A League of Extraordinary Women | Spotlight on Women in ELA

Thursday, 7 March, 2019

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Happy International Women’s Day!

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate women’s achievements and both highlight and work to address barriers that continue to perpetuate gender inequality. Today we celebrate the stories and voices of our own extraordinary women within ELA. We chatted with two successful women from our ELA family, Regional Operations Manager (Regional NSW/ACT), Rachel Murray, and People and Culture Manager, Sue Nichols.

Rachel Murray Headshot

Rachel Murray - Regional Operations Manager NSW/ACT and Mother of two 

Mother of two and ELA’s Regional Operations Manager for regional NSW and ACT, Rachel has worked with the ELA family for over seven years in casual, part-time and full-time capacities whilst raising two small children. Aside from earning a senior position within ELA, Rachel’s personal achievements include presenting at the Smart Engineers conference for Anglo American Metallurgical Coal in South Africa, and serving as the former chair of the Central Queensland Mine Rehabilitation Group.

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

For me, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to stop and think about what I do in my role to promote gender diversity across the region. It’s also a chance to celebrate the achievements of the females in our workforce as well as the gender diverse nature of our business.

What does it mean to be a woman in the part of the world and society you live in?

I feel incredibly lucky that in the part of the world that I live in, being a woman provides me the same opportunities as my male colleagues and friends. Within my place in society and the industry I work in currently, I haven’t felt that my gender has held me back from my achievements.

What privileges or challenges do we stereotypically and generically face?

A quote that has really resonated with me this year is “we expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children like they don’t work”. Being a mother of two, ain’t that the truth! The responsibility for school pick ups, doctors appointments, after school activities generally rest with me. I am lucky to have a fantastic husband who steps up when I need him to which allows my career to flourish, but it’s certainly a juggle to try and be both a mum and a contributor to the success of ELA. Thank GOODNESS for takeaway roast chickens and a house cleaner for keeping me sane!

Which women are you inspired by in your local community, and globe?

A friend (and colleague) recently gave me the Michelle Obama book “Becoming”. Having read that, it’s hard not to be inspired by her. Michelle made it look like she did it all – two kids, successful husband, her own career (great house 😊). I’m particularly inspired by her thoughts on work-life balance and have certainly taken these and tried to apply these to my own life. Watch this space…

What are the "women's themes" that still need greater awareness in your opinion?

Flexibility in the workplace – which is so much more than just work-life balance! Flexibility allows women to do great work and achieve goals in our careers, while bringing up our children and meeting the needs of our families. I’m very lucky that at ELA it is recognised that my role as a parent is valued and acknowledged as being important. Everyone I work with understands the effort required to be a parent, do my job and run the rest of my life (health, household, extended family, social) – this respect both motivates and helps me to achieve more.

What taboos related to the theme of women do you wish were broken?

The ability of women to express emotion – including being seen as cold/uncaring when not expressing emotion and on the flip side, for being judged as overly emotional when expressing emotion such as empathy or demonstrating care and concern. For gender diversity to really work, and not just be about meeting quotas, success is reliant upon women being their genuine selves – this is where I think the rubber really hits the road for gender diversity and its benefits. Women should have the freedom to express themselves, while still maintaining professional behaviours.

Which men do you find inspiring that are doing their part for women's equality?

Our Chief Executive Officers, past and present. Both are champions for gender diversity. At ELA roles or promotions are given to staff based upon merit. I believe that this mode of operation is how gender diversity can be achieved and be meaningful as there are so many fantastic women at ELA that have much of value to contribute and these guys have ensured that women are given these opportunities. I also believe that at ELA having a large proportion of the Executive as female allows us to think differently about how our business operates, particularly as we continue to grow and go from strength to strength.

Whose work do you admire in relation to women's rights and equality?

Currently I’m following Ruth Medd and Claire Braund from Women on Boards closely. They speak to me because they’re not necessarily putting themselves out there as feminists or are specifically passionate about the issue of women on boards. I admire them because they are practical and down to earth about the issue of gender diversity and simply see increased involvement of women on boards as common sense – something which I agree with.

Sue Nichols Headshot

Sue Nichols - People and Culture Manager and Mother of two

After joining the ELA family over ten years ago in a part-time capacity, Sue now leads an expanding Human Resources Team and is an integral member of the ELA Executive Leadership team. Raising two children who are now young adults, Sue empathises with women who, as mothers, face constant compromises, ongoing juggling, the struggles of feeling stretched and never really on top of any one thing, particularly with smaller children. Sue believes as time moves along, campaigns like IWD are enabling women more and more to find a better work-family-life balance.

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

For me IWD is a time of celebration and recognition of the wonderful and inspirational women who are apart of my network, including the talented women who are part of the ELA family, and for taking a moment to recognise each of their individual and collective achievements. It is also a time to reflect on ELA’s continued focus and progress to support equality and gender balance. We are fortunate and proud to have a supportive culture in relation to gender equality, with staff numbers reflecting more women than men, including our Executive Team comprised of a majority of women in senior executive leadership roles (55%). However, we still strive to do more to promote a strong platform for better equality for women. I believe that it makes good business sense having strong female representation and our company is an example of this with 55% of all employees being women. However, on a broader scale I think that globally society needs to find ways to give better balance to and support women.

What role or impact would you like to play in relation to women's rights today?

In my role at ELA as People and Culture Manager, and also as a Mum outside of work, I feel a great sense of responsibility to help support women in all stages of their journey so that they can find balance between their professional and personal lives, and so they can feel recognised, valued and rewarded for their contribution. I want to do all I can to influence positive change internally at ELA and also externally, however small, so that my daughter and her generation of women have better gender equality and balance. Having a focus on workplace flexibility, ensuring we have a supportive culture, fairness and equal opportunities from initial engagement and throughout their careers are key planks to help support this change. In my lifetime my desire is for the pay gap to close and for women to have equal opportunities and options in all stages of their personal and professional lives. With that comes greater opportunity for strong financial independence throughout their working life and beyond into retirement. It troubles me that on average women retire with less financial stability than their male colleagues. I hope in time this is corrected.

All of my male colleagues on the Executive Team are supportive of gender equality and diversity and under the leadership of the both Chief Executive Officers of ELA (past and present) we collectively have a focus on how we can support equality, balance and diversity of both genders with focus on some of the challenges that our women face. Our current CEO, Mark, is leading the charge in this space.

Which women are you inspired by in your local community and the globe?

I take inspiration from a wide variety of women some with a more public profile than others including Julie Bishop, Michelle Obama and Mother Theresa. I have admired their courage and ability to connect with and influence change, as strong positive role models. Their collective efforts are inspiring for all women. On a personal note my daughter continually inspires me with her courage, fearless determination and appetite for change and I have every confidence that her generation (the Millennials) will continue to push for progress and better gender equality. The future looks bright!

Women are the heart and soul of our communities, and in many cases they are the primary caregivers: they say it takes a village to raise a child. Collectively we need to continue to create the space where women and men have equal opportunity to travel the path of their choice and to have it all.