Hedy’s Highlights of 2016


As 2016 takes its closing breaths, we learn of the passing of yet another icon, Carrie Fisher.  My Facebook feed is full of pleas to keep David Attenborough safe lest we lose yet another national treasure.  We’ve seen terror attacks, ongoing conflict in Syria, the rise of the political far right, Britain vote to leave the EU and, personally most concerning, the election of Donald Trump as next ruler of the free world.  All is not doom and gloom however and as the world ticks over there has been plenty of good news from the world of women in STEM.  I’ve put together my highlights of the year below, covering both personal and industry arenas.

January – For the first time, NASA’s class of astronauts are 50% female

February – Female engineering entrepreneurs featured by CNN 

March – UNSW Graduate Megan Kline wins 2016 WA CME Outstanding Young Woman in Resources award and is profiled by UNSW

April – Whilst on Yvette’s Grand Tour, we both visited the Falkirk Wheel, a connection point between the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal


Having a wheely good time on Yvette’s Grand Tour!

May – Yvette is awarded the 2016 Young Railway Engineer of the Year from the Railway Technical Society of Australasia


Yvette and Antonia with their awards

June – National Women in Engineering Day is celebrated in the UK on 23rd June, featuring the release of a list of the Top 50 Influential Women in Engineering

July – My favourite mathematician Hannah Fry and Dallas Campbell explore the modern aviation industry in a series produced by the BBC ‘City in the Sky


Hannah Fry not posing next to a plane, but rather a Jacquard loom from her show on Ada Lovelace

August – Whilst on my summer holiday we visited Bletchley Park and found out about the amazing women who operated the Bombe machines to find the daily Enigma settings

September – The Paralympics highlight a number of engineering innovations  A special issue of Sports Engineering highlights technology for Disability Sport


October – BHP Billiton sets new goal for 50% of workforce to be women by 2025

November – Book launch for Rules of the Game, a book that explores the world of engineering, resources and construction, from The Blue Collared Woman


December – Largest all-female expedition to Antartica heads off

What are your highlights of 2016, and what do you have planned for 2017?


Graduate Development Day



Last week, I was invited to speak to our graduates at one of their development days about my career journey and talk a little about personal branding.  I don’t have all the answers, by any stretch, but I thought that I’d share with you what I shared with them.

I’m Yvette and I’m a Design Manager with Engineering & Projects.

I’m from Townsville and have a Computer Systems Engineering degree from James Cook.

I had planned to be a software engineer but was convinced to try signalling, under the misapprehension that it had something to do with digital signals processing, which is untrue.  For a year, I worked in QR’s signalling design team, doing circuit drawings, and testing and commissioning on site.  I also had a really great graduate development coordinator.  She has certainly shaped the professional I am today and we’re still friends.  The fact that she owns a property in wine country doesn’t hurt…

At the end of my first year, I moved to Mount Isa to be with my then partner who was working at the copper mine.

I worked in fixed plant maintenance at the lead mine for two years, but then returned to QR National because I missed the intellectual challenge of signalling.  Mount Isa itself really wasn’t that bad, there were a surprising number of beautiful shoe shops but I really found it hard to love my role.

Since my return I’ve been based with the signalling team for most of the past 6 years, in various forms.

For two years, I was a data designer while I completed my postgrad in signalling and telecommunications, then got my CPEng and RPEQ.

Who’s an engineer here?

Who’d like to hear about my CPEng journey or have you all been told enough about that..?

[They had been told HEAPS about it and politely declined…]

When my boss got snapped up by the transition to operations program, I expressed interest in her role, and acted as the manager of the signalling design team for about 9 months.  I also had the chance to participate in the Mentoring Circles, which is where I met Renee [one of the graduate coordinators].

Then, I was seconded to an operational project and have been there since the middle of 2014, up until a few months ago.

As I mentioned, I’m currently acting in a Design Manager role with Engineering & Projects, while the Design Manager I’m replacing is on shared care leave.  But this will end in a few weeks.

Each time I have changed jobs and roles, I’ve been terrified.  Except for when I returned to signalling from the lead mine.  The relief of actually leaving the heat of Mount Isa overshadowed any other feelings I could have had.

This, I think, is a mixture of self doubt and risk aversion.  Why take a gamble if you’ve got something good going on right now?  What if you are actually worse at the new job?  What if you don’t like it as much?

Up until last week, I’d been really focussed on getting my mythical “dream job”.  If I couldn’t get my dream job, then I was staying put.  Paul Huth [Principal Engineer who coordinates graduate engineering rotations] very kindly led me to the conclusion that this was a little bit crazy.

Within reason, most rotation or secondment opportunities will have a little bit of your dream job hiding in there that can be used as preparation for the role you really want.  Communication, people management, scheduling, exposure to particular business processes or assets… it’s all useful in the future.

And if you really do end up doing something that you absolutely hate, then you have learned more about what you need from a role to generate intrinsic satisfaction.  This also goes for working with supervisors that you don’t really gel with.  Even if you hate them, you will have learnt what types of leadership characteristics you don’t want to emulate.

I’m really bad marketing myself the way that’s recommended.  For example, I need to go back to my desk and update my talent profile [which I did, see below].  I don’t have an elevator pitch because I’ve worked on a confidential project for a really long time and can’t talk about my work.

“What have you been up to, Yvette?”

“Um yeah, this and that… How are your projects/kids/goldfish?”

One time I accidentally stole a towel from the end of trip facility because I freaked out when Mike Carter [EVP] talked to me.  I do not recommend this.

However, I do recommend, making the most of the opportunities for developing your elevator pitch in the next session.  (I’m certainly looking forward to getting some well needed tips.)

I really enjoy connection and so I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to network by genuinely just being interested in people.  I’m also reasonably lucky that I’m not too fussed by public speaking so one of the ways I’ve been able to get exposure is by speaking at seminars, technical meetings and conferences.

I’m also involved in the Institute of Railway Signal Engineers and the Railway Technical Society of Australia.  Not only is this positive for the usual reasons – like contacts, leadership experience, technical development, but it also shows people that you are serious about your career; that you are willing to help yourself, in your own time.  And people are far more willing to help those who help themselves, than those who grumble in the corner about the lack of progression but turn up their noses at anything that slightly oversteps the boundaries of the role they are paid to do.

I’m from a small town and my mother, like most of the adults I knew, was always worried about what other people thought.

In your personal life, I’m a massive advocate for embracing the weirdness that is your authentic self.  This is definitely the way to be happy, seriously.

But at work, it turns out my mother is actually right.  Although, I hate to admit it.

You do need to be a touch more savvy when you’re around people who can influence your future.  This is where you’re more the consultancy than the employee.  You’re trying to drum up more business for yourself, rather than just carrying out your tasks and making sure your paypacket is being filled.

Your work personality should be managed with as much care as your instagram account.  In the same way you wouldn’t post unflattering photos of yourself with a massive number of chins, you have to think about what your actions at work say about the type of professional you are.

Your instagram account is still you, and it still allows you to portray who you are.  But it doesn’t expose the shortcomings, at least not unintentionally.

Who do you want to be seen as?

What kind of actions will your stakeholders “loveheart”?

What kind of actions will lead to them wanting to follow you?

There is a lot of leadership stuff, for women especially, that talks about being assertive and leaning in and asking for what you want.

Striking a balance between telling people what you want so that they can help you get there and not tarring your brand by seeming entitled is an incredibly thin line to tread.

And I don’t have an exact solution for that.

But I do know that being mindful of it can only lead to better outcomes.

My cousin, who is a zumba teacher, posted an inspirational quote which said “what other people think of you is none of your business”.

Until we live in a very different kind of world, this is incorrect.

It is your business.

It is your repeat business.

It is your future business.

So if you don’t want to go out of business, it is worth having a think about.


(The photo above is what happened when I made Control Systems grad, Ragnee, take a selfie with me at her Graduate Challenge Presentation, like a proud but embarrassing older relative.)

I also followed this up with an email to the graduate coordinator with some useful networking links, which may also interest you.

Here are the links I promised which may interest some of the graduates:


IRSE Younger Members’ Society:


Also, ask me for a membership form if you’re keen!


Young Transport Professionals Queensland Facebook Group:



Young Engineers Australia:




Queensland Women in Engineering:



Queensland Women in Finance:



I’m also investigating the UK-based Young Rail Professionals and, amongst other things, organise exchange programs for graduate rotations.  Stay tuned for more info soon!  Fingers crossed!


My favourite Myers Briggs test, mostly because the graphics are really cute.  No idea how our HR professionals feel about its actual content… [I know that some HR professionals, don’t recommend this test for recruitment purposes, but it’s free and as long as you’re not using it to discriminate against people, I feel it isn’t too bad]




We had a discussion about personality tests in the session after mine, which led me to including the 16 Personalities link.  I added my two cents in, mentioning how having a broad indication of my strengths and weaknesses has helped me in figuring out what will make me happy, career wise.  I had often struggled with being motivated enough to care about nitty gritty technical details, and was quite concerned that I found principles testing so monotonous and lonely.  And I’d never understood why I couldn’t ever remember electrical part numbers and yet could still recall the birth dates of my childhood friends.   However, the actual realization that I am extroverted and gain energy from interacting with other people helps explain why I love chatting, group brainstorming and getting stuff done on the spot.


I’m an ENFJ btw.  Here’s a picture of me either saving a village or stealing a baby.


