In her own words
The starting point for women in transport these days is in a very different place today to where it has been, thanks to the trailblazing women and men before us.
I am thrilled that we are at a position now where people recognise that cognitive diversity gives you better results, better responses, better decision making and more holistic leadership styles. In the last three years (and maybe COVID pressures helped), people have let go of the architype of what a transport professional is meant to look like.
We need more STEM projects and programs to attract more women into the technical fields at school and at university, and to look at job design more broadly. We must also think more innovatively about the types of roles that could be brought in from other industries to enhance how we work.
Importantly this goes beyond recruitment. We need to focus on culture, and the experience women have once they’re in the industry; that they feel valued and able to succeed like all others in the workforce.
When I was appointed Managing Director, I was very open about the fact that I was promoted whilst on parental leave. I deliberately did this because I wanted everyone to see that our commitment to diversity and increasing the representation of women in senior roles is much more than rhetoric.
Gone are the days when a woman can’t apply for a promotion or a job because she is pregnant or has a young family. We want the best people in our business, and I hope my experience demonstrates just how serious we are about our commitment to being an employer of choice for both men and women.
Since the announcement I have had an inordinate number of young women in our business come up to me and say ‘I didn’t think I had a long-term career path in this industry or this business’. They couldn’t see enough senior women demonstrating to them different pathways to senior leadership. My appointment signalled you can do it in a way that isn’t the traditional model we have always seen. I am not an engineer, but I am leading an engineering and construction company. I think previously some women were self-selecting out of the equation without their leaders even knowing that they held these limiting beliefs around their career possibilities. It has been fascinating – and important - to see that come to the surface and something I will focus on throughout my tenure as Managing Director.
Whilst I did not start my career in construction, I have come from oil and gas, mining, and heavy industries so I bring that experience in decision making in long dated, very capital-intensive industries and the appreciation of the importance of risk management and technical expertise. More diversity of experiences could benefit the transport industry because that is where you can get greater innovation and productivity. You learn from the lessons of others rather than believing the best of thinking solely exists in your sector. I am a big advocate of cross industry pollination.
The tenacity tenet
When I was young, my father gave me an analogy of flies in a soup bowl all swimming hard to try and stay at the top. Over time even some of the stronger flies dropped to the bottom because they gave up. Those with the grit, determination, and perseverance were able to stay swimming and eventually succeeded and got out. That advice has stayed with me all my career. Perseverance and determination will trump capability every step of the way. Don’t ever doubt whether you have the capability to achieve anything. Trust that if you have the right work ethic and perseverance you can achieve any change.
This belief means when you take on a new role you move from ‘can I do this?’ to ‘how can I make this successful?’ and you start problem solving a lot quicker. It’s a tenet I hold dear because it shifts your perspective.