Gender diversity on track

Anne Koopman speaks at the event.

By Casey Neill

 Even as an award-winning manufacturing engineer, Anne Koopman worries about the impact that starting a family will have on her career.
She was a guest speaker at the Australasian Railway Association Women In Rail Luncheon at RACV City Club on Thursday 15 March.
The event followed following International Women’s Day on Thursday 8 March and attracted about 400 guests, up from 300 last year.
Ms Koopman was last year’s Victorian Young Manufacturer of the Year and is head of quality and LEAN manufacturing at Dandenong’s Bombardier Transportation Australia.
She’s pregnant with her first child and will start parental leave in June, and said she was starting to worry about what the time out will mean for her career.
Ms Koopman also spoke about some of her male mentors.
“They gave me the push I sometimes needed to put my hand up for the next challenge,” she said.
She said men applied for jobs when they believed they met 60 per cent of the criteria. For women, it’s 80 per cent.
“We need to equip women with the confidence,” she said.
Bombardier’s Loulou Hammad told the event that she started in the industry three and a half years ago.
At her first ARA event, “I was really overwhelmed by the lack of female representation in the room”.
Then she met TrackSAFE executive director Naomi Frauenfelder, who helped her forge connections.
“I now see more women at these types of events,” she said.
“When you see role models that look like you…”
Ms Hammad officially launched Bombardier’s #leadwithme campaign, to encourage women in leadership within the organisation.
Bombardier hopes to expand the project to other organisations.
Ms Hammad said the aim was to attract more women to the rail industry, and to support the women who are already there.
ARA chair Bob Herbert launched the organisation’s gender diversity report card.
“The rail industry has identified a base on which to build,” he said.
The report found that 21 per cent of the Australasian rail workforce were women.
Mr Herbert said this was up from 17 per cent four years ago.
“I believe we are making some quite good progress,” he said.
He said that 30 per cent of new appointments were women, and women received 33 per cent of promotions.
But of 113,710 active rail industry worker card holders, only eight per cent are female.
“That’s a challenge for all of us,” he said.
“Making genuine progress is the responsibility of each individual company.
“The buck stops with you.”
Diversity Council of Australia CEO Lisa Annese spoke about increasing workplace gender diversity as a win-win proposition.
“Men gain when women gain,” she said.
In relation to quotas, she said people should challenge comments relating to merit as it was a biased selection method defined by the group that was in charge.
Transdev Australasia CEO Rene Lalande is a Male Champion of Change.
“It’s important to have male voices taking part,” he said.
“Being a Male Champion of Change is about stepping up beside women.”
He said gender equality was crucial for the future of the rail industry, so it could attract the brightest people.
“We need to disrupt the status quo,” he said.
Arup Asia Pacific rail leader and global rail executive Anna Squire spoke about her journey from a school student who loved maths, science and design to top engineering positions.
She said sometimes women needed a push to go for the roles they weren’t quite ready for.
“Be open to new opportunities that may put you out of your comfort zone,” she said.
She urged men in management to seek out and encourage women to apply for promotions and new roles.