Knowing about yourself also helps you in your interactions with the others around you.  Understanding the differences allows you to better interpret (and predict) other people’s actions and to treat them the way they want to be treated (which may be subtly different to the way YOU would want to be treated in the same situation).


In case you’ve not been paying attention recently, I’ve very much about seeking happiness by being your authentic self.  An extension of this can be seen in my update of my career aspirations on our internal talent profile, finally giving in to the fact that detailed design just doesn’t pick my relay:

I would like to combine my technical engineering skills and my interpersonal and communications experience to act as the interface between our customers and the engineering teams who deliver their solutions.  My ideal role would involve engaging stakeholders to generate requirements for engineering project proposals, and documenting solutions to secure works that utilise our rail engineering expertise.

As always, we would love to know what you think!  What advice would/do you give your graduates?

Do you know your personality type?  Or is MB all BS?

Dressed for Success



The Wagon Whisperer (mech eng, Antonia), was the first to bring my attention to Women In Engineering’s Dress for Success event. I was initially skeptical, mostly because I don’t like being told what to do by other people and that the phrase “dress for success” sets my teeth on edge. Why should women have to dress a certain way to be taken seriously in their workplaces? And who is anyone else to tell me what foodstuff my body most resembles? (In a subsequent conversation Antonia identified herself as a hourglass and decided I was probably a fairy floss – generally round with bumps and stuff in random places, but still pretty sweet!)
But occasionally, very occasionally, I do change my mind. The reality is that women are judged on the way that they look. And I decided that until we conduct job interviews and pay rise discussions using the methodology employed by “reality” television program, The Voice, your appearance will affect your career somewhat. So, I accepted that taking advantage of the advice that is offered is sensible, and not a betrayal to my ideal utopian goals of wearing whatever the heck I want without influencing how others treat me.
There were two sessions on offer, one for recent graduates and students, and one for established professionals. I selected the latter despite being in denial about my ever-increasing age.
Unfortunately, Antonia was unable to make it, but sent graduate Kimmie in her place. Antonia also sent me with instructions to take notes for her. We joked about potential topics of interest:

  • High vis contouring to set off the colour of your shirt
  • How to avoid hardhat hair
    Selecting safety glasses to match your face shape
  • How best to wear men’s pants without looking like you’re wearing men’s pants
  • Are you a Summer or a Summer? (Summer is the only choice in the Central Queensland coal area)



I arrived a little early, just as the first session was finishing up. The ladies were being addressed by David Jones Stylist, Melody, who just oozed professional style. She actually reminded me a lot of Madame Fleuri from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Their pearls of wisdom are almost indistinguishable!

“The most flattering garment you can ever wear is a suit.” – Melody the Stylist
“You can be married OR buried in a quality suit.” – Madame Fleuri

The Suit Look on Site

Melody recommended trying to keep a “suit look” as much as possible when on site by trying to wear a blazer or a tailored jacket and dark denim jeans. The Trenery chino/jean hybrid was suggested, but I wondered how the fabric composition would affect the safety of the garment.


I suppose it depends on what type of site work one is engaging in and whether not having fire retardant clothing is going to be an issue.
You can also get the pockets of your pants sewn shut to improve the way they sit (but decrease the functionality). It depends where your priorities (and lipgloss) are…

Just as an aside, if you are ever around high voltage switching or somewhere where arc flash could occur, DO NOT wear an underwire bra! This is not usually listed as a safety precaution because the patriachy probably hasn’t considered it because it doesn’t affect them, but if you are caught in an explosion wearing extra metal around your boobs, you will end up with extra metal melted into your boobs. This is probably something to avoid. These are on my shopping list for next site visit.


The Power of Red

One of the ladies posed a question about a “f*ck off” power outfit. Melody said to wear anything with red in it – a red top with a suit or a white shirt with a red scarf or red lipstick.
“It’s funny how red lipstick can make you feel powerful.” – Melody the Stylist
I have never agreed with anything more in my life!

Skirts with Stockings/Pantyhose

Another question from the first group of fashionistas was about the best pieces to wear as a petite woman. The answer was skirts with nude stockings and shoes. Having legs of a different shade to the skirt helps to divide the body more into threes (head and torso, skirt, legs), so the more distinction the better the effect in making you seem more well proportioned. (Apparently, I have been making myself even more dumpier with black stockings for the last 10 years of my life. I think I need to buy some nude shoes!)
After some networking, fancy Schweppes softdrinks and antipasto, we began to discuss skirts again.  Melody’s advice was to wear skirts as much as possible because they give the aura of formality more so than pants, which are really for functionality and comfort. And that one should never go to an interview without wearing stockings and without a spare pair in your handbag.
The length of the skirt should be at the centre of the kneecap or a little lower if you are trying to accentuate the awesome slimness of your calves.
Another popular skirt style that was highlighted, especially for more curvaceous ladies, was the Anthea Crawford horizontally stripy stretchy skirt, which is super comfortable and very flattering.



