Lara Piau, Neoenergia’s legal director, defends union to advance for gender equality


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Lara Piau was the second interviewee of the #DeixaElaTeInspirar (Let Her Inspire You) podcast, produced by Neoenergia addressing female entrepreneurship and women in the labor market

Neoenergia's legal director, Lara Piau, was the second interviewee in the podcast series #DeixaElaTeInspirar (Let Her Inspire You), in which the company's female intrapreneurs tell their personal and professional journeys – the new episode is now available on Spotify. The executive defended a union of efforts from different sectors of society, such as governments and companies, to move forward on the fulfillment of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 5, which establishes gender equality on the agenda. "I see the UN agenda as fundamental, I think it is our chance to fight for a better future, mainly because it has the strength and advantage of involving various sectors of society", she says. Lara Piau was interviewed by Renata Chagas, CEO of Neoenergia Institute, covering female entrepreneurship and women in the labor market. Read the main excerpts from the conversation:


Renata Chagas - You are the mother of twins, who are now 15 years old. What is it like to conciliate motherhood and profession, holding a position of such responsibility at Neoenergia? Do you think motherhood has changed the way you see the work?

Lara Piau - When I arrived at Neoenergia, they were 5 years old and now 15, so I am completing 10 years at Neoenergia. I never imagined having twin children, I thought it was an artist thing, a reality far away from me, but it happened and, at the same time that I always felt very blessed, I always felt faced with a huge responsibility. At the same time, we felt very honored to have the children, to be building that family. At the time, I was the legal director of a large company, we didn't have the family around, in Rio de Janeiro, to help, so we had to do our best to handle everything. They were very allergic, slept badly, and I often watched the daybreak taking care of them. The day would dawn, I would shower, change clothes, go to work and leave the children at the daycare or sometimes with a nanny. The first three years were difficult in this sense, but the truth is that I have always felt honored and grateful to have been chosen to be there. I have always been convinced that many women go through situations that are much more complex, much more demanding, and that they could and are able to do everything, do it well, resolve it and move forward. There are people who even have to quit their jobs to take care of their children. A survey was carried out showing that almost 30% of women, faced with the arrival of a child, have to quit their job. Fortunately, I didn't have to quit my job, I managed to move on, and I think I have a privileged situation, I have to honor such privileged condition. Personally, I think Neoenergia is a very different company. It is an infrastructure company, which we know that has a nature, or at least originally, of a system that was more driven by men, I would say a more masculine system, but which is very attentive to diversity, inclusion, respect, to empowerment. It is no wonder that Neoenergia today has 43% women in its corporate staff, including the executive board. We also know that Neoenergia was a pioneer in creating the first School of Electricians for Women in the country, an initiative internationally recognized by UN Women and the International Labor Organization (ILO). Once again, I feel honored and privileged to have the opportunity to work for a company that has this characteristic. I think I try my best, but I also have a condition.


Renata Chagas - Do you think that companies like Neoenergia and Iberdrola drive other companies? How important is it for you to see companies making this gender equality movement?

Lara Piau - I see Iberdrola and Neoenergia really a step ahead in many aspects, including this one. We just talked about Neoenergia, which is traditionally an infrastructure company, which would be expected to be more “masculine”, and today we have 43% of women in the corporation, in the leadership, which is very impressive. The Gender Equality Week, promoted here by Neoenergia, in my opinion, was an important opportunity to raise everyone's awareness. Our chat here is an example, it confirms what we are talking about. I am a person who comes to work knowing that I come to an environment that fulfills me, that welcomes me, and that is thinking of promotion, of the future, of removing all the gender difficulties, of developing, of creating an environment that favors equal growth focused very much on skills and not on the fact of being a man or a woman. 


Renata Chagas - We know that the electrical sector is a predominantly male environment, so you mentioned Neoenergia's School of Electricians for Women. Is the legal environment male? Do you see any changes? When selecting people for your team, is this balance between men and women a concern?

Lara Piau - It is a concern, yes. Fortunately, the truth is that in the case of legal activities, we are seeing a very expressive growth in female participation. I was also reading a while ago, for example, that in one of the latest exams for the São Paulo judgeship, the percentage of female candidates seems to have exceeded 80%, which shows a very large female involvement in the legal activity. In our day to day, we go to look for resumes when faced with an available position, there have actually been more female lawyers' resumes than male lawyers' resumes. Today, in Neoenergia's legal department, we actually have a large female representation. The five legal superintendency positions we have today are held by women and, of the six managers, three are women and three are men. The fact that the female superintendents were women was a happy coincidence, because at the time the positions arose, they were the ones who really had the qualification, expertise, skills, and maturity for the job. It has nothing to do with the fact that I'm a woman and I chose a woman, it's because they were really qualified at that time, but I really believe in joint and balanced action between men and women. In our management environment, it is quite balanced, we have the same number of male and female managers, and I think this composition is very rich, it brings a very important background. There are reflections, points of view, and visions that are complementary, that challenge and, by complementing or challenging each other, make the work even more enriching and more capable of anticipating, because the legal practice is very much about anticipating issues, about prevention. This look that complements each other really makes a difference.


Renata Chagas - Would this complementation be one of the benefits of increasing female representation in the company and inspiring other women to occupy spaces?

Lara Piau - This complementarity, this different look, this different way of doing things, complement each other and even provoke discussions in a good way to prove that there are other ways of seeing, of seeing other analyses, other interpretations. This surely enriches the work.


Renata Chagas - Have you suffered any kind of prejudice during your professional career because you are a woman?

Lara Piau - Yes, even because I came from a humble family, from the countryside. I have always been very clear that the demands on women are more stringent, more stereotypical. Because of my history, because of my condition, I tried to focus on what I really needed, what seemed important to me. But today, looking back with the awareness I have, with the background I acquired, I see that yes, I was the target of some prejudice, of some misogynistic behavior in my path. I emphasize that it is in my case, because I am sure that people's reality is not the same, the story, the journeys are different, but in my case I see that I managed to overcome and focus on what was most important to me in that moment, which was my actions and my performance. But I think that walking is not simple and for some, it is even more complex. I also see that the scenario is being changed. Before, for example, we didn't talk about the gender issue and, although there is still a lot to improve, a huge path ahead because in fact equity is far from being solved, especially in some specific environments, today the whole world is talking about the topic.


Renata Chagas - What do you think about the UN 2030 Agenda, which sets goals for sustainable development and especially about SDG 5, which refers to gender equality? How important is this agenda?

Lara Piau - Sustainable Development Goals are very challenging. Despite the fact that progress has been made, the UN itself and the UN member states recognize that there is still a way to go for these gender inequalities to cease to exist. The truth is that we still live in a society in which many women and girls, and today we know that women represent half of the world's population, they are still subject to and suffer discrimination and violence in various parts of the world. I see the UN agenda as paramount, I think it is our chance to fight for a better future, mainly because it has the strength and advantage of involving various sectors of society, governments, political leaders, society in general, public and private companies. I think this joining of efforts, this common commitment, truly tends to help us take strides.

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