To mark International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating our pioneering women leaders
“Margareth, here’s a job for you. Just fetch the coffee.”
Little did he know she’d be his future boss.
It was 1982, and she did as she was told. But you can only wonder what that hapless male manager must have thought as he watched her career unfold. Today, Margareth Øvrum is a living legend in Equinor.
To mark International Women’s day, we look back and celebrate Margareth’s career — as well as the brave and determined women leaders of today who are picking up her torch, pioneering new ways as role models in traditional male bastions.
Recently retired, Margareth has held a string of responsible positions in Statoil, now Equinor, including director of operations on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, senior vice president for technology and projects, member of the corporate executive committee, and finally country manager for Brazil. In 2013 she was awarded the title Norway’s most influential woman in technology.
But like any pioneer, Margareth’s story is marked by a notable first. In her case, becoming Equinor’s first female platform manager in 1989. At the age of 32, she wasn’t just the first woman — she was also the youngest.
”It was a fairly rough environment at the Gullfaks field. There were some tough struggles with the unions, and some doors were slammed from time to time, but I do believe that I developed a good and honest relationship with everyone,” Margareth says.
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“Technology development has been a very important part of my life and work in the company. I’m really proud of the technology journey we’ve had.”
Embarked on a challenging career
Margareth laughs as she looks back at the infamous coffee incident in 1982.
“I was quite obsessed with learning and really eager to help. So every time something cropped up, I’d say, ‘I can do that!’ That’s when I was told to do just one thing: fetch the coffee and cookies. So I’m well aware of what it’s like to have a bad manager,“ she says.
But not long after being hired she was set on a management path that included both operative and technical challenges. In 1987, she was made responsible for the Gullfaks B start-up, and when she became Oil Installation Manager (OIM) on Gullfaks A a couple of years later, she was the first woman in the company to take on the role.
It’s no exaggeration to think that Margareth’s boundary-breaking career has inspired a new generation of female leaders in Equinor and our industry as a whole. Here we meet some of the current crop of talented women leaders standing on her shoulders, helping to contribute to making Equinor an equality-focused company today.
A pioneer in technology, innovation, and the energy transition
Margareth’s influence on our industry goes beyond representation in leadership roles. She’s been at the forefront of many projects that have placed Equinor as a leader in the energy transition, including our flagship Johan Sverdrup field.
Much like her experience as our first female platform manager, Margareth has had to overcome sceptics and non-believers to achieve her successes. When she pushed to make Oseberg Vestflanken our first unmanned wellhead platform, there weren’t many who believed the idea.
“In the beginning, I had the impression that some people were laughing at me, at least a bit. But I’m stubborn, and they realised that this was not about to go away. Then, people started to get a little curious. Gradually, it turned out that this was an exciting project that many people wanted to contribute to,” Margareth smiles.
“I'm really proud of the technology journey we've had in the company,” she says.
Building a space for innovation
Innovation doesn’t just magically appear either. A driving force behind it is diversity, whether it’s age, gender, cultural background, or any other factor.
“Innovation happens when you feel you can safely voice your ideas and opinions. That begins with being able to take everything you are to work and be appreciated for it. That’s how you create an environment capable of coming up with powerful ideas and bets that you wouldn’t otherwise see,” Åshild says.
Equinor has set a goal of becoming a net-zero company by 2050. We have a lot of challenges to solve in order to shape the future of energy, but we also have a lot of data, knowledge — and extremely competent people to address them with.
“This is a great place to be for those who want to make a difference and take part in changing the narrative. The choices we as an industry make in the years ahead will impact the way we work, the way we live our lives, and the world around us. Being part of that is incredibly exciting and motivating to me,” Åshild adds.
Like Margareth and Åshild, Camilla Dybendal has worked at the heart of our drive to make technology a key enabler in the energy transition.
“We have a really strong project portfolio in technology,” Camilla says.
“There are all kinds of opportunities for those who want to explore and accelerate in technology.”
With previous roles in the trading and technology sectors, Camilla is familiar with the challenges of working in traditional male dominated environments. Since joining Equinor, she’s seen signs that the energy industry is moving in the right direction when it comes to gender equality, with visible female leaders playing a vital role.
“I think it’s important that we have role models like Åshild who speak about diversity and drive it from the c-suite. To change a company’s culture, you need top management to be visible, dare to take the right actions and to act on them,” Camilla says.
“You should dare to be something you didn’t imagine you could be“
Camilla Dybendal, analyst in energy logistics
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