“Makeup is the most important tool for power.” – Melody the Stylist
You don’t want to look like a Kardashian, apparently, but you want to look groomed and fresh.

Intimate Apparel

“The most important thing you can own in your wardrobe is sensible underwear.” – Melody the Stylist
Melody went on to clarify that she didn’t mean the dreaded Bridget Jonesesque shapewear but proper high-waisted cotton briefs like Jockey or Bonds, with coverage to avoid unsightly lines.
This is some really basic but sensible advice, especially for working on site or in the tropics.
On a related note, a change that I personally made in the past few years was switching to stockings from pantyhose. This has greatly improved my life from a women’s health point of view and you can really get a lot of bonus confidence from knowing that you’re wearing kick ass suspenders under your power dress! I recommend to all!

Another engineeress complained that button up shirts always revealed her underwear. Melody’s advice was to take the offending garment to the fitters in the Intimate Apparel department and that they would be able to match the underwear to the shirt.


How to Dress for Summer Without Wearing Too Little


Tips for surviving the commute to work in Summer without showing too much skin include:

  • Wearing a short sleeved top which can be handwashed and dries quickly (pictured above)
  • Choosing shoes that are only half enclosed
  • Selecting clothes made of natural fibers
  • Leaving a suit jacket at work that can be put on when clients turn up


Jacket Tailoring

In the way that women come in all shapes and sizes, so too do quality suit jackets, we were told. One wants to select a jacket which fits across the shoulders without pulling and that drapes down at the arms, without sticking out.
The length of the jacket is also important. The bottom of the jacket should sit somewhere between the hipbones and the knuckles (when the arms are at rest) and the top button should be below the bust. It seems obvious that some jackets look better than others, but unless you’ve tried different lengths, it is difficult to tell if you really have selected the winner or not.
A jacket with details and cinching at the wait will improve and accentuate the wearer’s waist, if it is located at the correct height.
Another tip was not to unpick the pockets of a jacket unless you absolutely require the functionality. A lot of the time, the sewn pocket will improve the way the jacket falls and as the ex-Hugo Boss now floor sales manager co-presenting with Melody lamented, “they are never the same again” after a pocket is unpicked.


Quality suits in the “lower” price range like Veronika Maine and Perri Cutten are generally made of synthetic fibres and can be handwashed. Higher end ones, like Hugo Boss, will be 100% wool and will breathe infinitely more. Another amazing fact which I definitely did no know was that 100% wool suits are only meant to be dry cleaned once every 6 months! In between, just hang it in the bathroom while you shower to give it a bit of a steam clean, sponge out any lunch crumbs and hang where there is a breeze. And when you are dry cleaning, make sure that all the pieces are cleaned together so that they don’t fade at different rates.
Boss and Saba produce suit pieces of the same fabric year after year, so if you have made a (massive) investment in one of these suits, you can add a piece later that will match.

In Conclusion

As much as I was enjoying the session and learning lots of practical and fascinating fashion facts, we snuck out a little early from the presentation because I had a dance class but Melody caught me and gave me her card. It turns out that personal shopping at DJs is a complimentary service and I could make an appointment to come back any time and have Melody dress me properly. Now just to save up for a Boss suit…

As my brother always says, especially when commenting on my credit card debt, this is advice of a general nature and not all products will suit everyone.
Some of us take great pride and joy in selecting outfits which convey our personalities. I, for example, began work in the city with a look I called “eccentric librarian” but now have headed towards the bright bubbliness of “rockabilly corporate” (see photos below). This is definitely a reflection of how I have changed as a person and I love dressing up to express myself this way (I also love taking selfies, evidently).

However, some of us don’t actually care about fashion, and are really just trying not to draw too much negative attention to ourselves while not being too uncomfortable. If this is you, follow Melody’s guidelines and you’ll never go wrong.

But, if you do rock your own look and love it, keep on doing what you’re doing! Because you’ll always look fabulous wearing clothes you love with a confident smile! Saccharinely sentimental but totally true!

Also, a big thank you to Women in Engineering Queensland for organising such an awesome event and generally being so lovely and welcoming!


Sunshine on Lapland, and Iron Ore


It would seem like Spring has finally made it to Lapland.  The large pile of snow in the hotels courtyard has almost melted, and the nearby hills are starting to look a little naked.  It’s amazing the transformation that has occurred over only two weeks.  The landscape is full of hope – green leaves rapidly unfurling from trees that looked two weeks ago like they would never recover from the long winter, hares can be frequently spotted throughout town, and the moose and reindeer have come down toward the river and are more often seen on the road outside my hotel than cars.  There’s also the 24 hours of daylight, coupled with 5 weeks on the road, that have resulted in me starting to resemble Al Pacino from 2002’s Insomnia.  As an aside, if you haven’t seen insomnia, it’s worth a watch just for Robin Williams.

