In her own words
I came to Australia 25 years ago to study for one year. However, I loved it so much here that I ended up studying for five years earning two degrees. I joined Q-Free here in Australia in 2004. While I didn’t know anything about transport or tolling, I was drawn to Q-Free because of its Norwegian origins and what it represented in terms of its technology and heritage. In the early years of my career, I did ask myself: ‘how did I end up in transport as a young professional?’ And I couldn’t really answer that question in the beginning because it wasn’t very cool back then, and the industry felt extremely male dominated.
Now it is crystal clear to me why I am here and why we do what we do in transport – we are building liveable cities and a sustainable future. Our work helps reduce congestion and pollution in our cities and provides real value for people in our communities. I feel very fortunate to work in this industry.
My career with Q-Free gained momentum about three years after I joined when I took on a global role reporting back to head-office in Norway. Everything shifted for me at the point because I felt I was being seen. I told my manager at the time that for the next five years I was prepared to do any job, work any hours and in any country as I was keen to get as much experience as possible. I was clear that after the five years, my priorities would focus on my family, and this was very important to me. I felt safe in my organisation to articulate my aspirations to my employer, and it set me up for an amazing career.
In my 19 years at Q-Free I have worked in Norway, Asia, America, and Australia both in regional and global roles.
I have also had the opportunity to help shape the future through my involvement in industry associations and this is important to me. I serve on the ITS Australia and Roads Australia (RA) Boards, and am also Vice President of RA. The Associations have good alignment, and I can bring my technology and innovation experience into the roads sector, linking up with ITS.
Cross country learnings
The collaboration across industry that occurs in our Associations is vital because no one company can do the work by themselves. And this is particularly so when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
In September 2022 ITS Australia hosted a National Women in Transport event as part of the ITS World Congress in Los Angelas, attended by transport professionals from around the world. It gave us an opportunity to share our challenges and where we were making progress, and this varied significantly by location. While in Australia we talk about lifting our 27% participation rate by women in the transport workplace, for our peers in America a critical issue is women not being able to safely travel on public transit. We are all at different stages in our diversity work, but it was extremely positive to come together as women leaders, collaborate and inspire each other. Personally, I learnt about MobilityXX, an initiative involving ITS America to lift the number of women from all backgrounds working in transport by 10% in 10 years and Q-Free has signed up to the Pledge, demonstrating its organisational commitment.
Small changes for big impact
I believe small changes can have a huge impact in attracting women into the transport industry, particularly in our recruitment efforts. This includes only accepting candidate short lists that have a balance of genders represented, providing flexibility for all, and making sure the language used in our job advertisements is open and inclusive.
For example, at Q-Free we have extremely detailed job specifications for our technical roles, and it can be quite daunting for potential candidates. Now we say: ‘even if you don’t have all these skills, please still apply so we can have a conversation because if you have the right passion and attitude, you might be a really right fit.’
We also need to commit to consciously building an inclusive culture in our offices and our work sites. That doesn’t happen overnight; we have to ‘live’ it.
Championing our amazing women role models is important and I think the industry events around International Women’s Day are particularly valuable, because the conversations that occur on the panels that day are personal stories from our leaders that people can relate to, and it is a very different conversation to those we usually have focused on projects.