The SENDER project is pleased to dedicate this series of articles to our hashtagfemale researchers to present their journey to becoming a hashtagresearcher, the challenges they encountered along the way and the most important lessons they learned.

As part of SENDER, we interviewed Ms Sarah Wünscher, student and project assistant for the Austrian research center Innovationszentrum W.E.I.Z.

Career and challenges

Q.: Ms Sarah Wünscher, can you tell us about your journey to becoming a researcher, the challenges you encountered along the way and the most important lesson you learned?

Ms Sarah Wünscher: One important lesson I’ve learned so far ist that your opinion is important and one should always consider multiple perspectives of a topic. Challenging I would say is to be taken seriously as a woman in a more technical field. However, this obstacle can be overcome with communication and commitment.

Role in the project

Q.: What do you do within the SENDER project? How have your studies and expertise enabled you to fulfil this role?

Ms Sarah Wünscher: I am responsible for communication with the households and collecting/forwarding of data as well as completing the audits. With my background in business administration at the beginning I felt almost overqualified for such a task, but now with the more challenging topics to process and the more specific requests from the household an exciting field of activity is emerging.


Q.: At European level, do you think the research sector has become more open to women? What could be done to achieve greater equality between men and women in this field?

Ms Sarah Wünscher: In recent years, there have been efforts to make the research sector in the energy transition more open to women in Europe, but there is still significant room for improvement. While progress has been made in increasing the representation of women in Science, Technology and Engineering fields, gender equality remains a challenge. Those challenges could be overcome by creating supportive environments (mentorship programs..), addressing unconscious bias, Encouraging female role models or supporting the work-life-balance (with flexible working arrangements, parental leave policies..).

Q.: As an expert in energy field, what do you see as Europe’s biggest challenge in the transition from fossil fuels to renewables?

Ms Sarah Wünscher: Europe’s biggest challenge in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables lies in ensuring a comprehensive and coordinated approach across diverse sectors and member states to address infrastructural, economic, and policy barriers effectively. More collaborations across countries would be needed also an exchange of knowledge.

Q.: Finally, what advice would you give to future generations of women who want to become researchers?

As I am still young and at the beginning of my career, I do not have many advice; but I think it is important to find what truly inspires and motivates you, whether it’s sustainability, innovation, or societal impact, and let that drive your journey. Also do not be afraid of technical fields/topic and explore your interests early on. Stay interested in new topics.

Sarah Wünscher