Unitywater recognises the importance of its role in paving the way for females in key technical and trade roles in the local region.
Alongside its programs to attract and retain women in technical and trade roles, the utility also works with schools and university to encourage females into STEM and water industry careers.
Unitywater’s women engineers, including Mansi O’Keeffe, Lucy Shoobridge, and Kelcey Miller, encourage norms to be challenged and for young girls to be true to themselves.
“I will pass on my parent's advice to girls out there: ‘So what?’" Ms O’Keeffe said. “Just because it has been a certain way, or you think it's too hard, or you have been told you’re not allowed to … ‘so what?’ as my mum and dad invariably replied. Followed by ‘what are you going to do about it?’”
“Do it,” Ms Shoobridge said. “There are so many different avenues you can go down. It offers such flexibility and transferable skills and allows you to work anywhere.”
“Be yourself,” Ms Miller said. “Being a female engineer doesn't define you. You are female and you are an engineer. Don't feel the need to change who you are to fit the mould.”
Ms O’Keeffe, who was born in India but travelled extensively across the globe due to her parents’ work commitments, said her engineering inspiration came from watching people in war-torn Middle East make the best of the resources that were available to them.
The Senior Technical Officer in her second year at Unitywater said as a young girl she watched people deal with water scarcity, grow produce in sub-zero temperatures, and not waste a single resource in any process.
“Despite the challenges they faced, these people were some of the most optimistic, content and caring people I have ever met in my life," Ms O’Keeffe said.
“They say necessity is the mother of innovation but engineering innovative, safe and cost-effective solutions to adapt to changing landscapes and for survival has proven equally important."
Ms O’Keeffe said belonging to an organisation that provides the space of learning and growth is crucial for the journey ahead.
“We have remarkable leaders at Unitywater, who mentor, lead, and coach, and having that support makes a big difference especially in the difficult times.”
Ms Shoobridge, an Infrastructure Planning Unit Leader, said her inspiration to pursue engineering came from her father.
“He was an accountant by trade but an engineer at heart," she said. “Growing up there was a lot of time spent in the garage 'engineering'.
Ms Shoobridge, who has been an engineer for 16 years including three years at Unitywater, said her career highlight has been the opportunity to work on water and wastewater projects all across the country and the inspiring people she has met within Australia’s Water Industry.
A typical day for Ms Shoobridge is planning for future water and wastewater projects for Moreton Bay, Noosa and the Sunshine Coast.
“I love working as part of an essential service, within an organisation that has the community at their core,” she said. “I play a part in planning infrastructure projects that will be around to service future generations”
Ms Miller said she wanted to become an architect, but she found engineering through her strengths in maths and science. The Treatment Services Project Engineer, who took part in the Unitywater graduation program in 2019, said she wanted a career that she could be proud of.
“It’s really rewarding working to provide for the community I live in,” she said.
“I loved seeing a platypus in the Obi Obi Creek out in Maleny, knowing that the work we do allows them to thrive. Platypus are hard to spot in the wild and are generally seen to be an indicator of good water quality and aquatic habitat.”
International Women in Engineering Day is an international awareness campaign celebrating the work and achievements of women engineers. It aims to help make our planet a better, safer, more innovative and exciting place to be through engineering.
Unitywater is focussed on building a diverse and inclusive workplace for all of its team members. As at March 2021, Unitywater had 38.3% females in its workforce, compared to 25.6% females in the Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Water Services Industry (Workplace Gender Equality Agency benchmark).