A single ripple to a collective wave: 12 months of change for women in pipelines

2023 blew a wind of change on women in the industry. Image: aFotostock/Adobe Stocks.

APGA Young Achievement Award Margaret Gayen sat down with The Australian Pipeliner on behalf of the APGA Women in Pipelines Forum Advocacy Committee to reflect on the past year’s boundaries being broken and reshaped – and all by the hands of women.

There was a moment at this 2023’s APGA Annual Convention and Exhibition, when I walked into the Women in Pipelines Forum (WPF) booth and burst into tears.

I had just won the APGA Young Achievement Award. I had received the award for technical contributions to hydrogen projects, and for my work towards gender equality in our industry.

I remembered how my Mum – a female engineer herself – had warned me not to make a fuss about sexism in the workplace, to just “call it out at the time, and move on”.  She wasn’t warning me because she didn’t think I should do anything; she was warning me in order to protect me. Her experience told her that speaking up would not end well.

Mikayla Rousham (Process Design Engineer, APA Group), Gretyl Lunn (Project Engineer, APA Group), Margaret Gayen (Senior Mechanical Engineer, GPA Engineering), Carina Nixon (Project Engineer, GPA Engineering), Tricia Grant (Business Manager, CNC Project Management) have all chosen the pipeline industry as much as it chose them. Image supplied by Margaret Gayen.
Mikayla Rousham (Process Design Engineer, APA Group), Gretyl Lunn (Project Engineer, APA Group), Margaret Gayen (Senior Mechanical Engineer, GPA Engineering), Carina Nixon (Project Engineer, GPA Engineering), Tricia Grant (Business Manager, CNC Project Management) have all chosen the pipeline industry as much as it chose them. Image supplied by Margaret Gayen.

For me, winning the Young Achievement Award showed that a demand for change can end well – it can even be celebrated.

My award announcement was immediately followed by Susan Jaques winning the award for Outstanding Contribution to the Pipeline Industry. Susan’s technical contributions to our industry are significant and have been for many years. She is the first person to have won both the Outstanding Contribution and the Young Achievement Award, and I believe she is the first woman to have won either of them.

Susan’s achievements highlight the contributions of women in our industry for many years. For me, her award showed that women in our industry deserve to be welcomed, recognised, and celebrated.

Following the awards, we all watched the fantastic keynote speech by Michelle Cowan. A female footballer, a coach in a man’s world, Michelle was a speaker that not only empowered women, but identified how men could be our greatest allies. She shared the stories of the men who had supported her, encouraged her, helped her on her journey – and she encouraged the audience (to take just 40 seconds) to be that support for the people they worked with.

I was blown away by Michelle’s presentation, but I was tipped over the edge when I realised that it was a member of the APGA Secretariat who thought to organise her as the keynote speaker. Someone who heard mine and Carina’s message last year and decided to do something more.

For me, that presentation showed that our industry had listened, and someone had acted.

When I looked around the room, I saw an increased presence of women in the audience, and an increased number of women on the program to present. The statistics supported that feeling – 36 per cent of presenters were women, compared to 15 per cent just before COVID-19.

It was clear that women were inspired to come to the Convention because they saw that there was a place for them there. They were brave enough to submit an abstract, and then stand on a stage, because they saw they could have a voice there.

As it all started to sink in, I was able to retreat to the Women in Pipelines Booth – a safe space amongst familiar and friendly female faces.

That’s when I burst into tears. Those women didn’t shy away from my tears – they understood. They just offered a tissue, a reassuring remark, and let me collect myself. It was the most wonderful thing.

It shed light on what already existed – a supportive network of smart, capable, and emotionally competent women.

In the booth, we had a poster. It asked the question: “who is a woman you admire in the industry?” Men and women from the convention responded to the question with sticky notes.

In an industry where a woman can feel alone in a crowd, the sticky notes underlined the amount of inspirational and admirable women we have the privilege of knowing, working with, and learning from.

I am so happy to share the list of women who were named, and I know there are many more to be added:

Liz Brierley – SEAGas.

Susan Jaques – Sage Consulting Solutions.

Wendy Oldham – retired (SeaGas/APGA).

Donna McDowall – Quanta Services (APGA).

Janet McCrystal – Quanta Services.

Cara Robb – CNC Project Management.

Tricia Grant – CNC Project Management.

Justine Hyams – MBS Environmental.

Orla Gallagher – Nacap.

Carina Nixon – GPA Engineering.

Margaret Gayen – GPA Engineering.

Marzieh Amanabadi – GPA Engineering.

Elizabeth Wheeler – APA Group.

Allyson Woodford – APA Group.

Jen Ward – APA Group.

Kerryanne Mallitt – APA Group.

Nada Radford – APA Group.

Madonna Burns – APA Group.

Valerie Linton – The University of Auckland.

Jan Hayes – RMIT University.

Caitlyn Knight – LONG Energy and Resources.

Tania Coltman – Jemena.

Natasha Coelho – Origin Energy.

Marie Malaxos – Black Mountain Energy / MBS Environmental.

Rachel Webber – Spiecapag.

Megan Le Bourdonnec – Veris.

Cirina Di Pierro – Powered Digital.

Barbara Jinks – Freelance Advisor.

Lauren – (no details available).

I am proud of my achievements and my work, but I am prouder of this industry for being strong and inspirational women, for being supportive, allied men, for being willing to change, and to build a stronger workforce into the future.

This article featured in the January edition of The Australian Pipeliner. 

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