I never had a grand plan. I was always torn between the natural and human world, so when I started looking for more "stable" work, my CV looked rather ragtag: from being a teacher to clinging onto glaciers doing technical research, even writing speeches for a US Senator. The one thing I did know was I wanted to work in industry. So I decided on the oil and gas sector, where--for over a decade--I had technical and project roles before moving into mining seven years ago.
Throughout my career, people often ask me about "being a woman in a man's world." Having spent my whole working career in the extractive sector, I simply reply: "It's the only world I've ever known--but that doesn't mean I think that's how it should be in the future." I know the industry has a bad reputation for gender imbalance and--dare I say--"pale, male and stale" at the top. But I think the gender diversity issue reaches across the business world and I hope I can do my part in moving things in the direction of change.
Within the mining sector there are lots of opportunities for women, not only to take on the traditional operations positions as engineers, mechanics, general managers but also in the ever growing non-technical disciplines like safety, health, environment, and risk management. Mining really does offer the opportunity to combine science and humanities, while appreciating new cultures and the chance to see different parts of the world. The industry is a rapidly changing sector: there are now jobs across the industry that didn't exist when I graduated. In such a changing world, a company's competitive advantage rests firmly on its ability to adapt and respond to new conditions. To be a success, the industry must appreciate the importance of diversity in its people and their skills, as well as being open to new perspectives.
A couple of years ago my current role didn't exist, and yet now it's part of the Global Exploration management team. I enjoy the variety the role offers. Some days we're helping our teams address their transport risks, varying from trucks to helicopters, skidoos and mules. Other times I'll be out in the field helping teams engage with local communities, which can range from understanding protocol with traditional elders and royalty, or being part of a blessing ceremony.
I love my job and the team I work with. Life is just too short not to do something you are challenged and satisfied by. Throughout my career I've always taken jobs because they interest me and not because they may get me up the ladder faster. But those decisions all required a level of confidence and self-belief which can be hard for women.
My best learnings have usually been from times when I've fallen flat on my face. But you get up and move on and are hardier for it. Never underestimate how much you can learn from failure. Be okay with your decisions -- you can't change them, so learn from them and don't waste energy agonising over something that's already done.
I'm now in the new career phase of "working parent", which I'm still getting used to. I read all the books but nothing really prepares you for it. To anyone who's thinking about it, I say it's hard but so worth it and you will find a way through. I've only managed because I have great husband who really believes in partnership. We both work but he does his share of the day care drop-off and has been the "single parent" while I've been away travelling for work. My advice to anyone is choose your partner wisely, it's probably the most important decision you'll make. The right person will be there to help you succeed no matter what you want to do.
Whatever they decide, and wherever they go, I think it's vital for women entering the business world to remember the important things.
• Your health and family are your priorities. Take care of them and never take them for granted.
• Don't be afraid to ask for something. If you put together a compelling case, it's hard to say no.
• Never give up your creativity or capacity to innovate. Given the lack of diversity in most businesses, this will become a sought after commodity.
• Trust your instincts. They are usually right.
• If you're travelling, never check-in luggage and always take a fleece and hat. You never know.
As working women, we need to stick together and help each other, so we can turn "pale, male and stale" into "multi-coloured, equal and innovative".