So, why am I in rural northern Sweden, and where am I exactly anyway?  I am spending three weeks in a place called Gällivare, about 3 hours north-east of Luleä, which I’m sure you’ve never heard of either, unless you read Yvette’s blog last week! When you include nearby Malmberget and Koskullskulle the area has just over 15,000 inhabitants and is the second northernmost urban area in Sweden.  The only urban area further north is Kiruna, an area Yvette was lucky enough to visit recently as well.


Gallivare, in the heart of Swedish Lapland

It is 100 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, and from May till August it never really gets dark.  It’s not all doom and gloom though, today was a balmy 23 degrees, a rare treat before the area becomes ‘mosquito hell’ over the summer months as it is known by the locals.

I am here working for the nearby LKAB Malmberget iron ore mine.  The town is known as the mining capital of Europe, with other nearby mines including LKAB’s Svapavaara and Kiruna Mine’s and Boliden’s Aitik.  LKAB markets itself as ‘a high-tech international minerals group, world leading producer of processed iron ore products for steelmaking, and a growing supplier of mineral products for other industrial sectors’.  They are a major employer in the area and in 2015 produced 24.5MT of iron ore, the majority of which was pellets for steel making.  To put that in perspective, Australian iron ore exports for 2015 were in the region of 750Mt, however Sweden makes up about 90% of the European Union’s steel production so LKAB are a significant European producer.  They produce three main product types: pellets, fines and special products.  Pellets and fines go to steel mills and special products to foundries and the oil industry.  The Geologist who was our guide proudly proclaimed that the pellets produced by Malmberget are the best quality pellets in the world, and they certainly receive a premium for their product.

What also makes LKAB unique is that they are state owned.  Nationalisation of mines became the norm after the world wars, when developed countries were concerned with ensuring self-sufficiency of commodity supply, and developing, often recently independent, nations saw this as the route to economic independence from their colonial oppressors.  However management was often poor, production was never optimal, and nepotism was rife so nationalisation of mines decreased, with privatisation the new norm.  There are still a number of state owned enterprises including Chile’s Codelco, a laeading producer of copper, Morrocco’s OCP, the main producer of phosphate in the world, and Botswana’s diamond producer Debwana currently operating successfully.

LKAB has two underground mines, Kiruna and Malmberget, and one open and two planned open pits in nearby Svappavaara.  The ore is shipped to one of two harbours, Kiruna and Svappavaara products to Narvik harbour and Malmberget products to Luleå.


An overview of LKAB’s operations in Sweden

All sorting, milling and pelletising is completed on site at the mines, and it is the final product that is then railed to ports to be shipped to their mainly European customers.  The diagram below will give you a better idea of their production structure and how vertically integrated it is.  It is certainly an impressive industrial area when you are used to an underground mine and associated concentrator.


The vertically integrated production structure

Before we get to the really interesting stuff, a quick run-down on the geology of the Malmberget deposit.  Malmberget is an Apatite iron ore of Kiruna-Type.  Yep, you read correctly – Kiruna morphology is distinct enough to have its own deposit type named after it.  The area strikes 5 kilometres in a West-East direction, and 2.5 kilometres in the North-South direction and comprises of 30 current and historical magnetite and hematite mines.  The ore itself consists of medium to coarse grained magnetitie and hematite and it is high in apatite.  The host rocks are strongly metamorphosed and deformed vulcanites of felsic to mafic composition.  Vulcanite areas are intruded and surrounded by a later granite-pegmatite succession, which is the probable cause for the high metamorphosis and deformation grade.  So put simply, it was originally a deposit very similar to Kiruna, that then underwent folding and subsequent metamorphism which resulted in much smaller vein-like deposits then is seen in the Kiruna deposit.


On aerial view of the Industrial Area with the underlying deposits

As a result, Malmberget deposit is mined with a combination of transverse and longitudinal Sub-Level Caving.  The Sub-Level caving method is a large scale mass mining method, that is sequenced from the top of the deposit downward, where material is blasted, extracted but not filled so the overlying rock caves to fill in the void created by loading the rock out.


Mining in the area began in the 1600s but not on an industrial scale until the railroad to Lulea harbor was built in 1888.  There are currently 13 orebodies in production, producing on average about 18Mt per annum.  The majority of ore produced is magnetite and mining is divided between the Western and Eastern fields, with the big magnetite orebodies in the Eastern field and the small magnetite and hematite orebodies in the Western field.

