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20 women of nbn talk #EachforEqual

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, we speak with 20 inspiring women from nbn about their career journeys.

What does an equal world mean for you, and what can you do to help forge a world that’s gender equal?

That’s what International Women’s Day (IWD) is asking us to contemplate this year with its #EachforEqual theme.

For IWD 2020, the global celebration of women’s achievement is emphasising the need for raising awareness against bias and for taking steps towards equality.

To honour, explore and celebrate this introspective topic, we’ve asked 20 women from nbn – across a range of departments, roles and professional seniorities – for their thoughts on the past and current support they’ve received… and then helped to pay forward.


Josie Best //  Sue Chen  //  Amy Cooper  //  Jen Crichton  //  Julia Dickinson  //  Jo Dutton  //  Clair Emo  //  Maxine Harrison  //  Sarah Humphreys  //  Rehana Jagata  //  Melissa Mallet  //  Jasmine Nguyen  //  Asawari Ratnachandra  //  Leila Riffi  // Anthea Roberts  //  Beth Ryan  //  Jane Scherer  //  Debbie Taylor  //  Laura Washington  //  Naomi Wilson

About International Women’s Day

Since 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) has fallen on 8 March to celebrate “the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women” as well as mark “a call to action for accelerating women’s equality”.

Supporting women at nbn

We asked 20 women at nbn to share their stories of support, making a difference to the women in their lives, and their experiences of working in the business.

Embracing the #EachforEqual theme, we present their stories below in alphabetical order.

Josie Best (National Training and Enablement Manager)

What are you doing to make a difference and/or support other women in their careers?

“I share my story. I loudly and enthusiastically advocate for and celebrate the many brilliant women I encounter through my work. And I encourage the men around me to take advantage of benefits like parental leave that have historically been thought of as ‘for women’. Equality benefits all of us, not just women!

“As someone who knows imposter syndrome intimately, I’m also always on the lookout for capable, clever and talented people who might need some coaching on how to be brave and know their value. This isn’t particular to women, but I do find it has been pertinent to more women in my life than men.”

Sue Chen (Graduate)

What or who has made a difference and/or supported you in your career?

Sue strikes the #EachforEqual pose

“I’m currently in nbn’s Graduate Program so I’ve been fortunate enough to have some fantastic leaders support me through the start of my career.

"Both my Graduate Program Manager and Mentor have played a large role in my personal and professional development. They have given me invaluable advice I’ll carry throughout the rest of my career.

"My peers in the Graduate Program have also been so supportive of my achievements and inspire me to continually grow as a person.”

Amy Cooper (General Manager – Power, Land Access and Stakeholder Engagement)

What do you think makes nbn a great place to work for women in 2020?

“I believe nbn is playing a straight bat when it comes to gender diversity, they are actively and openly pursuing and developing exceptional female talent.

"What I love the most about nbn is that I can look up and see around me incredibly capable female leaders who all operate with their own unique style.

"This motivates me, as it tells me it’s okay to be your authentic self and that there is no need to conform to a stereotype of a female leader.”

Jen Crichton (Executive General Manager for Head of Regulatory)

What or who has made a difference and/or supported you in your career?

“I have had the privilege of working with some great people as my one-up managers. I firmly believe your one-up manager is the most important person to help you develop and grow, and I recognise I have been very lucky.

“It is a great responsibility being a people manager. It’s so critical that we invest the time and headspace to ensure our direct reports and other staff can perform at their best.

"I have also had some wonderful female mentors who helped me play to my strengths and not seek to be like everyone else. I try to instil the same sense of confidence and courage in the women that I mentor.”

Julia Dickinson (Executive Manager Satellite Capacity and Performance, Satellite Engineering)

What do you think makes nbn a great place to work for women in 2020?

“As an engineer I have rarely worked with many women but nbn has a much better gender balance than anywhere I have worked before. The company has great policies, such as flexible work arrangements and parental leave, which actually benefit men as well as women. I believe having men feel the benefits as well is the only way we will all be successful in balanced lives.

“But human attitudes are much harder to change than these types of policies alone, and the company has introduced some that I see as really useful in opening our eyes, such as training in unconscious bias and ensuring there are gender diverse interview panels wherever possible.”

Jo Dutton (Executive General Manager of Technology Delivery)

What are you doing to make a difference and/or support other women in their careers?

“We’re running a graduate scheme within our department as a way to attract female (and male) talent into nbn at the start of their career, plus supporting the mentoring program and our female leadership program.

“I’ve also started a ‘Women who Breakfast’ get-together for female leaders in our department to strengthen our connections and support of each other. Plus, I promote Diversity and Inclusion as a key topic for all of the teams in Technology Delivery to try to keep the conversation live.”

Clair Emo (Transformation Program Manager)

What or who has made a difference and/or supported you in your career?

“I have had a number of mentors who have supported me and encouraged me when making career moves and decisions.

"This support, and my own drive for continuous learning, has enabled me to drive my career towards roles that I feel make a positive difference and that I enjoy.

“However, it is my family and friends who have made the biggest difference to my career. They have helped me become more resilient over the years, always encouraging me to believe in myself.

"I’m especially thankful to my mum, who was also an engineer and taught me to never focus on being the only woman in the room. In her words: ‘Be brave and just get on with it.’”

Maxine Harrison (Security Program Manager)

What are you doing to make a difference and/or support other women in their careers?

“I think it is important to support women before they begin their careers, starting at university.

"As a part of the Monash University alumni, I have presented my experiences as a woman in IT and how it is important to showcase your skills and believe in yourself.

"Today, I have mentees, both female and male.”

Sarah Humphreys (Director Information Management)

What are you doing to make a difference and/or support other women in their careers?

“I have been involved in several mentoring programs over the years, which I have found as beneficial to me as (I hope) to the mentees.

"One of these encouraged involvement in STEM by guiding a group of primary school-aged girls to develop an app backed by a business and marketing plan.

"They developed a soccer app concept to encourage girls to ‘skill up’ and participate in the sport, which was backed by brand ambassadors.

“I also seek to push and challenge female friends, family and colleagues in their careers to back themselves to be more proactive in putting themselves forward for roles and seeking out progression by emphasising the value they offer to organisations.”

Rehana Jagata (General Manager Customer Advocacy and Resolution)

What do you think makes nbn a great place to work for women in 2020?

nbn provides an inclusive and equal environment for all employees, and this means supporting equal opportunity for women.

"This is reflected in the mix of Executive Committee leaders and in teams across different groups.

"From creating awareness on diversity and inclusion to flexible and supportive work arrangements, to ensuring a balanced mix in leadership roles and supporting female talent in leadership roles, nbn has created an environment that supports women in the workplace.

"I am proud to be part of this organisation.”

Melissa Mallet (Corporate Affairs Manager for North Queensland)

What are you doing to make a difference and/or support other women in their careers?

“I am the first to take on a challenge to help other women and colleagues to navigate their career pathways. I also have the pleasure, through my current role within nbn, to engage with and mentor many regional women doing wonderful things.

“Meeting these women, hearing their stories, and offering them a platform and a voice in our business to grow their dreams, regardless of where they live, is really satisfying. This time last year, on IWD, I was at an all-pink ‘Wild Spark Rural’ event in Mount Isa with the most inspiring and sassiest rural women, sparking conversations and drive in their communities and with each other.

“A highlight last year was being a guest speaker on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, at an ‘Advancing Women in Business’ event. I met some lovely Torres Strait Islander women, pushing the status quo from their tiny island. They certainly inspired me, and I hope I was able to provide some inspiration to them, too.

“I also still help mentor young female journalists and offer support and advice as they strive to achieve their dreams of working in larger metropolitan newsrooms. Most importantly, I throw my support behind my two younger sisters’ careers, as well as offer as much support as possible to two other strong and inspiring women within our small nbn Townsville team. In turn, they always provide amazing support, professionally and personally, to me also.”

Jasmine Nguyen (Graduate – Experiential Marketing)

What are you doing to make a difference and/or support other women in their careers?

“At work, I always encourage other women to voice their opinions and speak up.

"Every woman brings value to nbn in their own way. Keeping this in mind, I also try to pull someone in to a project if I know that their strengths will be beneficial.

“Outside of work, I’m currently a volunteer for the Dual Identity Leadership Program.

"The majority of committee members are also women who are beginning their careers. I find that I can support them by sharing advice, my experiences and being their cheerleader.”

Asawari Ratnachandra (General Manager of Strategy and Transformation)

What or who has made a difference and/or supported you in your career?

“My ‘friend-tors’ and those I have collected along the way: the people who know me in my professional world. These people encourage me when my confidence is low, hold a mirror up when I need it and push me when I need to be pushed. I know that all they want is the best for me. And it is a two-way street. While we have similarities, it’s our differences that help us to debate, share, learn and grow.

