There’s no doubt that women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) is a hot topic right now. There’s been a lot of chatter in this space, following the government’s announcement in September 2018 of a ten-year key Budget initiative that will increase the engagement and participation of girls and women in STEM.

STEM skills are critical to future jobs and to Australia’s ongoing prosperity. Increasing female participation in STEM isn’t just about equity and individual opportunity, it is also about strengthening Australia’s research, scientific and business capabilities.

Here, Yarra Valley Water reflects on the many achievements of its own women in STEM, and chats to them about their work in the space.

Maryanne Tully – Project Manager

What is your specific area of STEM?

I have a Bachelor of Surveying.

Why did you choose your STEM field?

When I was at high school, I could not see myself sitting at a desk all day. I thought being a surveyor would give me a mix of inside and outside work.

What’s been your most challenging project to date?

As a female in a non-traditional area my biggest challenge has actually not been related to any projects, but to the discriminatory behaviour of a very small number of men when I worked as a surveyor. Most males were extremely supportive; however, one or two were very direct and said they would not work with me as I was female. This did happen a long time ago, and I am very glad to know that this would not happen in most workplaces today.

What does being a woman in STEM mean to you?

As a society we need to encourage women’s participation in STEM. This begins at primary school where unfortunately many girls commence with the preconceived idea that they cannot do maths. We need both teachers and mothers to be positive in their attitude towards maths, so girls are encouraged in STEM career paths. The teaching of maths and science also needs to give students an understanding of why you use this information in life.

What milestone are you currently moving towards?  

I have recently moved to a role in growth planning. We are moving towards integrated water management sub-catchment planning and, as part of this change, we are looking at new systems to provide advice to developers. Projects that improve the way we work, providing benefits to both Yarra Valley Water and our customers are what I enjoy and want to achieve at work.    

Are you currently encouraging female participation in STEM in any way?

My daughter is currently studying engineering. I have always been open with my children and their friends — they can achieve in whatever field they choose. I also informally mentor some of the staff in Development Services and it has been pleasing to see them progress in their careers.

Ella Gross – Water and Wastewater Designer and Design Manager, Jacobs

What is your specific area of STEM?

I am a civil engineer in the water and wastewater sector.

Why did you choose your STEM field? Were you inspired by someone?

I chose engineering as I enjoy problem solving and thinking outside the box to find a solution.

Water engineering appealed to me as water is essential to the community to live, especially as Australia is a drought-prone country. It is exciting to design infrastructure that helps the community and provides an essential service.

My mother has always inspired me, as she’s hard working and a leader in her profession as an economist at Swinburne University. She inspired me to take every opportunity and not to be intimidated by currently male dominated STEM subjects at school and university.

What’s been your most rewarding project to date?

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the water infrastructure I designed being built. After spending a year designing Yarra Valley Water’s Epping North Recycled Water Tank and Pipelines project, it was exciting to see my design being transformed from paper to real-life infrastructure that benefits the community.

What does being a woman in STEM mean to you?

There are more opportunities and support for women in STEM and it’s exciting to be involved. Being a woman in STEM means new perspectives and ideas for an industry previously monopolised by males. I’m encouraged to remain in STEM with the strong emerging female leadership in my sector.

What milestone are you currently moving towards?

I love learning, and everyday I’m learning something new. My career aspirations are to design infrastructure that is more technically difficult. Also, I’d like to have experience working in a different culture and working environment. This year, I’ve been given the opportunity to move to Ireland for a work placement within Jacobs.

Are you currently encouraging female participation in STEM in any way?

I am participating in the Science and Technology Education Leveraging Relevance (STELR) program to promote girls in STEM by Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE). My career profile video will be shown to secondary school students around Australia to promote and inspire them to pursue STEM studies and careers.

Laura Prickett – Project Manager

What is your specific area of STEM?

I have a Bachelor degree in Civil Engineering.

Why did you choose your STEM field?

I chose engineering as I’ve always been fascinated with and enjoyed problem solving, and essentially that’s what engineering is.

What’s been your most challenging project to date?