As an engineer who has worked in a 5Mtpa underground mine (and I thought that was sizeable), the sheer volume of rock that is moved astounds me every time I visit.  All their production and development statistics are equally staggering however, as in 2014 they completed almost 21km of development, installed 65,000 rock bolts and drilled 794,000 production metres.

Apart from the challenges that come with mining at this scale, the mine is actually underneath the town of Malmberget and the Community Centre had a fascinating model that showed the relationship of the orebodies to the town.

Sarah’s Self Interview


This week it’s my time to answer Yvette’s questions, so you can all get to know the mining engineer in your life a little better.

Where do you work and what do you do there?

I am a Senior Mining Engineer for an Australian company that makes mine planning software, based in their Edinburgh office.  Just in case you’ve not been lucky enough to cross paths with a mining engineer, once the geologists use their magical powers to locate an orebody a mining engineer is then involved from the long term evaluation and mine design through to short term production of the orebody.  At Maptek I dabble in selling software, technical support and consulting projects.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

Though I sometimes miss site work, as our office covers the European, Northern & Western African and Russian regions I am gaining a much greater understanding of different mining methods and the global mining industry, projects that are upcoming and the various players in the industry.

What did you study at uni and where?

I graduated with a Bachelors of Mining Engineering from the University of New South Wales back in 2006. It seems like an awfully long time ago…


Myself and my fellow engineers competing in the University Mining Games. Yep, that’s a thing!

What is your biggest regret?

Not completing my Underground Mine Managers ticket.  At the time it was the best decision as my head and heart just weren’t in it.

Who has inspired you?

My Dad was a geologist in a past life, and family holidays often had a geological bent.  It also meant that Dad’s friends and colleagues were banker, geologists and engineers so I’ve spent time with some inspirational women who have had amazing success in their chosen fields.

What decisions have led you to where you are?

In high school, all I really wanted to do was play with rocks so I studied all the requisite subjects to begin a career in Geology.  Halfway through Year 12 however I thought that given the cyclical nature of mining, a mining engineer could better withstand the busts. Honestly though, I was mostly just excited about large trucks and being able to blow things up.

I was then lucky enough to be offered a position with Xstrata’s graduate program at their geologically interesting George Fisher Mine near Mt Isa.  It was definitely a case of choosing my graduate job for the deposit and mine rather than the company.

What was the greatest moment in your professional life?

I have been given some amazing opportunities throughout my career to date.  From a personal point of view surviving 12 months working underground and then 9 months supervising a crew of 12 to 16 underground workers.  It was really tough as a 24yo female in a very male dominated industry, but I made some long lasting relationships, gained some amazing experience, hit all my safety and production targets, and grew a lot as a person! No awards at the end, but the sense of achievement has been unequalled since.


What is your favourite thing about yourself?

I’m still fascinated, often overly excited, by the world in which we live.  So many things to see and learn about.


Five minutes in New York and I’d already found the Flatiron building

What advice would you give your 16 year old self?

No matter how uncool it is, keep doing the things you love. One day you’ll end up living in Scotland and it will all make sense!!

Where is your favourite place in the world?

The beautiful glacial U shaped valleys of Yosemite, and The Lakes District isn’t far behind.


The Lakes District

What is the hardest decision you have ever had to make?

To quit my job at EHM and travel.  Thankfully I had a bit of a financial security blanket, but it was still really stressful to take that leap.

Why do you need feminism?

All through these questions I’ve just been copying over the top of Antionia’s answers, and her answer to this question is spot on so I’m going to be cheeky and not change a thing!  To quote Antonia “I need feminism because having children shouldn’t end my career and not having children shouldn’t make me less of a woman. I wish Women in Leadership conferences didn’t require a parenting tips segment.”

What is at the top of your bucket list?

Living in Scotland was at the top for a long time, as was taking a gap year to travel, but now they’re both ticked off I need to put a bit more thought into it!  I’ve done the solo travel thing, so now I would most like to take my boyfriend to the States and Canada, hire a car and just drive!  It would allow us both time to get back in to photography, and the Scottish music and dance scene is bigger than you think so we’d always have something to do.


Showing Pete around Sydney

What would be the most effective items in your Eden Jar

The most rewarding items would be of a musical or dance bent, along the lines of “Tickets to a gig”, “A new CD” or “A fiddle lesson from one of the many amazing muso’s in Scotland”.  But even “A new box of tea” or “High tea with a good friend” would put a very large smile on my face and bring balance back to the force!

Where are you going from here?

I have recently started studying an MBA in International Resource Management, so ideally coupled with my practical experience I would like to evaluate projects for a medium sized mining company in a head office somewhere.

Is there anything else you’d like to know about me? Feel free to ask in the Comments section below.

