In honour of Queensland Women’s Week (3-14 March), Urban Utilities CEO, Louise Dudley, shared her views on why more women should consider a career in utilities and her vision for the sector’s future.
Ms Dudley said she had seen extensive changes in the water industry since she first took up the position at the helm of one of the largest water distributor-retailers in Australia almost a decade ago.
“I still remember, particularly when I started as CEO, going to functions and people asking what I did at Urban Utilities and when I’d tell them I was the CEO they wouldn’t really know how to react,” she said.
“I’m pleased to say that happens less and less but there still is a way to go.
“The utilities sector has about 22 per cent female participation overall, so there are still more opportunities there.”
Ms Dudley said creating an inclusive culture was the key to encouraging more talented women to consider working in water, with Urban Utilities offering a range of work options including job sharing, flexible hours, remote working, and access to various paid and unpaid leave schemes well before the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was fortunate to have flexibility early on in my career. I was working one day a week at one stage which allowed me to spend time with my children growing up while also progressing professionally,” Ms Dudley said.
“I believe the best thing I can do is to create a culture where difference and diversity are valued and one that encourages people to perform important work, while offering the freedom to enjoy the things that matter most in their lives.
“We are more likely to retain quality talent if we reduce the hurdles there are for women to progress their career, and I think that was a big lesson many businesses have hopefully taken out of COVID-19.”
Ms Dudley said she also hoped the changing nature of utilities would encourage more women into the sector in future.
“The water industry should be attracting a lot of women,” Ms Dudley said.
“Water is essential and it’s not going away, but the kind of work utilities do is changing rapidly.
“When we think about customer experience, the opportunities with digital technology, environmental protection, the strong focus on engaging with communities and the exciting work we’re doing around the science space – there is not just one skillset.
“We need to bring in innovation and fresh ideas so we need to encourage diversity as much as we can.”