IPWEA NZ President, Priyani de Silva-Currie, shares some thoughts as we celebrate International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. 

At IPWEA NZ we are committed sponsors of empowering women to achieve success.  We don’t just talk about it, our team embodies this aspiration.  We are privileged to have great level of diversity within our membership and we are proud that 50% of our Governance Board are women and 100% of our Special Interest Groups are led by women, all of these brilliant people are actively participating in shaping our industry’s future.

We can all play a role in forging gender parity. Advocacy, inclusive mindsets and tangible action are needed from all people.

Gender balance is not solely a women’s issue, but also an economic issue, without a productive workforce where women can also participate fully, the power of our economy is not realised.

At IPWEA NZ we respect our history, where we came from, and now embrace our future where the world “expects” inclusivity, diversity and equality. The world notices the absence of equity and celebrates its presence. We mark this day in history as the day we take action to change our world. I am committed to call out bias and sponsor women to succeed.

In 2022, amidst this challenging Covid world, where countries are facing war, poverty, injustice and suffering we must step up and be aware of the significant negative impact that bias has on women’s equality – both conscious and unconscious bias. We need to recognise it, and call it out. We need to #BreakTheBias.  Today we speak in support of the women of the Ukraine.  IPWEA NZ stands with you.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022 and to highlight the incredible women that we have the pleasure of working with, we asked our Board Members, Special Interest Group Chairs and Emerging IPWEA NZ Chair to share their opinion.
Read on below for some inspiring and thought-provoking advice and thoughts from the IPWEA NZ Whānau.
What do you think can be done to ensure that our industry is accessible and inclusive as possible?
  • Within our organisations we should provide real people who can help ‘get you in’.  Nominate people in your organisations who are door openers, bridge builders, influencers, seekers and trackers.  Give them this mission and then let them do their thing!
  • Just 1-2 years ago I was speaking to a female engineering student and she was telling me that amongst her cohort the stereotype of an engineer being a middle-aged male working with trains still exists. We need to change the stereotype. We need to persist with our focus on making STEM an attractive career path for everyone.
  • I believe that the industry can strive to be more accessible and inclusive by further breaking down the barriers and rhetoric that a specific skillset is a key or the only driver to be able to work in it. I come from a non-engineering background and sort of fell into public works and asset management (which I think is the best way!). I found that in my early career that my view of the world was not always entertained or I felt like I shouldn’t contribute because I did not have a certain qualification. In my mind, the industry needs to reflect that everyone is impacted by the decisions we make and ultimately we should expand the pathways for entering the industry, at all points in a career span.
  • Include more women at career fairs and in marketing material (including photos of project teams)
    • Strive to have balanced representation at senior management and leadership groups.  Often when I am in meetings with other senior managers and technical experts, I am one of only a few women (maybe 10-15% of total participants).  In order to make the industry more accessible, we need to be ensuring that it is inclusive right now.  Seek out talented women for roles – they are around – even if this means looking longer and harder, it is worth it for setting examples to many current and future employees.
    • Provide specific training and mentoring sessions for women in the industry that focuses on senior management and executive coaching and providing women with the skills and confidence needed to go for ‘stretch’ positions.
    • Promote diversity on hiring and selection panels to prevent any continued bias in hiring and promotion practices.
    • Ensure that there are mentoring opportunities and plenty of mentors available.
  • We have to encourage and support our women role models in the industry. To keep women in this career path, it is important that students and graduates can see themselves in others that are successful in our industry .
  • When I started in the industry, it was difficult to find out what it was all about, for my first 10 years in the workplace I was the only female engineer in the team. Things have changed a lot over the last 25 years, the diversity in engineering and in New Zealand has increased. To create a step change, more talking and sharing stories (such as this one) needs to happen. Graduates need to come through with mentors to help them navigate their first five years. Intermediate engineers need to have mentors to keep them engaged in the industry, and seniors need to be that mentor. We have some amazing diversity now, by sharing it we can create a workforce that is supported, accessible and sustainable.
  • Identify the benefits which diversity (race, religion, gender) bring to better outcomes. Demonstrate this through real implementation and success in industry and provide incentives such as pathways and funding for improved accessibility and inclusiveness.
On International Women’s day, why do you think it’s important to encourage gender equality in engineering, public works and asset management roles in Aotearoa New Zealand?
  • Women represent roughly 50% of our available workforce, why wouldn’t we encourage that to grow our world?  This to me is a no brainer, women are knowledgeable, skilled, intelligent, nurturing by nature – brilliant traits to have in our organisations.  We bring feminine balance to organisations, insights and perspectives that are uniquely different.