I recently represented Yarra Valley Water in the development of a 50-year strategy for Melbourne’s sewerage system. Working together with a big group of stakeholders is always going to be a challenge, but having such a diverse group of people working towards a common goal really helped to create a strong shared vision and plan for the system.

What does being a woman in STEM mean to you?

I ended up in STEM after having a natural strength for science and maths and being encouraged to pursue it as I grew up. However, once I started at university and to work in the field, I really started to notice how important it is to have females working in the field, especially given how few there are around. I’m still met with surprise and curiosity when I introduce myself as an engineer to new people. Normalising women in STEM and making sure that young females have women to look up to, in whatever career they aspire to, is incredibly important.

Are you currently encouraging female participation in STEM in any way?

Outside of work I’ve always been involved in youth mentoring. One program I’m currently involved with is the CHOOSEMATHS mentoring program. It’s designed to increase female participation in maths by linking professionals working in math related fields with high school students. Essentially, it’s a forum that allows young females to connect with females working in STEM.

Brie Jowett – Manager, Water Operations

What is your specific area of STEM?

I studied civil engineering and entered a career in water engineering.

Why did you choose your STEM field?

I loved science and maths at school, particularly physics. Also, my sister was studying environmental engineering when I was considering courses late in secondary school and I loved the assignments she brought home. Getting into water engineering combined my passion for the environment, community and engineering.

What’s been your most challenging project to date?

Most projects have been very challenging in very different ways. It is this diversity of challenges I enjoy the most.

What does being a woman in STEM mean to you?

Fun interesting work where you get to use your brain a lot to benefit the community.

What milestone are you currently moving towards?

I am currently working towards becoming a chartered engineer. I am also hopeful to undertake some sort of interstate or overseas secondment with Yarra Valley Water so that I can understand more about water supply networks and challenges in other areas.

Are you currently encouraging female participation in STEM in any way?

I have some informal mentoring relationships with younger engineers in the water sector and try to support these women in their career paths in the water industry.

Rita Narangala – Manager, Improvement Design and Delivery

What is your specific area of STEM?

I manage the Improvement Design and Delivery team — we look for ways to improve our water and sewerage networks to deliver better service for customers, in the most efficient way.

Why did you choose your STEM field?

My mum instilled in me a real passion for environmental sustainability. I felt that science and engineering was the best way for me to make a positive difference for the environment.

What’s been your most challenging project to date?

Back when I was working in community sewerage, I led a team that planned new sewerage schemes for properties on septic tanks. Customer perceptions of sewerage were complicated by issues like affordability, town planning, politics, and of course health and the environment. It required lots of community engagement and empathy for the customer.

What does being a woman in STEM mean to you?

It means valuing the skills we often take for granted. This includes empathy (for customers and colleagues), vulnerability (even as leaders) and empowering others to deliver.

What milestone are you currently moving towards?  

Great question! I am trying to figure that out at this very moment.

Are you currently encouraging female participation in STEM in any way?

I informally mentor a few female engineers and am often approached for advice. I also teach kindergarten-aged children at a Saturday school, and am subtly encouraging the girls to think of themselves as able and capable when it comes to traditionally ‘non-female’ roles.

Melissa Greenwood – Manager, Sewer Growth Projects

What is your specific area of STEM?

Civil engineering.

Why did you choose your STEM field?

I was inspired by my dad, who was an engineer and well-respected leader. I saw engineering as a career path where I could utilise some maths and science, which I enjoyed at school, but could also lead to people management. I chose civil engineering because of the close community connection. For me, civil engineering has always been about providing community infrastructure.

What’s been your most challenging project to date?

Any projects that involve behavioural change can be tough — in particular implementing a wireless tablet system to field-based maintenance workers. This was 15 years ago when very few of them even had a smartphone and some had very little experience using a computer.

What does being a woman in STEM mean to you?

I think it is really important that STEM projects — especially those being undertaken to benefit the community — have input from a variety of different voices and backgrounds.

What milestone are you currently moving towards?

My main focus as a team manager is to develop my team. My current goal is to rebuild the team and coach new team members, as half the team were recently successful in being promoted!

Are you currently encouraging female participation in STEM in any way?