IWD 2016


International Women’s Day has undergone quite the makeover in its 107 years of observance.

In 1909, the inaugural Woman’s Day (singular) was celebrated in the US, instigated by the Socialist Party of America. In the subsequent years, European socialists introduced the concept to Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, with more than one million people attending rallies campaigning for women’s suffrage, the ability to hold public office, the right to work, the right to vocational training and to end workplace discrimination.

The day continued to be, largely, celebrated as a political event in socialist and communist countries (such as Russia, China and Spain) for the remaining first half of the 20th century until it was adopted by the UN as an official observance in 1977.

Different cultures celebrate International Women’s Day in a range of ways. In some countries, like Italy, it’s less of an opportunity for political rallies and more a day for the appreciation of women, where flowers and chocolates are given in a sort of Mother’s/Valentine’s Day hybrid celebration. Some nations (including Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia) declare 8th March as a public holiday, and in others (like China, Madagascar, Macedonia and Nepal) women get the day off.

Without a sanctioned public holiday here in Australia, I tend to spend my International Women’s Days at work. However, in the last few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Aurizon Women’s Conference – one of the ways my organization marks IWD.

Last year, you may recall that I was the first speaker in the inaugural Aurizon Great Debate, but this year, I got to sit back and enjoy the day as a conference delegate.

As always, there was a plethora of inspiring and thought-provoking material presented by impressive speakers, networking opportunities and stalls, but the standout for me today was Julie McKay, Executive Director UN Women National Committee of Australia.  (Unfortunately, I took the most inopportunely timed photo of her, but at least you can see her passion…)


Whilst acknowledging that gender equality is an incredibly complex issue, Julie simplified the broad solutions in three ideals:

  • The provision of leadership opportunities for women
  • The economic empowerment of women
  • The elimination of violence against women

One of the things which I struggle to articulate well without offending practically everyone or sounding paranoid is the existence and extent of unconscious bias and male privilege. Julie, not surprisingly, had an eloquent and logical explanation, which I am shamelessly stealing.

When evaluating a potential candidate for a role, we consider past experience and future potential. Past experience is relatively easy to be objective about. However, future potential is an incredibly subjective and personal assessment. Humans, it seems, are inherently arrogant creatures. We tend to think that the person who will be most successful is the person most like ourselves. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself, except when everyone who is already established in the management chain is a particular type of person (perhaps a Caucasian, middle class, straight, alpha male, although not necessarily, and not that there is anything wrong with being a Caucasian, middle class, straight, alpha male).  But what this means is that you just hire lots of the same person over and over with little opportunity for anyone who is different to be considered and no hope for increasing the diversity of the workforce.

This is why we make an effort to make leadership opportunities for women. Aurizon, as a platinum partner of UN Women have obliviously been listening to Julie because we have heaps of these; you can take your pick! You can be mentored, rotated, transitioned to operations, lunched with the CEO, networked with other senior women, and these are just the official opportunities!

Career breaks have a massive impact on the earnings and superannuation of many female workers. The taking of parental leave (and other career breaks) shouldn’t only be painted as a women’s issue, but it does affect a lot of women and it does contribute to the lessened state of economic stability suffered by many women. So, what can we do about this, besides “leaning in” to get more cash?

It seems that every time I get an email from our Diversity team, it’s announcing a new game changing initiative. We’ve had the super booster which pays superannuation to women on unpaid maternity leave (after they have used up their paid maternity leave), $1500 to spend on help at home (nanny/childcare etc), and the big one this week, the Shared Care plan which will pay Aurizon dads half pay for 6 months to be the primary caregiver of a child or Aurizon mums 150% of their pay if they return to work and have their partner as the primary care giver.

Aurzion is my employer but I must say that I would be writing about these initiatives even if they weren’t. Everyone else is writing about them it seems! Have a look at all this press:






This could be something that has a major impact on gender roles and parenting norms across the world!

And whether you are a parent, planning to be one, or are not interested in reproducing whatsoever, a society in which parenting and family responsibilities are equally shared could lead to an end of deliberate and unconscious bias towards women in the workplace, completely smashing the (ridiculous and archaic) attitude that women are a risk cause they leave to have babies, because some still will, but equally, some men will do it too.

I hadn’t completely made the link between gender equality in a career sense and the elimination of violence against women until today. Obviously, violence against women is abhorrent, but also a society in which one in three women experiences violence is hardly the most nurturing breeding ground for future female leaders. It turns out it is really hard to focus on CPD when you fear for your life.

Over the past year, my aunt, Wilma Simmons, has been organizing a project called Flying Free, which aims to spread awareness and raise funds to end violence against women. Her original goal was to run workshops to make 1000 textile birds which would be sold to raise money for women’s refuges. The current count is at 1070.  Here are some being prepared for the big day:


These are a few of the birds which I contributed to the flock.


