In Sydney's south, our roads contract team at VBA have a leadership team that recently achieved gender parity.

Program Director James Bennett says that ensuring diversity on his leadership team was something he was always conscious of but delivering on it took time.

"The power of a diverse leadership team is in the different perspectives that people bring," James says. "But creating a team like this takes focus, especially in an industry with traditionally lower representation of women."

Gender diversity powering Senior Leadership Teams

Catherine Mitchell and Joanne Lynch joined the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) in the fourth quarter, rounding out the team of six now comprised of three male and three female leaders. 

In a small leadership team, introducing two new members can have a substantial impact, but both Catherine and Joanne feel they have been welcomed by their colleagues, and this has enabled both to come up to speed quickly.

Both Catherine and Joanne came to VBA from Ventia's Water business, having held senior roles on the former Sydney Water contract.

VBA Senior Leadership Team

Joanne, currently Business and Risk Manager for VBA, says taking advantage of opportunities that were offered to her was key to advancing her career over the past 12 months. 

"As Commercial Finance Manager on the Sydney Water contract, I was given the opportunity to lead the team during the Contract Manager's extended holiday," Joanne says. "Then when he elected to move on to a new role, that experience enabled me to step into the contract manager role for the remainder of the contract."

Joanne believes that her exposure to the leadership team at Ventia via the Women in Leadership program she was nominated to participate in was also invaluable.

In a dispersed business like this, it's important to build relationships with key decision makers in order to be considered for roles outside of your immediate business area, Joanne explains.

"The more people know who you are and what you're capable of, the higher the chance you'll be tapped on the shoulder for other roles as they arise."

Catherine's experience was similar, coming from a services and facilities management background where she had led teams, managed contract mobilisations as well as operational contracts, moving into the Water business was quite a change.

Asked to lead the demobilisation of the contract in the concluding nine months, Catherine also ended up managing capital projects for the final four months of the contract. 

"I had no experience in capital projects," Catherine says. "However, I had two very experienced and capable project managers reporting to me, and they knew what they had to do. The projects were all already scheduled as well, so my focus was on tracking delivery against the plan, keeping the client informed and negotiating unavoidable changes to the program. These are things I have plenty of experience in."

Catherine says the key to her success on the Sydney Water contract, given she did not have a background in Water, was building strong relationships with the team. Finding common ground and being approachable to all team members was key.

"I've done a bit of international travel over the years; experiencing and learning about new cultures is something I enjoy," Catherine explains. "The Sydney Water contract team had a diverse range of employees from many different cultural backgrounds. So one way we connected was through our shared enjoyment of the amazing food from all our countries of origin at morning teas and lunchtime feasts."

VBA Senior Leadership Team

Continued growth

Beyond that, though, Catherine says that companies like Ventia need to continue to target diversity at all levels. Having a diverse pool of talented employees will enable candidates, including women, to be offered leadership roles and so attract more women to the organisation. Particularly in non-traditional female roles.

"If new people considering working for you don't see people like them already working there, it puts them off," Catherine explains.

Having a good representation of women, as well as broader diversity, will inspire newcomers to want to work with you.

"Then of course, once you have brought more women into the organisation, you need to grow and develop them into future leaders." 

Supporting our people

P&C and SHEQ Manager Natalie Knep joined VBA back in 2017 as P&C Manager, taking on the additional SHEQ role in 2020. 

Being flexible and taking opportunities when they're offered is certainly important to growing your career in a large organisation like Ventia, Natalie says.

"I had SHEQ experience from earlier in my career, but it wasn't in my plans to take on the management of the SHEQ team here at VBA. However, it's been a great experience, and there have been initiatives and tasks I've achieved here that I am very proud of." 

Natalie also supported the Ventia bid team in the Water sector, with a focus on the employee relations aspect of contracts, and last year got involved in championing graduate recruitment. 

"I think being willing to stretch and challenge myself will certainly put me in good stead for future roles," Natalie says.

Strong outcomes for diverse teams

James says that, along with the other members of the SLT - Operations Manager Richard Trinder, and Performance Manager Jamison Decelis - he is confident his SLT will lead a high-performing team through to the end of the current contract in June this year.

"We have a good mix of skills and experience on the team," says James Bennet.

This is the team that will ensure we Finish Strong, putting safety and health above all else, delivering on our commitments and leaving a legacy the whole VBA team can be proud of.

Our commitment

Many of the female leaders across Ventia have a similar story to tell. To get where they are today, they took chances on their career and were flexible with the opportunities presented to them.

Ventia's Sustainability Council supports our commitment to improving diversity and inclusion throughout our operations.  

Through the work of the Council, we're committed to progressing workplace gender equality across our business and providing our employees with access to the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of gender. 

Find out more

Read more about VBA and the Stewardship Maintenance Contract here and on our commitment to diversity and inclusion here.