International Women's Day interview: Asma Sharafi PhD., Ford Motor Company

AsmaIn honour of International Women’s day, we spoke to some of our female conference speakers about what inspired them to enter their chosen industry, why gender diversity is important and their advice for women pursuing similar roles. In this interview we talked to Asma Sharafi PhD., Research Engineer, Energy Storage Research, Ford Motor Company.

Asma is a research engineer working in the energy storage department at Ford Motor Company. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in mechanical engineering. The primary focus of her research was on the synthesis, materials processing, and electrochemical and mechanical property characterization of Li-ion conducting solid-state electrolytes. 

Ford logoHer work resulted in 12 publications and two patents related to solid-state batteries. Asma’s research interests include the investigation of transport mechanism and improving the electrochemical performance of advanced batteries employing metallic Li, advanced characterization of battery materials, sintering fundamentals, and mechanical properties of solid-state batteries. 

Tell us about your current role. What are your key focus areas and responsibilities?

In my role as a research engineer in the energy storage research department at Ford Motor Company I am responsible for developing and implementing pioneering strategies to improve the durability and increase the energy density of automotive Li-ion batteries exploring and characterizing the electrochemical performance of cells as part of product development for electrified powertrain engineering, and leveraging research resources by establishing new collaborations internally and externally in the form of defining projects with academic and national laboratory groups.


What inspired you to pursue your role in the automotive industry?

The main reason I chose to work in the automotive industry is that it is very diverse with the potential to provide opportunities for a range of skill sets, and there is plenty of room for career growth and development. Another reason is related to technological advancements; the automotive industry is not shy in investing a huge amount of money into research and development and in getting involved in new technological development.


Why is gender diversity in the automotive manufacturing sector important?

The underrepresentation of women in the automotive industry would inhibit this sector by losing touch with half the market and losing access to half the talent pool. It means the industry cannot take advantage of the talent and vision of the women in this industry. Diversity in the automotive industry brings fresh perspectives to explore new ideas and identify new solutions in marketing and strategy challenges.


What are the main barriers for women seeking to enter manufacturing roles?

The main barriers are the gender-biased mindset and male-oriented corporate culture, which is a factor in the gender wage gap, and longer time required for career advancement creates less favorable conditions for women to seek opportunities and enter manufacturing roles.


Is there any advice you would give to women looking to pursue a career in the ceramics industry?

My advice to women looking to pursue a career in any industry and not limited to the ceramics industry would be: choose what you are ambitious about and be confident that you can make an impact. Be clear in your purpose and never apologize for being brave and courageous.


Do you think the manufacturing sector does enough to attract, recruit, and retain female talent?

Even though there have been numerous initiatives and strategies to improve female empowerment and participating in the manufacturing sector, there is still the need for more awareness regarding women’s participation in decision-makings processes and facilitating the progression of women into management positions. This is still a work in progress and these type of changes do not occur overnight. 


What are you most looking forward to discussing as part of the ‘Examining Cutting-Edge Applications of Ceramics for Energy Storage’ session at Ceramics Expo this year?

I am looking forward to getting familiar with the most recent advancements in ceramic processing methods and the new and emerging family of ceramic materials and their potential use in energy storage. 

Hear Asma speak at the Ceramics Expo Conference on the 'Examining Cutting-Edge Applications of Ceramics for Energy Storage' session at 1:00pm, Tuesday April 30, 2019.