Celebrating Women

International Women's Day is over - what now?


By Valeria Ignatieva

With lots of events in March to celebrate International Women’s Day, one that stood out to me was the ‘Women in Transport’ event, hosted by Laing O’Rouke to celebrate and discuss gender equality in the transport and construction industries.

Having revolved exclusively in the IT world for the past 8 years, it was a great opportunity to learn about the challenges women face in another, traditionally male dominated field.

Women in Transport is an informal initiative driven by women in the transport industry, and is well supported by men; there was almost an even split with 140 guests attending on the night.

Raquel Rubalcaba, Senior Project Manager and a member of the Laing O’Rourke Diversity Council shared some of the latest, confronting statistics- the one that stuck with me was that the gender pay gap is higher now, than when I was a baby back in 1984.

Stephen Pascal, Rail Sector Lead - Australia Hub at Laing O'Rourke spoke about the initiatives that the company has recently implemented- the most impressive to me was the industry leading, parental leave initiative:

  • Primary carers – after 12 months’ continuous employment – are now entitled to 26 weeks of paid leave and will have access to flexible working arrangements, as well as return-to-work coaching and keep-in-touch programs. This is a massive increase from the prior arrangement of six weeks of paid leave, provide upon two years’ continuous service.
  • Secondary carers – after 12 months’ ongoing employment – are now entitled to four weeks of parental leave under the new scheme.

A panel discussion followed, and I appreciated the frank and personal reasons behind the panelists' passion for a balanced workplace.

Steve Rowe, Laing O’Rouke General Manager Human Capital spoke about the emotional reasons- the fact that he has daughters and hopes that they will not have to go through the difficulties his sisters and mother did.

Matt Lee, Qantas’ former COO, touched on the commercial sense to support diversity-research has shown, over and over, how heterogeneous organisations are more competitive and profitable.

Anissa Levey, Deputy Director General, Planning and Programs, TfNSW spoke about her interesting path to her current role and the need for women to become better advocates for themselves.

Nicole Waterman, Laing O’Rourke Regional Principal Engineer spoke about what it felt like to often be the only woman in the room and some strategies to develop confidence.

The panel also touched on some practical strategies of how male champions can provide more support- one that stood out to me was the need to nurture those team members who are ‘quiet in the corner’ by including them in discussions and actively seeking their input. This brought back the memories of my earlier days, being present in a boardroom full of senior, male execs and feeling too scared to contribute. Now, I cannot be quietened with duct tape :)

Unconscious bias was another area explored, and the panellists shared some unique training methods to help organisations lift the lid on this issue, which is so much more widespread than I’d initially realised.

Overall, it was wonderful to spend an evening with like-minded people who are actively trying to make a difference and post IWD, Laing O’Rouke will continue to run these events and facilitate the discussions.

My question to you is, what will you do to help gender equality?

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