Women Breaking Gender Stereotypes in EV Innovation

Megan DannerPRINCIPAL PROGRAM MANAGER, TRANSPORTATION, NI

published

08.02.2022

Photo courtesy of Zacua

What comes to mind when you think of electric vehicle (EV) innovation? Maybe the aspiration toward a zero- emission future? Perhaps complex lithium batteries? What about Mexico? What about a woman-owned and operated EV manufacturer? Zacua is an all-woman-owned startup based in Puebla, Mexico, and the first and only Mexican brand of EVs. As I've explored about the Zacua brand and cars, I have reassessed what it means to Engineer Ambitiously™ and learned more than a few lessons on innovation.

Read related articles in the newest issue of the NI Automotive Journal to learn more about the latest testing trends and innovations in the automotive industry.

Innovation has many facets, and it's helpful to occasionally step back and discover where it is happening. By doing so, we can achieve a renewed sense of what “innovation” means. My work at NI immerses me in technology so much that I occasionally forget how innovation refers to the introduction of something new, including the methods, the processes, and, more importantly, the people behind the innovation.

Zacua is an electric, zero-emissions car from a Mexican company committed to sustainability, responsible mobility, and creating a clean city that’s better for you, your children, and future generations.

 

- zacua.com
Breaking a 120-Year-Old Pattern

Zacua describes itself as “a company that always seeks the welfare of society.” A Mexican equity pioneer, the company teaches women who join the company as cleaners or other “blue collar” roles a robust set of skills—an entire discipline even—to help them become part of a community of innovative female regional industry leaders that designs and assembles these cutting-edge and boundary-breaking EVs by hand.

The company itself was founded in 2017. Zacua inaugurated its assembly plant in Puebla in mid-2018, and it is still a small startup manufacturer. Because each of its cars is produced with such precision and care without the help of automated machinery, its production line allows employees to assemble an average of one vehicle per day. Zacua employees say that because they produced the first 100% EV assembled in Mexico, they “differentiate [themselves] from the rest, being more daring and innovative, with outstanding features, such as savings, an exceptional driving experience, and environmentally friendly technology.”

Photo courtesy of Zacua.

In addition to producing the cars themselves, Zacua employees are impacting the local EV infrastructure by establishing 150 charging stations across Mexico City. These will be mapped in a smartphone application along with all other functional charging stations in Mexico City.

Zacua is the first car globally, in more than 120 years of history, to be assembled by a 100% female team.

 

- Nazareth Black, CEO, Zacua
Changing the Faces of Engineering

During a recent press conference, Zacua CEO Nazareth Black discussed two issues that must be addressed before Zacua can fulfill its mission: 1. the car industry was built on the environmentally harmful combustion engine and 2. cars were built by and for men. Zacua employs mostly females for its engineering center as well as its factory mechanics team.

Black actively promotes the inclusion and empowerment of women as part of her vision for the automotive industry. She oversees the company from the perspective of a woman who believes men have, for too long, dominated the automotive industry on a global level. These efforts aim to meet a company policy of equity and inclusion as well as to promote women in the automotive sector. These monumental efforts are making a tangible impact on the faces of engineering.

Let’s face it. The engineering talent pipeline hasn’t changed much over the last 20+ years. That is where the story of Zacua and NI intersect. NI’s 2030 corporate impact strategy report, Engineering Hope, outlines NI’s vision and aspirational goals for making a measurable, positive impact on society and the environment by 2030. The long-term plan to advance diversity, equity, and sustainability furthers NI’s promise to Engineer Ambitiously. The Engineering Hope strategy outlines 15 aspirational goals and commitments aligned to three key pillars:

Building a diverse and inclusive workforce is more than just the right thing to do. Our teams at NI should reflect the diversity of our customers and the communities where we live and work. Collaborating with people from diverse backgrounds opens our minds and spurs innovation. Additionally, it brings more people into the field. The global technology sector is projected to have a shortage of 4.3 million workers by 2030, so attracting more diverse people to the industry helps keep up with this growth while providing more equitable access to high-paying jobs.

The value of diversity does not stop with the societal impact; it also has a quantifiable impact on a company’s revenue. Kazique Prince, NI’s director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), addressed the need for greater diversity in the workplace in the Q2 2022 Automotive Journal. “Research and literature have been clear: organizations that do well in [the areas of DEI] versus those that don’t make more money. In fact, they make on average $500 million more than those organizations that don’t.”

Impacting Generations to Come

As the mother of a daughter who is incredibly innovative and endlessly inquisitive at the young age of 3, I get excited thinking about the opportunities she will have that were unavailable to her grandmother 40 years ago or even to me within the last 15 years. Zacua is leading the way in Mexican EV innovation and breaking centuries-old gender stereotypes while staying firmly rooted in Mexican heritage and identity. Black writes "In this world there is so much to do, so much to improve, so much to build. And it all begins by building in our minds that better world for everyone." I am inspired to see companies like Zacua emphasizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in their engineering, operations, and manufacturing. Their example continues to inspire the world and generate new perspectives on how to Engineer Ambitiously. To quote Black, "when one of us takes a step, we all move forward."

 

*This article reflects the author’s opinion and is not sponsored by Zacua in any way.