Don’t feel constrained to the more ‘traditional’ female roles within the industry

Megha is a Senior Chemical Engineer at Alcoa and is passionate about her career in the sector.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The people! I work with individuals from a variety of backgrounds, some of whom have been in the industry for 30+ years while others who are just starting out. Everyone is keen to share knowledge and information, and while we may have robust conversations on the best way to tackle a problem or task everyone is working hard towards the same goal. We occasionally have some fun while going about it too!

Describe your career path to your current job?

I did a Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Engineering double degree at UWA. Afterwards, I joined the Glencore (then Xstrata) Mount Isa Mines graduate program. I was given the opportunity to rotate through a variety of roles at both the Copper Smelter and the Zinc-Lead Concentrator, including plant metallurgist, senior metallurgist, operations supervising, forecasting and modelling. We moved back to WA in 2018, chasing the coastal lifestyle and to be closer to family, and I started at Alcoa Kwinana Refinery as a Senior Chemical Engineer.

What attracted you to a career in mining and resources?

The mining and resources industry is dynamic and ever-changing, you are part of producing commodities which are then used in a myriad of ways in society – health, travel, construction etc. The current drive towards sustainability and minimising waste makes the industry even more exciting and attractive.

How do you juggle working in mining and resources with family life?

I have two kids, a 5-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, and the biggest help with the juggle is that I have always had encouragement from my managers to prioritise my family’s needs. I’ve worked part-time for nearly six years, I’ve had to take a LOT of carer’s leave for a sick kid. And I’ve never been made to feel like I need to ‘sneak out’ to attend mothers’ day picnics, school sports carnivals or assemblies etc. This support then makes me happy to make up the hours when I can, whether it’s checking on the plant on weekends, coming in on days off for important presentations, or firing off emails when the kids have gone to bed. The trust goes both ways.

What do you think of the general perception that mining and resources is a male-dominated sector?

Mining and resources statistically is still very much male-dominated. However, the industry is progressing rapidly to address the historical inequality. Environmental, safety and ergonomic initiatives are being rolled out, the workforce is being educated on how diversity enables high-performing teams, and there is greater awareness of imbalances at varying levels and roles. The best part of this revolution is that it is resulting in inclusive workforces for all minority groups, not just the male-female aspect.

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in the sector?

Find a role that you personally find interesting or exciting. Don’t feel constrained to the more ‘traditional’ female roles within the industry. Companies are more than ever conscious of bias in recruitment, and actively seeking the right candidate for a job regardless of their gender.  Be prepared for an occasional challenging conversation with the less-accepting co-workers, but consider them as an opportunity to educate and ambassador for diversity in the workplace.

What initiatives/policies has your employer put in place to encourage more women to be involved in the sector?

The Alcoa Women’s Network (AWN) is a strong support network within the company and is backed by company executives and leaders (male and female). Flexible work policies are being implemented. There are also committees addressing environmental, safety and ergonomic barriers to female inclusion in certain roles.