International Women in Engineering Day
Meet Our Panellists
General Manager New Zealand, Tetra Tech Coffey
Infrastructure Project Manager, Incentive Fund PNG
Associate Director, Electrical Section Lead, NDY
President & General Manager Major Projects, Tetra Tech Coffey
Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Tetra Tech International Development
Infrastructure Project Manager, Incentive Fund PNG
Senior Principal, Environmental Approvals EcoLogical Australia
Our team took away a number of key points from the lively discussion:
Visible Role Models Matter
Renee Fourie from NDY noted that her heroes growing up were a group of her teachers, ‘During high school I really loved science, maths and biology. I had female teachers for all three of those subjects and they really moulded and enabled me to challenge myself in those subjects.’
This connection between having a female role model in STEM and being able to make a connection during formative years is crucial to be able to feed young women into careers in engineering and science.
Living Your Dream Is Not A Selfish Pursuit
Amy Gildea, Managing Director, Asia Pacific for Tetra Tech International Development reflected on a quote from the adventurer Tori James on being asked how she responds to people who call her selfish for pursuing her passion rather than being solely focused on her family. ‘She said “being focused is not selfish. In terms of living your purpose and following your dreams and remaining focused.” I think that’s really inspiring.’
Find Your Advocates – Align yourself with someone that supports you and work hand in hand with them day to day
Brigid Moriarty, President & General Manager Major Projects, Tetra Tech Coffey remarked ‘Gravitate towards like-minded people. Their support has been the foundation of my progression. I cannot speak highly enough for the technically brilliant people we have in our company and how that has supported my career and how that will support everyone else’s careers.’
Amy expanded on this thinking, ‘People know when you’re passionate about things and they often lean in alongside you and lean in to get involved and support you, so absolutely remember your purpose and your focus. Scan that environment to see who is around and who you can connect with – look at LinkedIn for industry people to see what people are doing and reach out to them, ask to meet for a coffee to understand what pathways they have followed, how their career path has been navigated, where are the twists and turns, knowing that none of us have a linear path often.
‘Vision out what you’d like your CV to look like in 5, 10, 15 years – what would it say, what roles would be on there, and start to think about what steps to take to build along that way.
‘Surround yourself with people with a growth mindset and leverage the fact that we work in a truly global company and our network is extensive.
‘Make sure you’ve got your personal network around you – to cheer you on through every setback, every promotion, always celebrating you as a human and bring some different perspectives to your work. We all need that sense of connection and support, you often learn pretty quickly what you need to have in place to help you succeed and follow those pathways, different things work for you at different times, particularly if you have children.’
Creating Flexibility Is Important for Attracting Women
Lisa noted ‘I didn’t feel too many limitations in my career progression until I had kids and I worked part time. And at the workplace I was out at that time there was a view that you could not progress. You couldn’t manage people and couldn’t manage major projects…after maternity leave… I really felt like I had been informally demoted and I was nominated as kind of a behind the scenes project manager rather than the main point of contact as I would have been.
‘Over time I again became the preferred contact for the client and it slowly defaulted to me running the project mainly through their preference and that included all regulator and stakeholder engagement managing the team. So in that way persistence and capability paid off, and I think I’ve successfully demonstrated that I could manage major projects, but as for the rest I felt there were systemic culture issues that I couldn’t change so ultimately I knew I needed to leave.
‘I chose ELA because it has a great reputation but more specifically because I knew people here who trusted me enough already to give me the freedom to manage clients and project teams as needed. I’ve loved the autonomy and built some great relationships within ELA and beyond with regulators and our clients, and I haven’t felt limited by choosing to have commitments outside of work.
‘I still think there’s a way to go, and the idea that the most valuable employees are the ones that work the most hours is a pretty persistent concept.’
Men and Women Are Different, And That’s OK
When discussing what question she is most asked on gender equality, Samantha Temara, Infrastructure Project Manager with Incentive Fund in PNG, gave a surprising answer.
‘”Why do women get so emotional in the workplace?”‘, said Samantha, ‘and my answer to that would be we are emotional beings and without bringing some sort of emotions into the workplace, I reckon it would be a boring environment.
‘From my perspective… interacting with mostly men… I would almost say they are also emotional but maybe on the different end of the scale, whereas we women are on the other end of the scale.
‘I think emotions are great, I think people need to accept that and normalise that in our workplaces.’
Women Know What Other Women Need
Scambi Okuk, Infrastructure Project Manager with Incentive Fund in PNG, noted that the integral need for women in engineering goes beyond equality into expertise and practical considerations.
‘There are unique design considerations that women can offer projects. It comes into consideration as a woman, I’ll give you an example. I’m working on a project that is building female dormitories.
‘And being part of this and putting my input into it is like I’m seeing it from a women’s perspective and what is required to implement in the design where it will benefit other women? So it’s good to have women in the professional field, like in field of engineering. Because when they put their ideas, they also put it from the perspective of a woman.’