SA Water has appointed a new Chief Financial Officer for the beginning of its 2020-24 regulatory period.

Jacqueline Guerin has been appointed to the role, with women now making up three-quarters – or five of seven – of the organisation’s senior leadership team.

Ms Guerin holds more than 30 years’ experience in senior financial roles within professional services, manufacturing, infrastructure and defence.

Across SA Water, there are more than a dozen women leading teams in traditionally male-dominated areas such as science, engineering and field services, and 50 per cent of its Non-Executive Board Directors are female.

Ms Guerin said there are wide-reaching benefits to having better female representation at all levels, but businesses need to be thinking more broadly when it comes to improving diversity in the workplace.

“Having more women around the table is really important, but you also need people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, physical abilities and age groups,” Ms Guerin said. 

“From my own professional experience, a greater range of perspectives provides diversity of thought, leading to better ideas and decisions.

“In the water sector in particular – where I’ve worked for the past eight years – I am seeing improvements, with tailored industry development programs and policies, and outward support from industry leaders.

“It’s terrific to know SA Water has a diversity and inclusion strategy which actively seeks opportunities for women as well as new and emerging employees, and prioritises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and retention, and a flexible and inclusive workforce.

“It’s this strategy that led to SA Water achieving a zero per cent gender pay gap in 2017, compared to the current national average of 13.9 per cent. 

“This kind of achievement only comes when you remove potentially ingrained inequities, tackle unconscious bias and put processes in place around contract and pay assessments.”

In June, Amanda Lewry took up the position of SA Water’s General Manager of Asset, Operations and Delivery, following more than a decade of leading client and consulting teams in the international water industry. 

Prior to this, Ms Lewry worked across multiple other sectors including mining, oil and gas, electricity generation, defence and local government.

SA Water’s asset, operations and delivery team is primarily made up infrastructure management, laboratory services and engineering-based professions, and Ms Lewry said she is proud to be fronting these areas, to do her part in attracting and retaining more women to jobs that have historically employed more men.

“Across my professional career, I got used to being the only female in the room, but since having children especially, I have thought what this unequal gender representation must look like to both young girls and boys,” Ms Lewry said.

“When you don’t see anyone like you in a certain role, it’s difficult to aspire to that as a career.

“It’s important we provide opportunities and support our young people right from the beginning, at a school and tertiary level, to demonstrate there are genuine pathways to a variety of professions, no matter their gender. It’s a basic demand and supply model.

“Upon joining SA Water, I was pleased to learn that earlier this year it began a three-year partnership with the University of Adelaide to support career and development opportunities for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), including providing a platform for future graduate employment at SA Water.

“By 2024, we’re aiming for at least 60 per cent of graduates joining our business to be female. Currently, more than half of our STEM graduates and 47 per cent of total graduates are female, so we’re well on track to reaching that goal.”

Comprising the other female members of SA Water’s senior leadership team are: General Manager of Customers, Strategy and Innovation, Anna Jackson; General Manager of Governance, Planning and Regulation, Anne Westley; and General Manager of Customer Delivery, Kerry Rowlands.

All three general managers echo the importance of having female leaders and the need to take a conscious position to improve diversity imbalances within a workplace.

“Within our organisation, I see numerous examples of women who have gained leadership positions – including in STEM roles – through merit, and this is something to be celebrated, as they’re fantastic role models for the next generation,” Ms Westley said.

“In an ideal world, there would already be a diverse range of people in every recruitment process, leading effortlessly to a diverse workforce. 

“Until that time, it’s important we take deliberate steps to clearly signal the value of diversity to employees, and to back that up with an inclusive workforce.”

Ms Rowlands added, “We have a very diverse customer base, so we need our organisation to reflect that. Having diverse representation means we can provide better services to our customers to meet their different needs and expectations, as well as have a more inclusive work environment for our people.”

Image caption: (left-right) General Manager Governance, Planning and Regulation, Anne Westley; General Manager Asset Operations and Delivery, Amanda Lewry; Chief Financial Officer, Jacqueline Guerin; General Manager Customer Delivery, Kerry Rowlands; General Manager Customers, Strategy and Innovation, Anna Jackson; General Manager People and Safety, Ian McLellan; Chief Executive, David Ryan.

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