An alliance of businesses in the business of water

Women in Water breakfast, 3 July 2019

July 17, 2019

On Wednesday 3 July, over 110 people gathered as part of the increasingly popular Women in Water breakfast series. This was the fourth breakfast in the series, following on from the discussion of unconscious bias held last October. The topic for this breakfast was ‘Celebrating the success of women in the move to gender equality’.

Keynote speaker for the breakfast event, Chelsea Randall, Co-captain of the Adelaide Crows AFLW team, inspired the crowd with her powerful, engaging and deeply human talk. Having played in front of Australia’s largest standalone crowd for a women’s sporting event, Chelsea was uniquely qualified to discuss how to celebrate the success of women. Chelsea shared her journey to playing in the AFLW, the importance of having the courage to embrace challenges, take risks and be a leader.

One of the key messages that Chelsea shared is leadership, to her, is about doing what is needed to deliver the biggest impact and longest lasting legacy, rather than what will deliver the short-term wins. Chelsea was able to package this message into the story of how she came to choose Adelaide to play AFLW and how, in no small part from her leadership, many people can celebrate the success of the women in that field.

A select panel of industry experts then joined Chelsea following her presentation: Jodieann Dawe, Director of Research and Innovation at Flinders University; and Matthew Salisbury, Regional Director SA & NT for WSP and a member of the Chiefs for Gender Equity.

The panel gave the sold-out audience an opportunity to ask questions and hear the thoughts of the eminent people assembled. Part of the discussion was on how difficult it is to stand-up in a professional situation when we see something not quite right. Chelsea and Jodieann both gave examples from their career where they were put in a difficult position because of casual remarks and how they responded. Matthew reminded us that is not just the role of those that might be offended by actions or words to speak up, but also those who are in a position of power in the room.

One of the most stirring anecdotes of the morning came from our Master of Ceremonies, Karen Rouse (Chief Executive Officer of Water Research Australia) who told of her journey into the water industry. At the time that Karen graduated, as the only woman in her geology class, there was a rule that prohibited women from working on offshore oil rigs. So, while her classmates went to work in the North Sea, Karen ventured to Australia in search of other opportunities. Karen’s story provided a great transition into Chelsea’s presentation and a reminder of how far we have come – even if we do have a way to go.

As the breakfast came to a close, MC Karen put out a call to action and asked the panel members to share one thing attendees could take back to their workplace to make a positive impact on gender equality in their own organisations. The attendees were encouraged to put these thoughts into action to make their workplaces more equitable. Chelsea emphasised in her presentation, after challenging the audience that everyone here is a leader, “I want you to recognise that you and I, as leaders, are on a pretty important journey towards gender equality. We are not there yet, we still have a way to go, but don’t lose sight of how far we have come, celebrate it, and get excited for the future that you are going to help shape.”

The Women in Water breakfast series is a joint initiative of South Australian water organisations with the objectives of bringing together women in the industry to form an active network and encourage leadership opportunities. The series aims to discuss gender issues and recognise the importance of gender and water in an international context. The next event in the series will be held in September 2019.

                            The Women in Water Breakfast series is a joint initiative of the following South Australian-based water organisations: