For International Women’s Day, we sat down with six women from around Australia who shared unique stories about their journey into the world of waste management. Learn about what it’s like to work in traditionally male-dominated industry and how these inspiring women find #BalanceforBetter.
Emily Fischer – Daniels Health Plant Supervisor, Dandenong, Victoria
I started in August 2014 as the National HR Manager but transitioned to a Plant Supervisor in Dandenong around November 2017 as I have always been interested in an operational role.
At work, I like that every day is different – there is a lot of problem-solving involved, not just sitting at a desk. It is very satisfying to be able to directly impact customer service and the business’ profitability.
Operations works well for me with the kids as at least I can make school pick up a few days a week. But if I’m honest I feel guilty when I leave at 2:30 even though I have already done 8-9 hours. And I feel bad for the kids when I am exhausted when I get home or must take calls when I am in the middle of doing something with them.
I do struggle with balance sometimes – when you have more than one priority in your life you can’t do either 100% which can be disheartening. There is a certain challenge for those who hold operational leadership and who are also parents. You never really get to switch off and just focus on the family, but these days the family role is more of a shared responsibility between a father and mother.
But that’s pressure I put on myself. Never have I had anyone at Cleanaway even joke about me being slack with hours and the most impressive thing is senior males openly prioritise family – breaking that gender stigma. They don’t just say it’s okay to leave for a school concert but they actually set an example themselves.
There may be a certain difference about working in a male-dominated sector, but I welcome it as I have always thrived in a more male-dominated environment, as I spent a lot of time with my male cousins. The downside to working in a male-dominated sector is that things can often be seen as too black and white. I find that females are able to provide compassion, empathy and the balance of working with different personalities and getting the best out of the individual.
Nicole Watkins – Liquid Waste Services Operations Supervisor, Queensland
I started with Cleanaway on 23 February 2009. That’s about a decade ago!
My team mates are one of my favourite parts of the job – they make coming to work every day something to look forward to. There’s never a dull moment.
I think one of the current challenges for women in my sector is to be taken seriously, and luckily Cleanaway are supportive as they help me thrive and grow in my role. Sometimes I get tested but that’s part of why I love my job. Working in what sometimes feels like a male-dominated industry can be quite daunting – personally for myself I have not found any issues working in the waste industry but I can thank my team for ensuring that I have their assistance and support.
I am proud to have come out of my comfort zone and learning all aspects of the business to be promoted twice from administration in the past 12 months. I have also learnt to use my voice and speak up to get things accomplished.
My balance is between my work and children – I have three children and 3 granddaughters so working for Cleanaway has always been able to provide me with the perfect balance.
I admire all the single parents working and raising their children, especially my single mother who raised my sister and I to be strong and independent women. These are the same values that I have passed down to my own daughter. Also, I admire the pop superstar Pink! She reminds me of myself a bit (except for the pay cheque).
Vesna Davidovic – Network Development & Compliance Manager, NSW
I joined Cleanaway in January 2018 and more than a year into the job, I really love the diversity. I see the occasional lack of confidence as the current challenge for women in this sector – the only limitations we have as women are the ones we set for ourselves.
Women all over the world can be empowered by eliminating inequalities between men and women by promoting and providing universal access to basic education and exposure to skills, knowledge and technologies.
Gender discrimination does not belong in the waste industry. Having a balanced mix of both male and female perceptions on waste and recycling behaviours is extremely important. Whether you are passionate about climate change or just have strong views on litter, waste and sustainability, it is an incredible feeling knowing you are working towards positive environmental impacts while setting an expectation and shaping behavioural changes for the next generation.
In my ideal world, balance means versatility and flexibility. It is important to focus on people as much as the task – understanding people’s skills, strengths and personalities in order to level out the team. In a professional environment I believe its important to have a mix of uninterrupted focus and laughter. A good work-life balance doesn’t necessarily have to mean the difference in home/social life and work, it can also be defined as being happy and comfortable in your workplace, that your personality remains balanced and consistent both in a personal and professional environment.
Blessing Uwagboe – Senior Education Officer, NSW
I started working with Cleanaway in Oct 2015 as an education officer, working on the EPA’s Bin Trim Program.
My favourite part of the job is working with different councils to manage stakeholders and achieve a range of varying contractual requirements. I enjoy the variety, it keeps the job stimulating. As I’m currently only a few months into a new role, I’m also enjoying soaking up a lot of knowledge from my colleagues in the municipal side of the business.
At times, there is apprehension in entering a male-dominated industry and feeling like there are limited career opportunities for women within the sector. But industry leaders like Cleanaway work hard at changing this perception by continuing to showcase women in all aspects of its business, from corporate to customer service, to operational and in major cities, regional areas and remote communities. I also like that long-term career growth for women within the organisation is encouraged.
I have been privileged enough to attend a few ‘Women in Waste’ events. I particularly love the idea of women empowering and motivating women. I’d like to see events such as those across all industries and for them to be well publicised. Maybe someday, a ‘Women in Waste’ Conference. Additionally, I would like for there to be more emphasis on positive imagery of the diversity of women, the world over. ‘Women’, whilst a general term, is by no means a blanket term. There are as many varieties of women as there are women, the world over. Women at different stages of their lives, from a variety of backgrounds, with a variety of life experiences – all of us should be celebrated!
A few months ago I was promoted to Senior Education Officer and I consider that my proudest achievement so far. It’s an exciting new change and has opened up new career growth opportunities for me within Cleanaway.
Angela Maisey – Solid Waste and Recycling Operations Supervisor, Darwin, SA
I started with Cleanaway in September 2015 as a Business Development Manager. One thing I love about my job is the team I work with every day. I receive great support from my peers and managers and this has allowed me to grow in my current role in operations.
I do believe there is a stigma that women may not be strong enough for a leadership role – may not be able to juggle home life with the requirements of larger roles. But it is certain that there has been many changes in the past decade and I can honestly say that at Cleanaway there are no gender specific roles – everything is based purely on individual ability.
My proudest achievement so far? I am quite proud that I was considered for the role of Operations Supervisor when I was in Sales. In the short time of my appointment I have undertaken many new tasks and have encountered many hurdles along the way. But to date Darwin is an outfit with more structure, discipline and consistency – this all makes for a greater business.
For International Women’s Day, I hope women all over the world are empowered to appreciate who they are, to believe in their ability, to achieve their goals and never take failure as the end of the road but the next step to achievement with added knowledge.
Learn more about the women who drive our business here and here, and our commitment to foster a culture that values difference and promotes opportunities for our people.
Contact us to learn more about how we make a sustainable future possible for communities across Australia.