Advocacy the key to #BreakingTheBias in industry career paths

By Dr Troy Coyle, HERA CEO

As this month’s International Women’s Day (IWD) approached I found myself thinking about the role of women in our industry: What are we doing to support women starting out in their careers and those aspiring to leadership roles? Who is championing diversity and inclusion?

I’ll start by endorsing the #BreakTheBias theme of IWD 2022, which is a timely call to action to address the significant barriers to female career progression that exist in many industries, including engineering. These barriers range from what is encompassed within the #metoo movement to the boys’ club to casual sexism and more serious issues of sexual harassment, coercion and assault, all of which can affect the careers of women and their safety in the workplace.

To encourage more women into entrepreneurial and leadership roles, we need to focus on advocacy. That means working to break down the barriers for everyone – not just other women, but all those who have been marginalised by a historically patriarchal, cis-het, ethnically and culturally homogeneous and ableist system. This requires us all to face and overcome our own fears and be brave enough to challenge the structures which support persistent injustice. It requires men to be allies, too.

Many women inspire me, especially those who work to change flawed systems. They often pay a price for their convictions, but they are acting for something bigger than themselves and to make it easier for future generations. I look to people like Hinerangi Edwards and Naomi Manu, who are ceaseless advocates for honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the workplace and Government administration.

Part of HERA’s work to champion change for the better is done on our ‘Stirring the Pot’ podcast. In our 9 March episode we spoke to two impressive women about achieving genuine diversity and inclusion in the workplace: Margaret Devlin, chair of Infrastructure New Zealand, is a professional company director and is also chair of Watercare and Lyttelton Port Company; and Amy Barrett, the GM new business and commercial for Downer’s utilities business and the recently appointed chair of Infrastructure NZ’s Diversity Advisory Board.

And for IWD 2022, we profiled two wahine toa (strong women) and HERA Executive Board members on our website – AUT’s Yvonne Chan and Dixon Manufacturing CEO Jane Warren. It is well worth listening to and reading the remarks of all four wahine, who generously share their experiences and perspectives and light a path forward for anyone who wants to champion inclusion and social and economic fairness.

Dr Troy Coyle brings more than 20 years’ experience in innovation management across a range of industries including materials science, medical radiation physics, biotechnology, sustainable building products, renewable energy and steel. She is a scientist with a PhD (University of NSW) with training in journalism and communications.

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Xpress Engineer NZ, NZ Engineering News or the parent company, Hayley Media.