Let’s Talk – Day 4




This week is National Women’s Health Week.  Their slogan is “Let’s talk!” and their logo is a delightful pink elephant in the room.  This week, I’m getting us talking about periods with an engineering spin.   Have a look at yesterday’s post to get up to speed.


We will continue to use the Engineering Hierarchy of Controls to examine this topic each day of this week.


Just a note that some of the health and medical things discussed here aren’t the right solution for every one and your doctor might have some really good reasons why it won’t work for you (like, you might have a stroke), so treat this information as if it were a casual gossip with a girlfriend and not tailored medical advice.


Today we’re up to Administrative Controls.


Administrative Controls


If you have ever met with me, chances are it was scheduled as an event in my calendar.  Everything is in my calendar.  And I mean everything.  There is a four-weekly repeating event marked as “EOM” for End of Month so I know when I’m likely to not feel crash hot.  With this information, I can manage my life (to a certain extent) so that I’m not doing highly stressful, high stakes or physically demanding stuff when I’m cramping, bloated or could have an emotional response range anywhere between an overtired toddler and The Queen of Hearts.




The most significant professional memory I have of avoiding scheduling something on a Red Letter Day was when I was booking my CPEng interview.  I was offered 9am on the first day of my period or 11am the following week.  I chose the latter, specifically because I thought I would feel better and hence perform better.  I was incredibly relaxed, gave my presentation without a hitch, answered all of the questions, ethical and technical, and was granted my CPEng.


Is this sneaky and selfish?  I don’t know… but I think I’m going to continue to do this sort of thing anyway.  What do you think?  Do you even give it a second thought?


I want the best outcomes for myself, my company and my clients.  So I’m going to continue to give myself all the advantages I can by making sure that I’m in the best state I possibly can be when doing the hardest stuff.


Cycle times administrated!


Tomorrow, is the last level of the hierarchy of controls and we’re looking at Personal Protective Equipment.


Let’s Talk – Day 2

This week is National Women’s Health Week.  Their slogan is “Let’s talk!” and their logo is a delightful pink elephant in the room.  This week, I’m getting us talking about periods with an engineering spin.   Have a look at yesterday’s post to get up to speed.
We will continue to use the Engineering Hierarchy of Controls to examine this topic each day of this week.
Just a note that some of the health and medical things discussed here aren’t the right solution for every one and your doctor might have some really good reasons why it won’t work for you (like, you might have a stroke), so treat this information as if it were a casual gossip with a girlfriend and not tailored medical advice.
Today we’re up to Substitution.
Who remembers “Ready or Not?”  This and Degrassi Junior High were staple teen issue viewing for me in my formative years.  One of the quotes from the tomboy character who had just become a woman (much to the dismay of the jealous girly character) regarding her sanitary napkin sticks in my mind, “It feels like having a football down my pants.”  Based on this and my own personal preferences, I’ve concluded that pads are not everyone’s cup of tea.
But it is no longer the 80s in regional Cananda (aboot time!), and just because a gal doesn’t want to insert foreign objects at her most vulnerable time to stem the flow, doesn’t mean she has to be subjected to the bunching, sticky, messy horror that is sanitary pads.
Today, there is such a thing as anti-microbial fabric, which can be used to create period-proof undies which claim to hold two tampons worth of fluid without feeling like sitting in a pool of your own blood.
Check out their website to see some of their cute but functional designs!
Icky mess substituted!
But stick around, tomorrow, we’re looking at Engineering Controls!

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!

Are you proposing today?



I’m proposing that my boyfriend and I complete 5 Munro’s over the next 12 months.  And that we drink slightly less beer, and finally, officially, move in together.  But I’m definitely not popping the question, ‘that’ question.

Today is February 29, the only day in four years women are traditionally allowed to get down on one knee and propose spending the rest of your life together with the one we love.  But these days, during our fight toward proper gender equality, is this tradition valid anymore?

It dates back to the mid fifth century where Saint Brigid of Kildare, who was sick of waiting, beseeched Saint Patrick for a day when women could propose marriage to longtime suitors.  She could almost be called an early feminist, but why did she only ask for one day in every 1461?

If we want true equality, then both men and women should be able to bring up matters like these with no reproof, and discuss them in that often elusive “safe space”.  Equality is a two way street.   While marriage no longer has as many of its advantages, we should empower women, and men, to discuss marriage in an open and honest manner, before signing up for a lifelong commitment.

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!

I’m Sorry Hedy (or My Self-Care Retreat)



I’m sorry Hedy, I spent this week’s blog-writing time attending an indulgent, but desperately-needed self-care retreat.  As part of my Shining Year goal setting for 2016, I was “forced” to plan a retreat where I took time to look after myself, do things that made me happy and celebrate my own awesomeness.  I chose to book my retreat in Newcastle where I could visit my extended family for a slightly long weekend, so, I’m afraid there won’t be a blog post this week.


I’m sorry Hedy, I spent this week’s blog-writing time relaxing with a touch of engineering research.  As I have often complained to you, my Brisbane apartment is missing a key luxury ingredient for anyone with a touch of stress and/or pain in their life: a bathtub. Very fortunately, my Aunt and Uncle have quite a sizeable bathtub, positioned in the centre of an expansive bathroom.  Bathing in this type of environment makes you feel like you’re Cleopatra, except you’re enjoying epsom salts instead of donkey’s milk.  I also took this quiet time to get some reading in.  I’m currently reading a book borrowed from a mech eng mate, “Seduced by Logic”, the stories of Emile du Chatelet and Mary Somerville, who are described as two of the most glamorous and influential women of mathematics.  This book is so me!  On Saturday morning, my cousin and I went down to the Foreshore, which has a grassy park area overlooking the harbour leading to the port.  From this vantage point, one can see a myriad of ships and tug boats sailing past.  It is also an excellent place for some morning yoga and meditation in an industrial but natural setting.  I’m now zen AF, so, I’m afraid there won’t be a blog post this week.


I’m sorry Hedy, I spent this week’s blog-writing time celebrating Chinese New Year.  My Aunt and Uncle hosted a delicious family dinner on Friday night, with a spectacular array of our favourite foods.  There were leecee bao, lucky red scratch-its and wise (and cheeky) monkeys to celebrate this year’s Chinese zodiac.  You can find out your horoscope for the year, here.  On Saturday evening, my Aunt and Uncle were performing in a Tai Chi exhibition at Newcastle’s Lantern Walk and we all came to Honeysuckle to watch them in action and give tai chi a try.  We also had the chance to see some Taiwanese dancers, lion dancers and kung fu masters.  As you know, I am physically incapable of resisting a chance to dress up in a costume, so my cousin and I had no choice but to dress up in authentic Chinese dress and pose for some pictures.  We capped off the celebrations at a not particularly Asian restaurant, The Squire’s Maiden, where I enjoyed the Jack of Spades porter and a massive skewer of pork belly!  I am still recovering from this meal, so, I’m afraid there won’t be a blog post this week.


I’m sorry Hedy, I spent this week’s blog-writing time influencing the future generation of professional women.  My second cousin is six and we are BFFs.  We facetime regularly and send each other messages filled with our favourite emoji.  But this weekend, we got to hang out in real life.  We had two sleepovers, watched my favourite Disney princess movies, ate lots of sometimes food and treated her stuffed animals at the hospital under the dining room table.  I’m concerned that we might lose her to medicine rather than engineering… but at least its STEMish!  I’ve been too busy being a kid, so, I’m afraid there won’t be a blog post this week.


I’m sorry Hedy, I spent this week’s blog-writing time celebrating the once alternative but now quite mainstream anti-couple holiday, Galentines Day.  My cousin and my cousin-in-law are like big sisters to me.  I was very lucky that my first proper single Valentines Day in a very long time was spent with these lovely ladies distracting me from the cupid’s arrow missing from my chest.  We drank freak shakes at The Depot (my favourite Newcastle cafe, were I tend to do a lot of writing), got some matching henna at the markets, did nail art with Jamberrys (meltable vinyl nail wraps, mech engineeresses out there you should check out this design), made intention dolls* for our words of the year and gossiped over caffeinated beverages.  I’m still on the high of sisterly love and sugar, so, I’m afraid there won’t be a blog post this week.  


Actually, Hedy, I’m not sorry.  I have returned from Newcastle refreshed, happy and painkiller free.  I needed this and I’m glad I was selfish enough to do it.  I hope that our readers will understand.  And if they feel as if they need to treat (or retreat) themselves too, I hope that they take the brave step to do so.  Our job isn’t only to be awesome engineers (although we are).  It is to be happy too.  And happiness, like safety, is everyone’s responsibility.  And with that, I wish you Happy New Year and/or Galentines Day!


Me being selfish and happy

*To make an intention doll you write your word of the year on a piece of fabric or paper, then scrunch it up to make the head of your doll.  Then you cover your head with another piece of fabric, making a sort of ghost shape.  You cut slits for the underarms and legs and then, while thinking about your intention, wrap until the doll becomes a doll.  I understand this idea comes from members of the Simmons family with the method from my Aunt, Empress Wu.