Julie’s parting message was one which gave me hope. (I’d been flirting with despair all day about the state of gender discrimination in the world and this perked me up.) She said that we need to stop trying to fix women. We don’t need more confidence, or training, or programs, or anything to achieve equality. We need to exist in a society that is aware of the value that we already possess.

So, ladies, don’t go changing…

And have a happy International Women’s Day!

The Woman and The Car: A Journey to CEO



Earlier in the week we looked into the amazing contribution to the safety of the automobile made by three ladies, who were also actresses, inventors, authors, real estate developers, the list goes on!  Today we follow this story further, and investigate the growing contribution of females in this industry.

1921 – Dorothée Pullinger: The woman who built a car for women

We have mentioned Dorothée before on our Facebook page, but no list would be complete without her so we’re including her just in case you missed her the first time!  Starting work as a draughtswoman at a car manufacturer  based in Scotland Dorothée was given an opportunity during World War One and put in charge of female munitions works in Cumbria where she was eventually responsible for 7,000 workers.

After the war she moved back to Scotland and became manager of Galloway Motors at its factory near Kirkcudbright.  Though originally built to manufacture aeroplane parts in the war, as an automobile factory Dorothy was able to keep the business open and provide employment to local women.  Galloway Cars seemed like quite the place to work, adopting the colours of the suffragettes, providing two tennis courts on the roof for employees and it was host to an engineering college for women.  Whilst working for Galloway, Dorothée managed the production of the Galloway Car, “a car built by ladies, for those of their own sex”.  In a nod to Dorothy Levitt I’m sure, the Galloway was one of the first automobiles to introduce a rear view mirror as standard.  Unfortunately, by the end of the 20s these cars were no longer produced as times were tough for independent car makers.


Though she became a founding member of the Woman’s Engineering Society, Dorothée left the car manufacturing business as she eventually became fed up with people telling her she was taking a mans job.  After this she opened a laundry business and served her country during the Second World War before moving to Guernsey where she passed away in 1986.

Only 4,000 Galloway Cars were ever made but if you ever find yourself in Glasgow then get yourself along to the Riverside Museum where you can find the only publicly displayed model in the UK.

1943 – Helene Rother automotive designer (interior)

Though not an engineer, Helene Rother is an important part of the contribution of women to the automotive engineer as the first female automotive designer in Detroit, joining General Motors in 1943.  Born in Leipzig, Germany, Helene spent her early life studying art, designing jewellery and hat pins and fleeing Nazi-occupied France.  Helene and her daughter found safety in New York City via northern Africa, where Rother’s first job was as an illustrator for Marvel Comics.

A year later she joined the interior styling staff of General Motors in Detroit, responsible for upholstery colours and fabrics, lighting, door hardware and seat construction.  The significance of her position was downplayed at the time but she was earning three times the average wage of a man in Detroit at that time.  As the Automotive Hall of Fame puts it “She was one of the few women to succeed in a man’s job during an era when the vast majority of women couldn’t even see a glass ceiling-it was hidden behind steel doors”.


Her experience at GM enabled her to establish her own design studio specialising in designs for automotive interiors, furniture and stained glass windows.  Not one to shirk her CPD responsibilities, she regularly participated in Society of Automotive Engineers conferences and published a technical paper asking “Are we doing a good job in our car interiors?”.  Her work advocating women in the industry was recognised in The SAE Journal in 1949, she was the first woman to address the SAE in Detroit and thanks to her work styling their interiors Nash Motors was awarded the Jackson Medal, one of America’s most sought after awards.

Her contribution to automotive design was important and is often overlooked, and though she was not the first woman to work in styling “she was an early pioneer and one of the best”.

2015 – Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors

The final lady of note is Mary Barra, who after the retirement of Dan Akerson from General Motors became the first female CEO of a major automobile company (GM).  Mary studied electrical engineering at General Motors Institute, followed by an MBA at Stanford in 1990.  A great example of hard work paying off, she started working at GM at the age of 18 as a co-op student and held various engineering and administrative positions eventually working her way to Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering in 2008.  In 2011 she was named Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, with responsibilities including design, global purchasing and supply chain.


She has survived a harrowing first couple of years, facing revelations that faulty ignition switches contributed to at least 74 deaths and 126 injuries, million car recalls and lower returns to shareholders than expected.  However under Barra GM is also becoming more financially disciplined, as she is willing to make tough decisions like pulling out of countries.  Named Fortune’s Most Powerful Woman in 2015, we shall definitely be keeping an eye on her work at GM.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about these inspiring women as much as I have.  Do you think we may have missed someone?  Has this made you think twice about a career in the automotive industry?  Don’t hesitate to comment below and let us know!