Skip to main content Skip to primary navigation

Elas No Foco: a powerful platform for Umicore women to connect, learn and grow


Despite the many barriers overcome and progress made in the last 50 years, being a woman in the workplace still comes with some unique challenges. In Brazil, a group of inspiring Umicore women have created a network to support and mentor each other. The Elas No Foco (Women in Focus) programme is now a thriving hub for women to connect across the organisation and also part of the different initiatives in Umicore supporting and promoting gender diversity and inclusion.

Now in its third year, Elas No Foco was set up by a group of women from our team in Brazil, with the idea to empower and support female colleagues. It’s designed to be a women’s support network and mentoring platform to build up the skills and confidence of female employees, helping them seize all the possibilities available to them in their Umicore journey.

For Carolina Venturelli, Business Partner South America, People and Organisation, the idea for Elas No Foco sprung from a talk she gave at an International Women’s Day event in 2022. “I shared my personal story to everyone there – men and women – and touched on both the highs and lows of my professional life to date. My main message was that regardless of position, all of us, women, are in the same boat. A lot of people came up to me afterwards and expressed their appreciation for hearing a story that mirrored their own. It was then that I realized that we could create a space for more of these kinds of conversations.”

“When I arrived at Umicore, I was the only woman on the board of directors here in Brazil, and so I’ve always wanted to find a way to broaden the voices of women in the company. I’m thrilled to see the progress of our mentorship programme. We received a lot of useful – and very positive – feedback from the first edition in 2022, which allowed us to strengthen our offer for 2023. We’re hoping to do the same for 2024.” 

"The Elas No Foco program has been very enriching both for my personal and professional life, specially when it comes to communication which was the topic I worked on with my mentor. I learned how to be more assertive and express my opinions clearly to promote collaboration.”

Amhanda, mentee

Thanks to the efforts and vision of Carolina and other women involved in the program, Elas No Foco got off to a flying start, with 22 women and men selected to be mentors for 76 mentees (1st and 2nd editions). Meeting regularly in one-to-one, one-hour meetings, they discuss anything from how to lead well to how to communicate better. There are also more general talks on subjects like dealing with imposter syndrome, and workshops on inclusive recruitment. 

It's a win-win

Carla Sudre, Legal Director , was an early joiner of Elas No Foco, and has enthusiastically embraced the many advantages of the initiative. She points out that these advantages apply just as much to the mentors as the mentees. “I saw the invitation to sign up to the mentoring programme and, as a director, I felt strongly that I had a responsibility to help other wonderful women of Umicore Brazil. The sessions are an inspiring and energizing exchange of ideas, and I always leave feeling enriched and a better person, even as a mentor. The women who participate are looking to develop themselves in some way, so they are always a joy to talk to! Witnessing them change and grow is also something I take a lot of pride in.”

As a truly inclusive initiative, Elas No Foco also welcomes men to get involved in the conversation, to show their support for female colleagues and to boost mutual understanding and open dialogue. Vinicius Anelli, P&O CoE Manager/ People & Organization, is a member of the programme and sees it as an important way to promote diversity within the organisation. “When we talk about working on diversity in a decentralised way, the Elas No Foco initiative is a perfect example. These kinds of programmes help us secure a more inclusive and equitable future for Umicore where all voices are valued. After all, bringing new perspectives and experiences to the table can only be a good thing, especially in an environment like ours, where innovation is key.”

”It has been a unique experience, it has opened my eyes to be able to see not only my weaknesses but also my strengths. Then I was able to work on both of them to become a better professional.”

Leticia, Mentee

From senior management to the shop floor

In the space of two years, Vivianne Antunes, Engineering & Maintenance Manager, has moved from a mentee to a mentor with Elas No Foco. She says both roles have brought their own benefits. “This is an amazing programme, and I’ve loved participating in different capacities. My mentor was actually Carolina, and she has been a massive help to me and filled me with confidence, particularly when it comes to speaking English. And here I am today, contributing to this article in English!”

“As a mentor myself, I find the one-to-one sessions very fulfilling. I work on the shop floor a lot, alongside other women in maintenance or engineering, and I can see how this programme can make a real difference to their confidence too. I try to encourage others to get involved, in the hope that the next edition is just as good as the last.”

“The program helped me in finding a direction. When you interact with your mentors, you can also learn about their experiences and trajectories. What I valued most is seeing male colleagues supporting the program. Usually you see women support women but in this case, everyone supported everyone.”

Naiane, Mentee

So, what next?

The first step is to do as Vivianne suggests and build upon the success of the previous two editions. After the first one, we ran a LinkedIn campaign featuring testimonials from mentees on their Elas No Foco experience, which helped to gain some traction for the programme. While other similar initiatives exist in other Umicore offices, such as Focus on Women in Belgium, Frauen at Umicore in Germany, Elas No Foco in Brazil is unique in that it is for women from all levels of seniority, as well as men.

Carla believes this is something that can be scaled and shared with other countries. “Time is really the only cost here. And I think something as simple as talking with your colleagues can have a profound impact, especially on your mental health. None of us are psychologists, but we are all human, and all able to empathise with and encourage those around us.”