Xenia Loizidou is the Co-Founder and Director of ISOTECH LTD, one of the leading environmental firm in Cyprus. She is also a Member of the Board of Director of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation where her expertise as a Civil and Coastal Engineer helps preserving the coastline of this beautiful island.
First of all, congratulations for the two awards you received recently the Sir Stelios Award for your work on incorporating environmental considerations in the Cyprus peacebuilding process and the International Award last may in New Delhi from the Women Economic Forum “for business and leadership, contributing to a better world”. How do you feel about it? Do you think it is some kind of achievement for all your work?
Of course, I am very proud and very happy of these awards! I am always working in teams and I believe in the power of cooperation and team work. So, these awards are a reward for all of us, for so many years of collective hard work.
You have been the cofounder and Director of ISOTECH Research and Consultancy for 25 years, what are the aspect of your work you’re the most passionate about?
I am costal engineer. I studied civil engineering and costal engineering in my post graduate. I am passionate about the power of the sea I think sea and its waves are the most dynamic elements of our world. As engineer, I follow a solution-oriented approach in my work: provide solutions to problems and see them being implemented in for example in infrastructures, or for conservations issues. I think that I am blessed working in a field like this.
What made you choose this field of study? Have you always been aware of the importance of protecting our environment?
I was brought up in Pafos, a small coastal city in the island of Cyprus. Beautiful coastlines, pristine in those days. It had great weather, so almost all year round we were swimming. The sea and the coast were always my natural environment! When I eventually started studying civil engineering I found this post graduate specialization that allowed me to work in coastal environment and all the beauty outdoors.
I have not been always aware of the importance of protecting our environment. In the early 80’s when I started my studies, nobody was actually talking about the protection of the environment as we do today. As I told you before, I’ve spend my childhood in a beautiful, natural area, I started realizing the importance of preserving our environment and made it my job, while I was looking at this beautiful area being constructed in a non-sustainable way and damaged…
Have you seen a change in the mentality on the issue of preserving our natural sites? Do you think people are now more aware?
Definitely yes ! I think public awareness, especially in Europe, has tremendously improved over the last 30 years. Nobody can deny those facts nowadays. We have seen improvement in the ozone layer, technology has turned into more greener solutions and education is now focusing more on those issues. However, at the same time, other technologies and other countries are developing in the other way, the non-sustainable way. For example, in Asia we have the mega-cities causing tremendous pollution and for many of them, environmental issues are not a priority. For them, combating poverty and the need of economic growth are stronger than implementing environmental standards.
So, we see some improvements in Europe and some other developed countries but the world is big and several overpopulated countries have not listed environmental consideration among their priorities.
With the American elections, we have seen that even in Western Countries environmental preservation is still threaten…
Indeed, many people are afraid of the policies that President Trump will follow, and this will reflect on the budget that will be allocated for environmental protection, which is a very important issue. However, I am optimist per nature, so I would give some time to the new US government to adjust to reality and hope that their initial policies might change. I hope that environmental consideration will stay in the top priorities of the US administration.
Will the EU have to take over a more important role in this matter?
The European Union is a pioneer in environmental consideration, green technologies and policies. However, the EU has become very bureaucratic. There are a lot of areas where we are losing focus and giving too much importance to managerial issues and technicalities. I really believe that the EU should once again be the pioneer, take more initiatives, become less bureaucratic.
Being a woman in science and especially in engineering, did you face more obstacles on your career path? Do you think mentalities are evolving on those issues?
Of course, I did. Construction sites and those fields of expertise where I work are very male dominated. However, among engineers there is an embedded respect for each other, as colleagues. Actually, it is when I started participating in decision making boards that I encountered a lot of gender bias from my counterparts. I think mentalities are evolving with time but there is still a resistance from this male decision-making system, especially in the south of Europe. It is not very common among men to support women in the decision making process. There is progress, but, gender bias and prejudices are still strong. To improve that we need a change in the mentalities which will only come from a change in our education priorities, in the families and in the cultural environment in general. As in nature, a system needs biodiversity to be sustainable, in human systems we need diversity! So women must participate in decision-making in order to have sustainability in our human system.
Looking back on your career, are there things you wished to have done differently? do you have some examples of mistakes you’ve made and would have dealt with differently now?
I have made a lot of mistakes during my career! Βut what is important is to be able to stand up again, deal with the consequences of those mistakes and learn from them. I also think it is important during those moments to have a good supportive network of people around you People who trust, who love you, who can support you. People you can lean on, when you need it!
What advices would you give to a young woman starting her career now and aspiring to leadership and high level positions?
Young women should dare to take risks. They must not be discouraged by any obstacles, especially if it comes from gender bias that exists in our society. I would also advise them not adjust themselves to the male way of ruling, keep up with their own characteristics. They don’t need to become man-like to be powerful.
What is the thing that you are the proudest of in your career?
I feel very happy about my work and life balance. I am a mother of 2 children while I run my own international consulting company, and I have a career that I love and at the same time I do a lot of voluntary work. I am doing very interesting things in my professional life but at the same time I spend time with my family. At the end of the day it is something that I feel satisfied about, if not proud of. It is a false idea to say that women need to sacrifice family life for career. Balance and love are the key words and ….hard, hard work.
Thank you for this so interesting interview. I believe that networks such as WIL are really important for promoting, in our societies, the culture of women in leadership, through the support of women-members and dissemination of role models. Very proud to be member of WIL-Europe.