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Accelerating progress: Four generations of female changemakers at OMV

Reading time: 5 min

As we mark International Women’s Day, OMV is taking the opportunity to reflect on our own journey towards gender equality—the progress we’ve made, and the distance still to travel. We asked four women at different stages in their careers to share their experiences and highlight the ways they are helping to drive meaningful change and inclusive progress. 

These women follow in the footsteps of Margarethe Ottillinger, the first woman to join OMV's Executive Board, who played a pivotal role in shaping the company's direction from 1956 to 1982. Her legacy underscores the importance of inclusive leadership in driving innovation and sustainable growth.

Meet the female changemakers who are leading the march to a more sustainable and equitable future:

Helga Pražak-Reisinger, has a doctorate in biotechnology and is mother to a son. She worked at OMV for 28 years, first as Vice President for Health, Safety, Security, and Environment (HSSE) and then developing renewable energies. She has been retired since 2017 and now works as a business coach, energy healer, author, and speaker. 

Katharina Binder-Pöchacker, is the Senior Vice President of Divisional Finance for Fuels & Feedstock. She has been with OMV for 18 years, holding management roles since 2009. As the mother of two, she welcomes OMV’s transformation strategy. Based on her experience as a manager, she believes that an inclusive leadership style can positively influence cultural change.

Neslihan Kumcu, Senior Expert in Renewable Fuels Supply, spent 7 years in OMV's finance division before moving to the Sustainable Fuels department in 2022 marking an exciting new chapter in her professional journey. She is thrilled that there are so many career opportunities at OMV.

Leonie-Katharina Mertal is currently in the second year of a chemical process engineer apprenticeship, and aims to inspire other young women to pursue a technical career.

Helga, what was your experience of OMV 30 years ago?

Helga Pražak-Reisinger (HP): Back then, the ratio of women to men in management positions was around 6 to 200—OMV was definitely a very male-dominated place. However, as a woman I brought a different perspective, which led to me introducing novel topics and unconventional approaches—for example OMV’s first environmental report, it’s first CO2 footprint report, and the first H2 research plant. OMV also offered a lot of exciting opportunities both at home and abroad, including the chance to carry out safety audits in Yemen and Pakistan, as well as professional development training. I never investigated whether my male colleagues were paid more than me, but in terms of standing, there was no difference.

What has been your experience of female inclusion at OMV, and what can we do to increase the number of women in management positions? 

Katharina Binder-Pöchacker (KB): Since taking my first leadership position in 2009, I’ve seen a lot of change. Female managers no longer have to display stereotypically male behaviors—there are a much more diverse range of leadership styles, which helps to make teams stronger. In my team, there are a number of women in part-time leadership roles—I think introducing job sharing would be a great practical step to make it even easier to balance career and family life. 

HP: I strongly support equal opportunities, yet for me, the real question is the character of the leader. Do they lead with gratitude? Do they have an empathetic nature that promotes others’ success? 

Leonie-Katharina Mertal (LM): It starts with getting women in at the ground floor. There is only one other girl in my year of the chemical process engineering apprenticeship, compared to six boys. Encouragingly, seven girls have already been accepted for next year. I hope to be a part of OMV’s efforts to get more women interested in STEM jobs, and to be a role model for other young women in technology.

Neslihan Kumcu (NK): Let’s start by recognizing the strengths that female leaders bring to the table. In my experience, women take a more personal approach to leadership and place more emphasis on the individual, which helps to create a more inclusive environment for everyone.

Who or what has inspired you on your career path?

LM: It all started when a friend’s brother told me about the apprenticeship. Then, my mom’s colleague, who works at an OMV tank farm, encouraged me to apply. I also have a few friends who are aircraft mechanics and electrical engineers—they really opened by eyes to the opportunities in technical fields.

HP: I never had a particular role model or a detailed career plan, but I always had a clear vision in mind: I wanted to work in environmental management for a large company—this was at a time before anybody was talking about environmental management.

NK: I always wanted to explore something outside Finance at OMV, and I believed that Renewable Fuels & Feedstock would be a big part of the company’s future. When I decided to make the switch after seven years, I faced a lot of skepticism. But I was confident in my decision and determined to try something new. Two years on, it’s opened so many opportunities for me, and I can confidently say that it was the right move. 

KB: I am inspired by people who are authentic and passionate about their work. When they have these qualities, as well as the ability to inspire and motivate others, then they are a role model.

What career advice would you give to your female peers and future generations?

KB: Be brave. I have always found it worthwhile to just give things a go instead of overthinking them—most barriers are in our own minds. And remember, there are many ways to reach the same goal, so don’t panic if you feel like you’re off track.

NK: Networks are as important to your career as your performance, so build them in both your personal and professional life. Proactively seek a mentor who can guide you—OMV has a great mentoring program that can help here. If you're being treated unfairly, don't hesitate to speak out. And always be ready for new experiences.

LM: Never lose sight of your goal. I'm really glad that I stuck with my plan, leading me to this technical apprenticeship at OMV. My ambition for the future is to become a shift supervisor or plant manager role, and I’ll keep pushing forward with the same mindset.

HP: Having a clear goal and the drive to make an impact are essential. Know what you are aiming for and find your place—whether it’s as a pioneer, an expert, or a manager.

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