Louise Adams FTSE

Chief Operating Officer | Aurecon

  • Change agent
  • Diversity champion
  • Future focused
Based in: VIC
Modes: Road Rail
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"For women looking to build a purpose-driven career in an industry that makes an impact, transport delivers. We create connected communities and we make the world a better place."

Current Positions

  • Chief Operating Officer, Aurecon
  • Global Spokesperson for Women in Leadership, Aurecon
  • Director, Aurecon Australasia Board
  • Member, National Advisory Board, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA)
  • Member, Women’s Infrastructure Network Steering Committee, (IPA)
  • Chair, Consult Australia Group, Champions of Change Coalition
  • Victoria Summit Co-Chair, Business & the Economy, Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Member, Chief Executive Women
  • Fellow, Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering
  • Inaugural Business Champion, Australia-Vietnam Economic Partnership, DFAT
  • Mentor, Minerva Network (supporting Australia’s elite sportswomen)
  • Member, Australian Institute of Company Directors

Previous Positions

  • Chief Executive, Australia & New Zealand, Aurecon
  • Managing Director, Australia & New Zealand, Aurecon
  • Regional Director, VIC/SA, Aurecon
  • Regional Director, VIC/SA/ACT, Aurecon
  • Country Manager, UAE, Aurecon
  • Technical Director, Community Development & Infrastructure, UAE, Aurecon
  • Executive, Community Development, UAE, Aurecon
  • Executive Director, Aurecon Global Board
  • Vice Chair and Committee Member, Consult Australia, Victorian Division

Career Snapshot 

Louise Adams is Aurecon’s Chief Operating Officer, responsible for driving the financial, operational and people performance across all areas of the business to achieve the Group’s strategic business goals. Reporting to Aurecon’s Group CEO, Louise is a member of the Group Executive Leadership Team.

Louise became the first female Executive Director on Aurecon’s Global Board in 2013 and is Aurecon’s global spokesperson for Women in Leadership. She has a passion for organisational diversity and the role it plays in innovation and is an advocate for female leadership and equality within STEM.

In 2018 Louise was awarded a Chief Executive Women (CEW) Scholarship to attend the Wharton Business School and is a member of Australia’s CEW Group. Most recently, following the Second Australia-Vietnam Economic Partnership Meeting held in October 2021, Louise was appointed as one of three inaugural Business Champions to further two-way trade and investment opportunities to business communities in Vietnam and Australia.

In November 2020, Louise was named the Australian CEO of the Year, which is part of The CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year awards. In October 2021, Louise was named as a Deakin University Alumni of the Year, and in November was elected to the Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering (ATSE).

As a Chartered Civil Engineer, Louise has over 20 years’ experience managing and designing works in both civil and multi-disciplinary projects in land development as well as technical advisory for project planning and has led major civil and multidisciplinary projects in the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, Iran, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Singapore, Guyana, North America, Pakistan, Libya, Qatar, and the UAE.

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In her own words 

The ultimate goal of diversity has to be achieving diversity of thought, and you start with demographic diversity as the first lever to get to that end game. I love the quote (and it’s not mine) ‘diversity is about being invited to the ball and inclusion is being asked to dance.’ I use it often.

People must be able to bring their whole selves into the workplace, and that is not just a gender issue. In our organisation we look at how we ensure we are achieving diversity not only in leadership, but on projects and that within in our teams there is the space for all people to put their ideas forward.

My passion is to get more women into the transport industry and into leadership, but I do think a lot of the things we do to try and achieve that goal delivers huge benefits for everyone. The construction industry still has one of the highest male suicide rates in the country, so much of the current culture that is not working for women, is not working for men as well.

Championing Change 

In our Consult Australia Champions of Change Group, we have been heavily focused on building the pipeline and attracting more women into STEM and in the last couple of years we worked on systemic issues including fixing up recruitment, promotion and reward practices and eliminating gender pay gaps. We have pivoted fully in the last 12 months to work on inclusive leadership and building better organisations, from not only from having diversity but making sure all people have a voice.

We have been working with the Australian Constructors Association and the Construction Industry Leadership Forum on their new Culture Standard and about bringing cultural change to life.

Without this cultural change everything else we do does seems like creating little ripples in a big ocean. Yes, we can attract more women and build a pipeline, but it’s about how you retain that talent and foster that skills and experience. I can’t see any other way we can get where we need to get if it doesn’t start with culture change, collectively led by government and private industries involved in the sector.

When I think about culture, I think what is the experience of being part of the transport sector? What does it feel like when I go to work – am I motivated, inspired, and feel I can be myself every day? Culture underpins the entire experience.

In my Board role with Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, I sit on their Women’s Infrastructure Network Steering Committee and during the last six months we have been working on putting ‘gender in the tender’ with defined requirements. The biggest way we are going to transform the transport culture is seeing women in the management of project teams and in the leadership of bids. We need to be specific about what ‘gender in the tender’ needs to deliver.

For women looking to build a purpose-driven career in an industry that makes an impact, transport delivers. We create connected communities and we make the world a better place.

Strength in Training  

I have learnt a lot around resilience and leadership through my work as a Mentor in the Minerva Network, working with two mentees both of whom know what it takes to perform at the peak and have experience captaining Australia in their chosen sport.

When you talk with high performing athletes what is apparent is that to get to the top of their sport, they have experienced failure throughout their lives and worked on their succeed-fail, succeed-fail balance from a very early age.

A lot of the time in our working careers you can get a long way without experiencing much failure and when you do you don’t have the same resilience as some of these sporting people. We can learn from that, particularly post COVID.

A key piece of advice that has always stuck with me came from my uncle, a senior executive in gold mining in Western Australia. When I was at university, he said: “it is ok to be impatient in terms of your career and aspiring to achieve, but you must be patient with the experiences.” He’d seen a lot of people get a role and instantly start looking for their next one. My uncle steered me to make the most out of every single experience to build up my skills and capabilities.

My vision for the next five years is... 

...transport is the industry of choice for high potential professionals in Australia offering purpose, job security and good pay. It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity on the back of the government investment being made. We will need all hands-on deck to get there or we will lose the opportunity.

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