Women leading the way in water

Monday 8 March, 2021

Today is International Women's Day, which provides us with a great opportunity to celebrate the amazing achievements of women in our local community, across Australia and worldwide. 

Recognising and providing opportunities for women is one aspect of diversity but my focus will always be to ensure we have an inclusive workplace for all.

And this comes from building a culture that values diverse perspectives to benefit our customers and community.

The water industry has a strong history of opening the doors to more women seeking a challenging and rewarding career in a booming industry. 

Of the managing directors at Victoria’s 18 water corporations, seven or 39 per cent are women.

Here at GMW, our executive is made up of 45 per cent women – myself included as well as our general managers for Customers and Stakeholders Ann Telford, Water Storage Services Martina Cusack and People and Culture Glenda Smith.

Our Board of Directors have already achieved the 50-50 gender balance led by our remarkable chairman Diane James.

And while GMW is doing all the right things, we still have a long way to go.

Women make up 30 per cent of our organisation. Our target is 40 per cent, so we are on our way. However, in the field - which represents more than half of our business – only 8 per cent are women.

Times have changed and women are breaking down barriers when it comes to working in traditionally male-dominated fields.

With the introduction of automation, heavy and demanding work is less physical, which may have been a perceived barrier to women applying.

Experiences of women working in traditional male roles are also improving.

Take someone like me. As an engineer working in a male-dominated field for several decades, I have seen numerous improvements while being provided with many opportunities.

There are the obvious stereotypical changes like not having people assume I’m there to make the coffee, there have been other less evident advancements like getting safety clothing that fit.

As well as changes for the better, I have been lucky enough to have had so many great opportunities thanks to some amazing male and female mentors and leadership opportunities and training at a young age.

I was also fortunate enough to have had a great childhood. Never underestimate the impact of your parents and the role they play in your development and future potential.

My father taught me to drive a tractor and tow a field bin when I was eight. Everyone else was on the header, so someone needed to move the field bins between properties. So while this was matter of efficiency, it taught me a skill and gave me a sense of purpose.

This is just one of many memories I have of being able to do anything I set my mind to, even if I couldn’t touch the brake or clutch while sitting in the seat.

So if a country girl from Noradjuha, who went to Horsham High School, can become an engineer and the managing director of an Australia’s largest rural water authority, the possibilities for others are endless.

As a positive role model, I want to focus on how I can support and mentor the next generation of women and show them that anyone can achieve what they want with a determined mindset and the right opportunities.

While I understand everyone is different and not every woman would choose to go down a leadership path, it’s about finding your passion and being able to work in an environment that excites and challenges you.

For me, I was lucky enough to be blessed with confidence from a young age and the ability to not take any ‘crap’ for lack of a better word. That’s probably thanks in part to my three brothers.

Now, when confronted with people who want to tell me how to live or work, I have the strength to say no when it was required and the confidence to listen when they have something to offer.

Today, I would call on everyone to tackle gender bias in their own workplace by calling it out, challenging stereotypes, providing learning and development opportunities for all and acknowledging achievements.

This will help to achieve ‘gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’ – the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day.

Charmaine Quick

GMW Managing Director