Marni Oaten Director Corporate Responsibility WorleyParsons  / 
Don’t miss an opportunity

story / Interview / May 23, 2016

I started off as an electrical and computer systems engineer, specialising in power engineering at Monash University. That was about eighteen years ago now! I come from an all-girls family with two sisters. I went to an all-girls school for thirteen years. When I started studying electrical engineering, it was only ten percent female.

I really enjoyed being a graduate engineer and I even surprised myself as to how much I liked engineering in practice. I wasn’t a stand out student, but I just loved the application. Like a lot of engineers in my mid-twenties, I started to look around and thought, ‘Oh I don’t know if I want to do this forever.’ I decided to pack up my bags and go living in Europe for a few years of travel and work.

I went over to the UK and started working as ‘a small cog in a big wheel,’  of a billion dollar LNG project where I was a senior instrument engineer. I had a lot of responsibility. At the time, I didn’t know how the rest of the wheel worked, but I was interested.  I had an opportunity to think about which direction my career could take. Like a lot of engineers, I did an MBA. It was perfect for me at that time in my career, after 5 years of work.

I was awarded a scholarship to do my MBA with Chief Executive Women professional network in 2003. One thing led to another. I ended up being the one Australian selected for an Eisenhower Fellowship in 2010 and spent eight weeks to the US researching a topic of my choice. I have always had a bit of socially conscious edge, but I didn’t know how to integrate that with my engineering. I visited many leaders in corporate social responsibility and specifically reached out to our WorleyParsons customers, competitors and peers in the oil and gas industry; asking how they set up their corporate social responsibility and company Foundation programs.

Sometimes you have got to take control  yourself rather than thinking ‘Why is my career is not going anywhere?’ Where is the gap? Are there external barriers or within? Do your research. You should have a compelling story about what role needs to be filled and if you are the best person for the job and you are passionate enough, do something about it! I think sometimes women do sit back a bit and wait for the next job to come along as opposed to being confident and going for it on their own.

Supporting diversity and inclusion and  showing Corporate Responsibility are important in engineering related businesses right now. I think that there is a great connection between women in the technical space and giving back to the community. In order to recruit more women into the industry, to entice more women to study science and engineering themes, we have to talk about the value engineers can contribute to our communities beyond a specific job description.

On closing the pay gap. This is a critical problem to solve that would be an indicator of the efforts in all our diversity expectations. We started off with a gender pay gap review at WorleyParsons. There is a a big piece to do around female flexibility. Not only gender, but also for a diverse workplace. We have got some amazing stories of our people who have made it work really successfully within the company. We have created a library so our employees can get on and see what has worked, so they can be having these sorts of conversations with their manager sighting internal referencing.

I have two little girls, a three-year-old and a five-year-old. I work part time now. I am a busy person but always find time for all the things I am passionate about,  I really love my work and I really love my family and precious time with my kids.

My husband and I both have equal careers and I think that it is one of the hardest scenarios to manage. When you have got both people competing for time, there is definitely a gender bias. I am the one on the call list at kinder and the like. You have got to work really hard with your partner and have to know when to judge if it’s not in a good balance and you need more support.

There is often so much pressure. I feel like sometimes I am working a full time job that I squeeze into three days a week. I have to be good at prioritization. Focus on the stuff that is going to make a big difference. If you don’t get back to everyone’s emails for the day or the next week , that’s okay. Don’t stress.

I’ll tell my daughters when their older to find their passion and interest and to make sure they are actually contributing to the world beyond their lives. There are so many women who start off with careers and then they have kids and their world just shrinks. They forget that they have got skills and talent to add to the greater world. And most importantly, make sure you give everything a go. Don’t miss an opportunity.

 

Marni runs a hundred miles an hour. We we first met her at her interview, neither of us got a word in. She spoke so articulately, with such knowledge, fire and wit. She is a force to be reckoned with. Marni is dedicated to making a difference to both the corporate space she works in, but also the industry as a whole. She recognises that whilst gender equality should be foremost in discussions, diversity as a whole, has a very long way to go in our corporate world. That it is important to see initiatives that make a difference, bought to fruition. At both her interview and when we photographed her – (follow by brunch at CIBI) – we walked away with such inspiration and knowledge on the changes that people are making, in the workplaces of Australia. Marni, we really admire your work and passion. And we can’t wait to see what you bring to the industry’s future.

3 thoughts on “Marni Oaten Director Corporate Responsibility WorleyParsons

Marni   June 20, 2016 at 9:32 pm

Thank you! Danielle and Justine you are inspiring me and so many others, keep on sharing good news of positive role models…

Francesca   June 27, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Marni – as always you amaze me! Danielle and Justine you have captured Marni’s essence perfectly!

Lucinda   June 27, 2016 at 9:44 pm

Congratulations Marni. You have a very inspiring story. Thank you for sharing it.