I studied a combined Arts/Law degree at the University of Sydney. I did archaeology in my arts degree however I’d always wanted to do law. There was just something about it that idea of arguing a case. It seemed glamorous.
I’ve been at Multiplex for over twenty years. I had Cameron, my first son, and when I came back to the law firm I was working at after maternity leave, they thought it’d be much better if I was placed with a client. They were negotiating the Olympic Stadium at the time, so I ended up coming on secondment to Multiplex and I’ve been working here ever since.
Coming from a law firm, I was used to a politically correct law office. My first day in the old Multiplex offices down in The Rocks, my computer doesn’t work. I went to the office next door and the guy’s screensaver was a naked woman! That was 1996, really not that long ago. It was a business that almost didn’t have any women, unless you were a nurse. There was a lot of push back, some had directly said to me ‘I voted against you ladies coming on board’ or ‘We don’t need women’. It took a bit to turn the ship. That was just hard work and showing that we added some value.
The crunch came around when we were building Wembley Stadium. After what happened at Wembley, they decided that they needed to have a lawyer across the Australian business. I was doing the NSW role and I can remember seeing the list of people they were headhunting and I thought ‘I could do that’! I realised that if I wanted to step up, I needed to move into a full time role if I was going to be fighting off senior partners from law firms to get the gig.
I’m a Director of the Multiplex Indian company. India had never been on my horizon in a travel sense, it just didn’t appeal to me because I’d never been. Now, it’s so under my skin. You can use the experiences you have at work, for the other bits in your life. I love traveling and photography and so I’ve been lucky to get some of those experiences and do things I’m really interested in.
Culturally, trying to work out how to make things work in India, is really important. It’s so remote to what we do here. We have a project out of Delhi, where we have a labour camp; a huge piece of land, where we have built accommodation which will eventually house 500 labourers. The workforce are from different areas of India. There’s a big open shed that serves as a kitchen and there are six areas in the kitchen. For example, people from the south might eat meat, but then there’ll be an area from a region which is vegetarian, so they’ll have their own space, and many will have their own cooks.
They are passionate about dance. We are trying to teach them about safety because they look at that issue differently to our Australian workforce. They do love dancing, so we are doing this great safety induction with a dance routine. These workers are coming out of villages and farms and often haven’t seen a building of more than one storey. Tata our Joint Venture partner, goes into the villages and erects a scaffold and then asks those who are interested in working on a building job to go up the scaffold. They check their heart rate, and if they can manage on the scaffold, three stories high then they’re all right and they’ll get picked to come do the work.
My style of business is pretty direct. If I’m in a situation where I have to negotiate a difficult situation, I will look at what the compromise is and how to make it work. I can be direct, but I can also assess the dynamic of the room and look for a compromise position and sell the idea. My style won’t always work but it’s one I’m comfortable with.
What I’m trying to do is manage risk across the business, where everyone is trying to win jobs, so there’s always this tension. It’s very rare that there’s too much feistiness, but sometimes that’s what you need to do to get a reaction.
It’s interesting; for India we did some cultural training and they gave us cultural advice ‘Be direct’. Don’t say ‘Oh, do you think you can do this for me?’, you’ve got to say, ‘Do this, I need it by 2:00pm.’ Australians aren’t good at that. If someone came into the office and said that to you, you’d probably be like ‘Well…’ Whereas in India, the reaction would be ‘But you didn’t tell me to do it.’
I think we have to call bad behaviour. We also have to call the blokey behaviour that just happens because people don’t think about it. There’ll be some really blokey stuff and it’s like ‘Are you serious?’ There’s no place for that. I hate emails which are ‘Dear Gents and Meg’?! For godsakes, don’t do that. ‘Gents’ assumes, there aren’t any women who deserve to be on the email. I have a few things that drive me to distraction and this is one of them. Language is important as it says so much more than the actual words sometimes.
We work pretty hard at a fifty-fifty female/male graduate intake. The succession and talent programme that we have internally, has bias training around it. One session I attended there was a person whose role it was to stop and question project managers and construction managers, where if they gloss over any of the girls they are put to question, ‘Why is that? Are they a bit quieter?’, ‘Has everyone been given the same opportunity?’ It’s a reminder.
The site management path is bloody hard! It’s hard getting up and being on site by 6:30am. I think it takes a toll on everybody, not just women. And if you add in kids, it’s becomes even more demanding. There’s a lot of opportunity out there for us to make flexibility work on Site. I think constant Saturday work is the killer in the industry – missing school sport etc. I think people are happy to work hard during the week, but they don’t want to work every Saturday. So hopefully the flexibility programme we have combats some of that.
I tell my children to be a participator in life. Have a crack at everything. I have two boys. A twenty-one year old, who after working so hard, has finally got into Medicine. And an eighteen year old, who is taking a gap year and has just got back from being a ski instructor in Japan. Be a participator. Don’t be a bystander. Get out there and do it. Be brave.
We were so thrilled when Meg agreed to interview with us. Like – next level excited! She is seriously at the top of her game. One of the senior cohort of Multiplex and truly one of the most inspiring women we know. Someone who has been enthusiastic about female participation throughout her career, someone of influence, who flies the banner for women in leadership roles. She has this uncanny knack of reaching out to all levels of the business that make her such a prime example of support from the top. We need more women like this! Meg is full of wise words but it is her guts and determination that hold us both in our awe of her. Unwavering in what she stands for. Passionate about her work, but also her interests – traveling, photography and having an impact! When we interviewed her, she was off to Iran on a photography tour. It’s exciting, that balance she seems to have achieved between work, challenge and adventure. We thank her for sharing with us and wish her the best for the rest of 2017!