Aneetha de Silva

Managing Director - Government | Aurecon

  • Change agent
  • Culture champion
  • Future focused
Based in: VIC
Modes: Road Rail
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"Transport improves people’s lives by linking physical geographies and providing communities with equal access to services and amenities irrespective of where you live. It is the backbone to better living standards, offers equity to all socio-economic groups and leaves a legacy for generations."

Current positions

  • Managing Director – Government, Aurecon
  • Vice President and Board Director, Roads Australia
  • Board Director, Launch Vic
  • Member, Chief Executive Women
  • Member, Australian Institute of Company Directors

Previous positions

  • Government Strategy, Approvals and Stakeholder Relations, CPB/John Holland Joint Venture – West Gate Tunnel Project
  • Strategic Advisor, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Australian Government
  • Acting CEO/Executive Director, Commercial and Legal, Linking Melbourne Authority
  • Director, Construction and Major Projects Group, Clayton Utz
  • Director, Capital Group, Victorian Department of Infrastructure
  • General Counsel, Crown Castle International
  • Manager, Risk and Legal Affairs, Melbourne City Link Authority

Career snapshot

Aneetha de Silva is Managing Director – Government at Aurecon, a global engineering and infrastructure advisory firm. She is a Director of Aurecon’s Global Board, Vice President of Roads Australia Board, and sits on the Board of Launch Vic. 

Aneetha is a senior infrastructure executive with over 25 years’ experience across the government and private sectors in Australia, South Africa and the Asia Pacific. She has particular expertise as an advisor, developer and manager of large infrastructure assets and services, especially in transport, telecommunications and property. 

Aneetha has extensive experience in complex commercial and stakeholder environments and is skilled at aligning government and private sector interests to drive industry, customer and community outcomes. 

She is passionate about innovation, particularly the potential for new technologies to meet emerging customer needs and transform access to community services.

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In her own words

Throughout my career I have seen incredibly talented women working in all facets of the transport sector. The challenge is getting them into the leadership ranks of the industry. It is a universal challenge across the board because we have done a poor job building up a sufficient pipeline of women leaders to progress into C-suite, CEO and other leadership roles. We continue to lose our women in their mid-career years. In the transport projects space, where a significant amount of financial capital is spent, both the public and private sectors are still very far behind promoting women into leadership roles. There are no women CEOs delivering big transport projects for government and that is a very big shame.

Transport projects have an intense series of metrics to perform against, and the implications of not achieving those targets are enormous both in terms of financial and community impacts. We have had a very traditional calibre of leaders steering transport projects. However, there is a lot of opportunity for different leadership styles that women bring to the table to approach these projects with a less adversarial mindset.

The industry is currently shifting towards using more collaborative contracting models, but we don’t seem to have adjusted our talent pool to be able to genuinely leverage the value from these sorts of models.
In previous roles I have been appointed to come in as the trouble shooter or as the negotiator to resolve contentious projects in the transport sector, precisely because we have had a lot of heated relationships and relationship breakdowns.  If we had a more diverse leadership cohort, we would have a larger pool of talent, bring different leadership styles and be able to leverage alternate ways of delivering these projects.

The gamechangers

When it comes to diversity and inclusion in the industry, the advisory and financial services communities have advanced ahead of the construction and building sectors.

Private sector operators of transport assets have also done a good job and the leadership composition at Transurban is a standout and a beacon for the rest of the industry. My learning is that change won’t occur organically, it only happens by design. You absolutely must have a strong level of genuine commitment at the top of the organisation – from the Board and the CEO. 

Getting to 40:40:20

We will be successful as an industry when we achieve 40:40:20 gender composition at the Board and executive levels of all participants in the transport ecosystem. This will involve coming up with a strategy to encourage capable women into the transport sector and retain and promote them in a structured and deliberate way. Currently transport suffers from a reputational issue of being male dominated and people don’t appreciate the attractiveness of the sector. 

The transport industry has the opportunity to transit us into a greener, cleaner economy and provides the backbone to better living standards. It improves people’s lives by linking physical geographies and providing all communities with equal access to services and amenities irrespective of where you live.  In this way, it leads to greater equity for all socio-economic groups and a legacy for generations.

Roads Australia is putting a lot of energy into diversity and inclusion initiatives and is well placed to lead this transformation agenda because we bring a lot of the decision makers into a single forum which provides a platform for engagement and buy in. 

My vision for the next five years is…

...to see true diversity around the leadership table and an enhanced industry reputation as a sector of choice for future generations.
 

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