Walking the Renewable and Sustainable Talk

Growing up in Spain, Maria Vazquez had her heart set on becoming a Chemical Engineer. However, an elective on biomass piqued an interest that would set her career in a different direction.

After several roles in the renewables space overseas and in Australia, Maria joined WSP in 2017, as Senior Renewable Energy Engineer. She was attracted to the organisation after a chance meeting with WSP staff at one of Australia’s first renewable energy event.


“Meeting such passionate, committed and driven people, who were working on impressive projects, really attracted me to the organisation. In addition, it was so refreshing to see a team that had such great gender balance – in some of my previous roles, I’d been the only female in the team.


Thankfully the world is changing and there are more opportunities for women. WSP walks the talk with gender equality. You do good work; you get increased opportunities and rewards.” Maria said.


When asked about women she admired or who have influenced her most, it was Maria’s Mother who first sprung to mind.


“On a personal level, I have to say my Mum.  She has been a constant supporter of everything I do.  Both parents made it clear that there was nothing I couldn’t achieve if I was committed and worked hard. They taught me to be brave, to be honest, to speak up and to help others.  In fact, I am where I am because my Mum bought me one way ticket to the UK where my life outside Spain began.’


As a runner, Maria was quick to name Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to enter the Boston Marathon, and as a champion of equality, Marie Curie, the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize and the first person and only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice.


Maria said “I can’t imagine a time when women were unable to compete, and to think this wasn’t even that long ago (1967). Katherine’s run changed the sport of running forever.


I’ve spoken about how women are acknowledged, rewarded, provided with equal opportunities to progress and try new things at WSP. For Marie Curie, she was part of a small research team that radically improved the treatment of cancer and other diseases. However, if it had not been the persistent intervention of key scientist, who was also an advocate for women, Marie’s work would not have been acknowledged at all, with only her male colleagues awarded.”


Renewables and sustainability is not just a core part of Maria’s work, for her, it’s a way of life.  On arriving in Australia, one of the first things she did, was joined a sewing group.  The motivation behind this was to: learn more about the slow fashion movement; make friends in a new country; relax and unwind; share a skill and passion with her Mother – a professional tailor – and to develop skills to be able to make her own ethical and sustainable clothing.


Orsola de Castro, Co-founder of Fashion Revolution Day said: “It isn’t enough just looking for the quality in the products we buy, we must ensure that there is quality in the lives of the people who make them”


Fast and disposable fashion does not interest Maria. She wants to know where items are coming from, what they are made from, how they are sourced, who is making them and what impact they have on the environment and people. Equipped with new skills, Maria can now source her own ethical and sustainable material and repurpose old clothing.


‘Fast fashion is the second largest polluter in the world. In addition to damaging the planet, I feel there is an unacceptable human cost through low wages and appalling conditions. Making my own clothing and understanding what goes into that – the time, the research, the design – has been a great hobby for me. It helps me relax and be present in the moment. Right now, I’m making clothes for myself, but down the track, who knows, I may follow in my Mothers footsteps as a tailor or even become a slow-fashion designer.’


Spending time with her family and friends is a priority for Maria. Living so far away means Skype calls and emails are crucial. Within the first year of starting at WSP, Maria had taken advantage of the flexible working policy, enabling her to work remotely whilst spending quality time with her family in Spain.


‘My family and friends are important to me. It’s not easy being so far away. I had been wanting to spend time with them for a while before joining WSP and was absolutely amazed when my Manager advised they were happy for me to work remotely, so I could spend time with them. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to do that and that my employer provided such flexibility.’