  • You know what, I feel in today’s age there’s a need for a new type of engineer, we need not just different ways of thinking but more ways of thinking too. There’s an indefinite emergence of technology, a strong focus on climate and environmental resilience, and a requisite for better ‘soft skills’. These new engineers need strong communication, we need better listeners, we need rational thinking. We can achieve this with better gender equality, young and old, novice and experienced.
  • Gender equality is fundamental to making the world a better place to live in. As the custodians to enhancing our communities’ quality of life in Aotearoa, it’s important that we encourage gender equality in our professions.
  • Gender equality is important because as public servants we are working for a population where women are a slight majority.  Public works engineering and asset management is about more than just the technical knowledge, it needs to relate to our customers, communities and we need to understand their needs.  The best way to do this is to have representation of that population making recommendations and decisions.  Approaching complex problems from multiple angles in order to find solutions that are practical and fit for purpose requires diversity and balance.
  • Without gender equality we are potentially missing out on a large sector of our community’s input, insights and innovation that could help us build a sustainable society.
  • Our future and our world depends on it. There is no planet B.
  • It promotes an environment that people want to be a part of meaning that women don’t see barriers to their ongoing professional development and overall career satisfaction. This in turn helps to encourage others to want to be a part of that environment.
What advice would you give to a younger you or younger person starting out on their career path?
  • Find a sponsor, be curious, let your personality shine.
  • Seek out a great mentor (or maybe even two), but also consider a formal mentoring process too.
  • Don’t worry about a defined career path, life is not a straight road! I graduated just after the global financial crisis, have been unemployed, went backpacking for 18 months and did a variety of short-term jobs in the UK and Australia but they all led me to the place I am at today. Integrity, passion and respect go a long way and will allow you to succeed. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you think is right. Travel if you are able to and know your support network.
  • Look for opportunities to grow, typically outside your day job. Having a business mentor at different points in your career is mission critical. Otherwise your career may get derailed.
  • Stay strong.
    • The quality of your work will speak for itself, but sometimes you may need to turn up the volume a bit.
    • Make sure that your voice is heard.
    • Don’t let one bad apple ruin the whole barrel – you will find lots of allies on your journey who will give you a chance.
    • Find a mentor and meet with them regularly.  There are lots of people out there that are willing and able to help you out.
  • It’s important for women in any industry, particularly those which have been historically dominated by men, to build a strong personal brand. Your personal brand is how others perceive you so it’s essential for your chosen career path that you leave a positive impression among your community. You first need to define what you want your own unique personal brand to be, or look for inspirational female leaders to draw on some of their qualities. Building your personal brand is multifaceted; it’s based on your actions, competencies, how you present yourself, as well as your experience, achievements and expertise. Cultivating the right personal brand will assist in progressing your career into positions, companies and industries where you will be respected and held in high regard.
  • You have a lot to contribute, there is no reason to feel that you do not belong in this industry.
  • To my younger self, I would tell her to grab hold of any opportunity that comes her way and give it her best shot.  I would let her know that the voices in her head that keep on telling her that she is not as good as the other person are unfounded and she does have the respect of her peers and leaders. I would tell her to trust her judgment, back herself with the facts and make her opinions count. I would also tell her that life is short, make sure that you are having fun in the workplace, and if the workplace doesn’t make it fun, find a place that does, we all deserve to laugh and be respected.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask, it is ok to fail, but learn from it and improve.
  • You get out what you put in, so take opportunities to engage with the industry by attending, organising, or presenting at industry events. These are great opportunities to learn from your peers and develop professionally, as well as grow your network and meet others that will almost certainly inspire you.

Left to right – Zelda Botes – Governance and Administration Assistant, Emily Botje – Wai Kotahi SIG Chair, Kelly LaValley – LDEG SIG Chair, Kathy Dever-Tod – NAMS SIG Chair, Alison Hermes, Alison Tomlinson, RIMS SIG Co-Chairs, Priyani de Silva-Currie President, Murray Pugh CE


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1 thoughts on “We can all play a role in forging gender parity – International Women’s Day 2022

  1. Murray Pugh says:

    Proud to be part of this organisation that is leading the way on International Women’s Day. That every one of our Special Interest Group Chairs and our President are leading women in public asset management reflects well on a profession that has come a long, long way!

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