International Women’s Day 2021

On Monday, 8 March, we celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD). The 2021 IWD theme is #ChooseToChallenge, which encourages people to choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequity, and choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. We spoke to a number of employees about this year’s theme, gender-based challenges they have faced, and steps we can all take to push towards gender equality. Here is a selection of their answers:


Q: This year’s IWD theme is #ChooseToChallenge. What’s a practical example of something you or your colleagues can do to challenge gender bias and support gender equality?

A: “By making the unconscious conscious.  When witnessing a colleague acting in a biased way, their actions or attitude should be addressed in a respectful manner.” 

– Charlene Wilkinson, Commercial Finance Manager, Passenger Maintenance VIC, Rollingstock Services


Q: What do you think will be the greatest challenge for women in your industry moving forward?

A: “There are two elements at work here – the media and the individual. So many young women are influenced by social media – what they are supposed to look like and how they should behave. This holds young women back from getting out there and achieving. The second element is the individual’s own attitude to work and willingness to put in the hard yards and learn. As an example, I was never one to follow the flow of going into nursing, teaching, retail or administration. I decided to follow my father’s footsteps and became a Graduate of Fire Engineering. At the time that I did my studies in Fire Engineering there were 400 students with only 10 women.”  

– Bronwyn Tye, Service Integration Manager, ACT, Spotless Defence


A: “I think the future is brighter than ever for women in our industries and the women are up for the challenge! However, creating workplaces where we feel like we belong is a key challenge for businesses. Our female talent will not stick around if we cannot create inclusive workplaces where everyone feels welcome.” 

– Lana Van Wyk, Manager Strategy and Future Services, Asset Services


Q: Can you give an example of positive change for gender equality that you have seen during your time with Downer?

A: “The increasing number of women in management positions since I started with Skilltech has been motivating to see. Seeing women achieving great things across every team I’ve worked with in this business has inspired me. There are innumerable instances where both male and female colleagues have pushed me to ask for new challenges and opportunities to prove myself – which is reflective of the supportive culture we have within this organisation.” 

– Meg Ewen, Bid Manager, Skilltech


A: “The number of female graduates, cadets and interns has increased a lot since I joined Downer. I’ve also noticed a lot more women joining parts of the business in Downer and our commercial teams. It’s really heartening to see females drawn to work at Downer and enjoying the work that they do.” 

– Kelsey Wong, Quality Manager – Infrastructure Projects, NZ

Q: What can Downer do to further support the advancement of women?

A: “According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, it will take another 100 years to achieve gender equality based on the current rate of progress. Achieving gender equality is a long road and we need to stay consistent and dedicated to championing diversity and supporting the advancement of women. In 2021, I think it will be critical to look closely at employee benefit trends to ensure we have great employee benefits and policies to allow us to not only attract great talent but retain and nurture a diverse workforce.”

– Brittney Moroko, Recruitment Lead East, Mining


Q: Can you tell us about a female who inspires you – in either your professional or personal life?

A: “Hands down my mum. My mum was a child servant, who was forbidden the opportunity for an education. As an adult, it was her single-minded approach to keeping her family together and doing what she needed to ensure her children had food on the table and an education.  I can’t imagine what it was like for my mum, but I know the love she has for us. Mum inspires me because of her determination to provide the best she could for us.”

– Joanne Ili, Project Accountant, Water Services North, Utilities


A: “The full time working mothers, who in 2020 juggled work while caring for and/or educating their children during lockdowns. I found Melbourne’s Stage 4 lockdown to be psychologically challenging, and I did not have the additional responsibility of managing the formal education of a child or the requirement to entertain a pre-schooler. I commend them for their ability to juggle such important responsibilities, all while still completing their full workload.”

– Amanda Walton, Assurance Engineer VIC, Infrastructure Projects


Q: Can you tell us about a time that you’ve faced a challenge because of your gender – how did you overcome this?

A: “As a female entering a new site for the first time with (predominantly) all male
crews, I feel that there is an expectation that my knowledge and experience is less than my male colleagues. Proving myself, while tiring, helps break the stereotypes, reinforce positive behaviours and form respectful working relationships.”

– Louie Naldrett, Senior Project Engineer, Water Services South, SFPJV, Utilities