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Including women in the workplace — do we practice what we preach?

Photo of Laura in the Equinor Fornebu offices
Laura Victoria Mejia at Equinor’s Fornebu offices near Oslo
Photo: TRY. Story research and writing by Yolanda Selini Myrbostad and Colin Dobinson
#InspireInclusion​ on International Women’s Day

Equinor women tell us their inside stories.

In Equinor, we like to think that we’re a progressive, compassionate employer embracing equity in all its forms. So, for International Women’s Day, we decided to ask our employees for feedback, and met three women who volunteered to share their experiences of returning from maternity leave. What was their verdict?

In the spirit of International Women’s Day and #inspiringinclusion, we wanted to celebrate the tapestry of experiences that define womanhood and honour the strength that lies in our differences. We spoke to women with widely differing perspectives on inclusion in Equinor.

For us, diversity and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords – they’re values that we want to shape our culture and drive our success. But do they go more than skin-deep?

How maternity leave turned me into a half-functioning professional (and why that’s okay).

Laura Victoria Mejia Head of Offshore Wind Portfolio & Concept Development
Portrait photo of Laura

Laura Victoria Mejia

Head of Offshore Wind Portfolio & Concept Development in REN

With her petroleum engineering background and a passion for sustainability, Laura Victoria Mejia has held several leading positions in Equinor, most recently in our Renewables business area, and formerly as Petec leader for the Norne field.

But it was in her time as Management Assistant to executive vice president Jannicke Nilsson and after adopting her son in 2018 that Laura stumbled across challenges she hadn’t experienced before.

“Being a woman, having a child, and coming back to a very demanding job right after maternity leave was such a big moment for me. I started full speed, as I always do, but it wasn’t easy. I started noticing that I was making bigger mistakes,” says Laura.

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She was juggling parenthood and the demands of her professional role, and despite her unwavering commitment to both spheres of her life, simple errors, such as booking the wrong travel destinations or overlooking crucial details, served as reminders of the cognitive shifts brought about by parenthood.

“I was feeling very ashamed, and my leader was very aware of it, so we were able to talk it through. I needed to adjust my way of working, to my own expectations. I had a lot of support from my leaders. The most important thing is to acknowledge that someone is going through a life-changing situation, and that you need to be even more present as a leader and see the whole person.”

By prioritising inclusiveness, we are not only empowering our team, but we’re fostering a culture in Equinor where we can solve many of our tasks even better together.

Jannicke NilssonExecutive Vice President Safety, Security & Sustainability
Portrait photo of Jannicke

Jannicke Nilsson looks back fondly on the time when Laura was her management assistant, and the challenges she faced.

“For me, Laura’s story highlights the importance of self-compassion, adjust expectations to yourself, and creating a culture for psychosocial safety. A culture where we speak up, where we really live our values, where we help each other, and we trust each other. It’s also about us being inclusive and embracing the diversity mindset.

“But Laura’s story is also about her living the values, being open, courageous, and inviting me into the journey when she adopted her son. It’s also a story about the two of us really enjoying working together. We cared so much for each other, that we also tried to find solutions on how to collaborate differently,” she says.

There was a very special moment for us at the end of last year, when Equinor colleagues organised a baby shower to celebrate Alice’s arrival, and made me feel very accepted.

Claudia SilvaManager Gov Rel & Pu, Brazil
Portrait photo of Laura

Claudia Alves

Manager Gov Rel & Pu, Brazil

Claudia and Juliana with baby Alice.
Claudia and Juliana with baby Alice.

Claudia and Juliana met at university and their journey together spans nearly sixteen years of partnership and Claudia’s thirteen years of dedicated service to Equinor. However, navigating the intersecting identities of being a woman and a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Brazil's male-dominated O&G industry wasn’t without its challenges.

The fear of judgment and the struggle for recognition due to sexual orientation kept Claudia and Juliana ‘in the closet’ for many years, a common experience for LGBTQ+ individuals in environments where acceptance is not always guaranteed.

But the arrival of Alice brought with it a renewed sense of purpose and the realization that silence only perpetuates invisibility, and Claudia's decision to share her story openly in Equinor was met with overwhelming support.

“It took a long time to feel comfortable about being myself at the corporate environment. I never envisioned celebrating the arrival of a baby with colleagues. But it became possible thanks to Equinor's commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion, and the dedication of various diversity groups, including the Pride Makers in Brazil,” says Claudia.

The celebration of Alice's arrival with a baby shower at the Equinor office served as a powerful symbol of inclusion and acceptance, reaffirming Claudia's belief in the power of authenticity in the workplace.

“As someone who rarely shares personal moments on social media, I felt inspired to share my experience. I hope that by sharing it, I can motivate others in our organisation to feel safe and proud to be themselves at work,” she says. “I don’t think the reception we got from colleagues here at Equinor could have been any better.”

Luckily, my children and my husband proudly supported my career, and I also have to say that I appreciate that me being a commuting parent was never considered to be a showstopper, either by Irene or personnel.

Marielle Sundfjord StorebøOperational Excellence (OE) and Improvement efforts for MMP Americas
Portrait photo of Laura

Marielle Sundfjord Storebø

Specialist Operational Excellence (OE), Commercial operations Americas

During her time as management assistant to MMP executive vice president Irene Rummelhoff, Marielle Sundfjord Storebø faced scepticism and concerns regarding her ability to balance her professional responsibilities with her familial duties.

“In 2022, I was given the opportunity to be management assistant for Irene, which meant that I was having to commute four days a week from Bergen to Stavanger. While I was happy and proud to be trusted with this role, I was a bit taken aback by comments from some colleagues. As a mother of three kids aged, four, eight and 11, I was told that I had to be careful to avoid burnout, that they felt sorry for my husband being left with all the work at home, and that I must have a guilty conscience.

Marielle and family
Marielle and her family. Photo: private

“Luckily, my children and my husband proudly supported my career, and I also have to say that I appreciate that me being a commuting parent was never considered to be a showstopper, either by Irene or PO.”

She found unwavering support from her family and our corporate leadership. Her children and husband stood firmly behind her career aspirations, recognising the importance of her professional fulfillment, and she appreciated the encouragement and support from Rummelhoff and Equinor’s leadership, who embraced diversity and inclusion.

Today Marielle is located in Houston responsible for driving Operational Excellence (OE) and Improvement efforts for MMP Americas, working across M&S value chain to drive improvements initiatives with a global impact, and ensuring Commercial Operational Readiness (OR) for new business activities.

Åshild Hanne Larsen

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