In 2021, Julia Carpenter and Martine Foster-Key found themselves at a crossroads. They had both reached a point in their careers where they were ready to take up a new challenge. Seeking a renewed sense of purpose and a better work/life balance, they came up with a plan.
The plan was to job share Julia’s Major Projects Regional Executive role – which spans Western Australia (WA) and South Australia – taking on high-level governance and project director duties across a suite of clients. This model allows them to take full control of how they work (three days per week with Wednesday as the crossover), while still taking on more responsibility, and freeing up time to follow their passions and ultimately deliver added value to WSP clients.
In addition to their shared role, each has their own separate positions – Julia is the Director of Indigenous Specialist Services and has been instrumental in us developing and progressing our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) to what it is today. Martine, who is also a passionate advocate for supporting women in returning to the workforce, was recently appointed Regional Director for WA, responsible for leading our team in the state. She is also the Global Key Account Manager for the Fortescue Metals Group/Fortescue Future Industries.
In sharing the Major Projects role, Martine says, “It’s the best working relationship I’ve ever had. We are modelling a flexible mode of work for our peers and for the next generation of female leaders. It’s a model that promotes inclusivity and greater wellbeing.”
With this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) theme being #BreakTheBias, who better to speak with than these two leaders who are doing just that, day-in and day-out.
Here’s how the partnership is working.
Diversity of thought in action
When Julia and Martine first floated the idea of job sharing, the initial questions were around how it would work, simply because people hadn’t seen it done before in a client-facing role. Instead of being deterred, they charted a new path forward and set the example themselves through their actions. In the end, it didn’t take long for their teams and clients to jump onboard.
Martine says the chance to be a role model was actually a big part of her decision to take on the position. “What made me say yes was the opportunity to step up and be a female in a senior role at WSP. I strongly believe you have to see it to be it.”
Julia likens it to having a full-time ally, saying, “It’s like I have a coach who can push me, support me and empower me to be my best.”
Martine agrees, “It’s been a thousand times more powerful than we thought it would be, in terms of really supporting and coaching each other. Even though we are quite different, we have these qualities that come together and create an amazing strength of leadership. We’re very focused on what’s best for the business, but also what’s best for our people.”
Notably, both say their decision-making is richer for the collaboration, with WSP essentially getting two brains for the price of one. They’ve also noticed a shift in the workplace, a necessary step that goes a long way to helping create a diverse environment that’s inclusive of all – especially those who traditionally may have felt excluded.
Letting passion drive change
By job sharing, the duo can also support each other in many ways including thought leadership, people discussions, culture, creating the healthiest happiest greenest work space, governance and excellence, just to mention a few. And, this frees up some mental bandwidth so there’s time to focus on matters that are important to them.
For Julia, she continues to pursue her passion for growing Indigenous services at WSP, and also her strong interest in decarbonisation and how we can achieve net zero – both within our communities and for our clients. In her spare time, she is working on a project of marine permaculture (growing seaweed) and the benefits this has on restoring ocean circulation, regenerating kelp and other seaweeds, fish habitat and fixing gigatons of CO2 per year. She says, “We’ve got huge environmental pressures at the moment and oceans have been doing the heavy lifting for too long. I have made space to actively research ways to help save our environment, which happens to include seaweed.”
On Martine’s side, she is passionate about renewable energy and decarbonisation focusing on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) matters.
Ultimately, both women approach the shared role by thinking about how their leadership learnings can benefit WSP’s clients in a constructive, inclusive and Future Ready™ way. Martine and Julia say, “We can solve so many problems for our clients. The skills and capabilities we have as a business are truly amazing. I say yes to most things with my clients until I have to say no, because I genuinely believe we have all the answers.”
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