I currently undertake formal and informal coaching of other women at Yarra Valley Water. I am also consciously looking for diversity when recruiting. I also speak at careers nights — I find that most high school students know very little about engineering and don’t realise that it is a job where you can ‘give back’ to the community in many ways, both here and overseas.

Nina Reddy – Capital Works PMO Lead

What is your specific area of STEM?

I graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil). I eventually studied a Master of Project Management to gain certification in the field, as I could see myself pursuing it. After working as a project manager for many years, I recently applied for and was successful in getting the role of Capital PMO (Portfolio Management Office) Lead.

Why did you choose your STEM field? Were you inspired by someone?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do at university, and tossed up between engineering (because I liked Lego!) and speech pathology as my first preferences. The career opportunities for speech pathology seemed quite limited so I ended up picking engineering as my first preference. In my first year of uni, I was really inspired to pursue civil engineering by one of my lecturers. He made it seem really fun and always shared the interesting work he was doing in his part-time role at an engineering consultancy.

What’s been your most challenging project to date?

I think that my most challenging projects have been due to the personality mix and drivers of the project team and stakeholders, rather than technical challenges. I believe that with enough skilled people on your team you can always overcome or manage technical challenges, but the challenging part comes from building and drawing on your emotional intelligence to manage the individuals and the team, particularly if they are hostile or unwilling to be part of the project. This is one of the skills I’m always working towards improving.

What does being a woman in STEM mean to you?

I used to think that being a woman in STEM meant that you had to be passionate and knowledgeable about all things technical. I no longer think that. I think that women in STEM means contributing to STEM, whether in a major or minor way, technical or otherwise. I feel that being a woman in STEM also means advocating for and bringing up other women around you, since women usually make up a minority of senior positions within the organisations we work for.

What milestone are you currently moving towards?

I’m working towards establishing my current role and having a deeper understanding of how the organisation works as a business. I’m also always keeping my eyes open to identify any training and development opportunities that may come my way, both informal and formal.

Are you currently encouraging female participation in STEM in any way?

I am encouraging my six-year-old niece’s love of science as she desperately wants to be a scientist one day!

Joanna Cooper –  Integration Engineer

What is your specific area of STEM?

I am a senior engineer with 20 years’ experience working and managing projects in the water industry. I have a Bachelor Degree in Engineering (Chemical) and a Graduate Certificate in Cleaner Production.

Why did you choose your STEM field?

I enjoyed maths, chemistry and physics at secondary school and engineering seemed like a logical combination of those interests. Two of my uncles were engineers, so it was a career path that was on my radar.  

What’s been your most challenging project to date?

I think most projects have challenging aspects to them, which also brings a great sense of reward when they are overcome.  

The Monbulk Sewerage Project presented many challenges in terms of engaging with the community about their expectations for a new sewerage system; balancing a technical solution with environmental and economic outcomes and ‘selling’ the preferred approach both internally and externally.

What does being a woman in STEM mean to you?

I enjoy the day-to-day challenges that working as an engineer in the water industry presents. I enjoy the variety of projects that I have exposure to and the ongoing opportunities to learn. I am very proud of my Yarra Valley Water Employee of the Year Award as a female engineer, working part-time. If nothing else, hopefully it demonstrates to my two daughters there are no barriers to working in STEM.

What milestone are you currently moving towards?  

As my daughters move through their early years of primary school, I have gradually increased my part-time hours and look forward to exploring further opportunities at Yarra Valley Water.

Are you currently encouraging female participation in STEM in any way?

As part of my secondary school’s alumni association, I have spoken to female students about my career path.

Lauren Butler

Lauren ‘LJ’ Butler is the Assistant Editor of Utility magazine and has been part of the team at Monkey Media since 2018.

After completing a Bachelor of Media, Communications and Professional Writing at the University of Wollongong in 2014, and prior to writing about the utility sector, LJ worked as a Journalist and Sub Editor across the horticulture, hardware, power equipment, construction and accommodation industries with publishers such as Glenvale Publications, Multimedia Publishing and Bean Media Group.

1

CONTACT US

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Sending

©2019 utilitymagazine. All rights reserved

Log in with your credentials

or    

Forgot your details?

Create Account