega
Applications are becoming more severe and demanding, so lubricants must be of higher quality. To get these we must do a good job in the R&D lab.
Tribological characteristics are very important in most applications, hence you must be well equipped. One of the most important equipment is the 4-ball machine, our DUCOM FBT-3”

In lubricants test labs there are several equipment’s that carry masculine identity. One of them is four ball tester that is used to determine friction and wear of lubricants. Conventional four-ball tester occupies half the lab space, a section of this space is stacked with disk weights that were applied manually on the four-ball tester, it certainly had a masculine identity. Very few women operated this test rig until recent developments and automation of four ball tester by Ducom. Using the Ducom rules of design thinking we compressed the four-ball tester into a size of a coffee machine and automated the process of lubricants testing, including IoT based cloud computing to deliver test data “anywhere and anytime”. We had reinvented the four-ball tester and gave it a gender-neutral identity without loosing its compliance with global test standards. Its improved safety, reliability, data reproducibility, ease of operations coupled with an exceptional free customer support are driving its growth in lubricants industry. 

“ I am Victoria Granja from Rice University, USA. Each minute a vast amount of energy and material losses are occurring simultaneously on virtually every mechanical device in operation and approximately one-third of the world’s energy resources are needed to overcome friction in one form or another.Victoria_FBTI was motivated by such important challenges because I believe they also pose inspiring opportunities for research and development. There exists an ever-growing need to improve operating efficiency of equipment by optimizing performance of lubricants. Finding novel ways to minimize friction and wear through improved lubrication technology not only embody immense potential savings but even more importantly, they are crucial to a greener and more sustainable world. ”

Have our new designs appealed to female scientists in lubricants industry? Yes, it has even made them more independent in the lab. We have measured the influence of newly designed four ball tester in our latest customer survey that has shown a significant increase in the women scientists using the four ball testers. Few of these women scientists are Deepti Bapat (Shell Global Solutions), Arancha Alegre Ramos (Cogelsa), Eva Ortega (Brugarolas), Angela Tortora (Ducom Europe) and Victoria Granja (Rice University). They are heavily involved in operating and managing the FBT-3, creating value to their organizations, and inspiring more women engineers and scientists to choose lubrication science as their career. 

“ I am Arancha Alegre, Chemical Engineer, I have been working in the Lubricants world for more than 15 years.AranchaI always wished to work in the reduction of the energy consumption of the machinery, extending the life of the mechanisms, reducing the wear and the friction. Lubricants are substances which play a key role in these aspects and due to that I am working in R &D Department of COGELSA doing my best.”

Gender balanced research team is crucial to science and business. According to a study covering 20,000 observations by investment banking company Robeco, an increase in women participation in management resulted in an increase in their corporate earnings. In science, the gender equality can make research more accurate and enable more innovations. Data from US department of commerce shows that STEM employments will outpace non-STEM employment by 2024, this could result in a shortage of 1.1 million STEM professionals. This shortage can be overcome by encouraging female students to opt for STEM, enable more women to sustain career in science.

“ I am Angela Tortora from Ducom. For me it all started 6 years ago while I was doing research for my master thesis in biomedical engineering, that is when I was introduced to the field of tribology.AngelaI started understanding the importance of friction, wear, and especially lubrication. Lubrication is all around! Wherever I go, from the grocery store to the gas station, I smile thinking that my research in lubrication is somehow helping to improve the quality of all those products, from the milk to the diesel fuel or motor oils. It is fascinating to connect your daily work to real world applications. ”

At Ducom we are giving our best as a lab equipment manufacturer to innovate tribometers that can break the gender stereotypes barriers and appeal to all women scientists to become more independent and get inspired to join lubrication science.

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