Considering a career in utilities? WORK180 recently interviewed 17 women to find out what it’s really like working in this once male-dominated sector.
We learnt all about the opportunities available and the positive impacts their work is having on their communities. Plus, they each shared some unmissable words of wisdom for any woman wanting to succeed in the utilities sector...
Lisa Chan | Engineering Manager (WA), SUEZ:
“In looking for a career in the utilities sector, there are many different paths available. You could start working for a Utility Services Provider or end up providing consultancy services to the Utilities Sector, for example. When starting your career, be open to opportunities that present and explore what these could mean to you, where they could take you and how you could use them to mould your career.”
Rebecca Yianakis | Senior Production Officer, Sydney Water:
“Don’t judge the book by its cover. Careers within the utility industry may not seem applicable to you, but there are so many opportunities – whether you’re an engineer, lawyer, scientist, administrator or analyst. Working in an essential service is so rewarding. Particularly when you know that your work is contributing to the health of your family, friends and community. Whatever you do, don’t undersell yourself. We are most often our hardest critics, so it’s important to back yourself and go for opportunities.”
Sophie Naughton | Executive General Manager Business Services, Stanwell:
“Find your mentor(s). When you first start ask HR if they can connect you with an internal mentor. Through your career you may collect many mentors and they will help you through many different experiences and challenges.”
Shreyashi Kanunjna | Safety Manager, Engineering and Standards, Melbourne Water:
“Be passionate about adding value to the community and environment. I feel this is very important for anyone venturing into working within the water sector.”
Veronica Watson | Business Development Manager - Nalco Water, Ecolab:
“Sit at the table” and showcase your technical and mechanical abilities. If you have a knowledge gap, be open to learning and asking questions. Demonstrating the knowledge you have, or your interest in learning is highly respected. Enthusiasm goes a long way!”
Lisa Crawford | HSE Manager - Projects and Construction, Zinfra/Jemena:
“It is a sector that offers many opportunities to utilise your skills as well as to grow and develop. While it may seem a traditionally male dominated workforce, there are many talented women who are making an impact and there is a real need to continue to build diversity.”
Yatra Forudi | Head of Strategy and Planning, CS Energy:
“Think about where the utilities sector is right now and importantly, where it is going to be in the next few years and beyond, and make sure your selected pathway gives you the flexibility to progress with the transition of the sector.”
Loretta Wareing | Group Manager – Connections Group, South East Water:
“Only one piece? Ok, be ready to step up even if you think you’re not good enough, if someone gives you an opportunity to learn, take it. Also never stop asking questions. Very few people will criticise you for what you think may be a stupid question, however, they will criticise if you do something without checking.”
Harneet Kaur | Graduate Consultant, Energy Action:
“Many career opportunities are available within the utility industry and the growing alternative renewable energy sector such as wind, water, geothermal, and solar power. I would advise women to explore the utility industry and choose the option in which they are really interested. It is always a good idea to choose a career option with a personal interest. You can really grow and work for a long-time in a field in which you have a personal interest.”
Genevieve Simpson | Government Relations Manager, Western Power):
“Give it a go! The utilities sector has come a long way from being a male-dominated industry. I have found Western Power, and the stakeholders we work with, to be very welcoming of women in the sector. Utilities organisations increasingly emphasises flexibility in the workplace, meaning that there are no limitations in where you can go in your career.”
Cassandra Weight | Application Engineer - Nalco Water, Ecolab:
“My advice for women seeking work in the utilities sector is to make sure they choose to work for a company that genuinely values them and considers them an asset to the team. I knew when I was job hunting that I never wanted to be hired just to help reach a certain gender ratio in a company, I only wanted to be hired if I was the right person qualified for the job. I enjoyed my interview when I applied to work for Nalco Water because the fact that I was a woman was never raised as a topic of discussion, the interview was solely based on finding out my qualifications and if I was well suited to the role."
Denise Brown | Asset Performance Engineer, Powerlink Queensland:
“Don’t let other people’s comments judge or define you. You are the only person who knows who you are and what you are capable of.”
Vicky Hart | Branch Manager Private Works, Mechanical & Electrical, Unitywater:
“I would tell [women considering a career in utilities] to go to work every day, up for the challenge and try and forget that they are in a male dominated industry. It absolutely doesn’t matter, we’re all just people. You’ll find colleagues and friends you admire and people you disagree with but that’s the same for everyone.”
Revana Boodhraj | Senior Business Analyst, Western Power:
“You don’t have to be 100% perfect or a subject matter expert to do your job well and have an impact. Trust that you are capable and ensure you surround yourself with mentors and coaches from all levels of the sector, especially those who think/work differently from yourself who will both encourage and challenge you and pay if forward to those that come after you.”
Avantika Basu | Customer Project Development Manager, TransGrid:
“Having joined TransGrid only 2 years ago, I have found the transition into working for a utility to be a truly positive step for my career. Broaden your experience, be open to the challenges and keep learning.”
Ali Jasper | Senior Consulting Arborist, Active Tree Services:
“This one is always good, advice…Maybe not specific to women in utilities but just to women (or even just people) in general. ‘You can do it, success isn’t defined by gender, it’s defined by ability and passion’. It is your attitude and your presence that matters, you do not need to be ‘one of the boys’, you can just be yourself.”
Nicolette (Nic) Black | General Manager NSW Industrial, BOC Limited (Member of the Linde Group):
“Keep your options open, and be prepared to give things a go, even if it feels outside of your comfort zone. In my view, this is the best way to grow. Have confidence in your ability, and yet don’t be afraid to ask questions. Understand what you want to do, and what you enjoy. Keep true to your values. Be bold and courageous.”
But wait there's more...
Keen to read more words of wisdom from these women in utilities, check out our blog, Women in Utilities: Changing the World Every Day.
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About the author
To help women find a workplace that will work for them, we prescreen employers on flexible working, pay equity, paid parental leave, and more. Find your next role on the WORK180 job board.