María Luisa Licón understands that with reform comes not only change, but opportunity.
It was the Mexican energy reform of 2013 that elevated her interest in pursuing energy law as a career. When the Mexican government opened the previously nationalized market, allowing foreign investment and involvement after nearly 80 years, Licón had a front-row seat as part of a Dallas-based law firm.
“I am passionate about energy law because energy is such an important economic area here in Mexico,” said Licón, who has been a member of the Marathon/ARCO team based in Mexico City for just over a year. “As an attorney here in Mexico, not only are you in the ring as part of the action on the legal side, but it has always been important for me that my work be a positive impact in Mexico and be a driver for change.”
During months of meetings and outreach about the positive impact the new Mexican energy reform could have on Mexico and foreign investment, Licón learned about an organization in the energy sector that was well known in the U.S. but had not been established in Mexico.
“While speaking to several high-level women executives, some of them kept mentioning the Women’s Energy Network (WEN), and how impactful the organization was,” recalled Licón. “They were saying, ‘This is a really interesting organization that you should be a part of.’ So, rather than just being a member, I thought why not bring WEN to Mexico. The paradigm shift that was coming in the Mexican energy industry had to be accompanied by a gender movement that addressed the prejudices that have affected women for decades.”
And with that as inspiration, Licón and three college friends decided to bring WEN to Mexico, the first international chapter of the 27-year-old organization. WEN is an international organization of professionals who work across the energy value chain. Their mission is to provide networking opportunities and promote the career and leadership development of women who work in the energy industry.
Members also give back through volunteer and charitable efforts with a focus on young women and events that promote careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. This group is especially vital, as studies show that women account for less than a quarter (22%) of employees in the oil and gas industry worldwide. Licón, again, saw an opportunity to make an impact.
“Historically, the oil and gas industry has been a mostly male-dominated field,” she said. “But men and women both offer unique perspectives, and together we can produce greater outcomes. As we look to the future of energy, it’s imperative that more women are part of these efforts to help progress the industry. With more women on our teams, we are better equipped to find innovative solutions to complex challenges in the energy sector.”
Licón explained that to help increase female representation, it comes down to having a strong and united network of women and men who share the same vision to promote women’s experiences and better position them in the Mexican energy sector.
“Making women present in any major conference or seminar relevant to the energy industry, introducing STEM education to young girls at an early age, to see more women working in the field, and offering professional development opportunities to women currently working in the energy industry, are all important efforts to support,” she said.
From the original three members, the Mexico chapter of WEN now has approximately 80 participants thanks to Licón’s hard work and networking.
“We’re already witnessing a shift in the culture,” she’s proud to share. “For example, we’re now seeing more organizations strive to ensure that women are represented on panels during conferences and seminars to help enrich the dialogue. Those small actions are powerful. We don’t want to be included in a conference or on a panel just because we’re women. We’re women with experience and that’s something we really like showing off.”
A driven professional with two master’s degrees, Licón is not ready to rest on her past accomplishments but continues to look for ways to continue to mentor up-and-coming females in the energy sector.
“If you are passionate about a career in the energy industry, go for it,” she advised. “Always strive to be the best possible version of yourself and never forget who you are and where you come from. Don’t be afraid to embrace being a woman in one of the toughest industries there is and live by the motto that you can never be over prepared.”
To support the company’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion goals, Marathon Petroleum has six employee networks, including the women’s employee network, ARISE, which helps build awareness among its workforce on important challenges and topics pertaining to women.
Throughout March, ARISE has planned a variety of events and activities for employees to celebrate Women’s History Month and acknowledge the many ways women have strengthened our country, communities and workplace.