“The teams I have led are a source of learning and expertise, and their experience has always helped me to understand different perspectives. Their honesty has also helped me to develop as a leader.

“My sponsors are a group of people who have provided fantastic support and are one of the main reasons I landed roles that were outside my areas of expertise. This group has and is helping me to navigate challenges, helped me to see the bigger picture, encouraged and supported my sometimes quirky approaches, and pushed me to take on more, all with the security of me knowing they are there if I need them.”

Leila Riffi (Executive General Manager, Commercial and Deal Management)

What or who has made a difference and/or supported you in your career?

“What has made a difference is taking a leap of faith and putting my hand up for opportunities that looked like big challenges.

"One example is when I left Paris to permanently settle in Sydney after an earlier short stint as an international law student.

“This meant clocking in another three years of legal studies to secure a legal job here, which felt really hard on a lot of levels at the time but turned out to be a springboard for my career.

"Another example is the four roles I have had at nbn in the five years I have spent here. I have challenged myself, learned a lot and met people all over the company, which gave me a great platform to grow and contribute.”

"Who has supported me in my career: strangely enough it hasn’t been the people I thought were going to support me who actually did.

"For example, direct managers who knew and could talk to my abilities well. It has been people in my broader circle who have made connections for me and paved the way for me to progress. Every relationship matters. It’s not about managing up but rather about the leadership shadow you cast around you and the impression you leave on anyone you interact with – regardless of the power balance in that interaction!”

Anthea Roberts (Executive General Manager of Service Transformation)

What do you think makes nbn a great place to work for women in 2020?

“I am most excited about the years ahead. nbn is on a really positive journey from a diversity perspective. There are great initiatives underway that help set new standards.

"For example, in the last wave of Field Technicians, we have recruited just under 20 per cent females. This is well above the industry benchmark.

"There’s a live conversation about the importance of diversity, with gender being high on this priority list, so there’s never been a better time to drive change and make a difference.”

Beth Ryan (General Manager of Business Enablement)

What or who has made a difference and/or supported you in your career?

“Throughout my career, my sponsors have been invested in my success, recognising my potential and giving little nudges to move me from my comfort zone towards my career vision. It is incredibly powerful to have someone you respect and admire tell you that you are capable of greater things than what you’re doing now.

“Nothing is gifted or handed to you, rather, it is acknowledgement of your hard work and encouragement to take on a role, project or qualification that you hadn’t considered or, for whatever reason, thought yourself unsuitable. I cannot stress the value of a sponsor strongly enough.”

Jane Scherer (Contract and Commercial Manager)

What are you doing to make a difference and/or support other women in their careers?

“I have recently joined the nbn Pride Committee and have the honour of rolling out an initiative for LGBTIQ Women in Business named nbn Opals. Opals will give a voice to women from the LGBTIQ community, ensuring nbn is providing the required support and opportunities to develop LGBTIQ women.

“In addition, I strongly advocate getting out there to find your opportunities and build your personal brand. I often direct others to opportunities to strengthen their personal brand and support their career goals. Being a conduit for success is one of my greatest thrills.”

Debbie Taylor (Chief Information Officer)

What or who has made a difference and/or supported you in your career?

“Different people throughout the many years of my professional life have played various roles in my career. In my very first role working in a big accounting firm, I worked for a very strong female partner who took me under her wing to mentor and coach me. She was considered a very tough leader in terms of her expectations of others, and she was very accomplished and highly respected.

“One specific thing she taught me that really stuck with me is the importance of respecting everyone around you, regardless of their role in an organisation: from the cleaners to the managing director or CEO. This is something I’ve carried with me because it aligns so strongly with my values.

“I have worked with incredible leaders, who I have tried to emulate, and some poor leaders where I work hard to avoid what they did. Ultimately, what I’ve taken away from the leaders that I admire the most is they have the capacity to fill you with an inner confidence by the way they challenge you to achieve your best in a constructive and safe environment. Without that guidance and support from those sponsors, I don’t believe I would be in the role that I am today. This is something I am very grateful for.”

Laura Washington (General Counsel for Communications, IP and Commercial)

What are you doing to make a difference and/or support other women in their careers?

“I try to be someone who gives constructive feedback to my team, which is mostly women, in a ‘let’s look forward to how your career could develop and what do you need to do to get there’ way.

"I think it’s really important.

"People can go through whole careers without it and, given my experience, I want to pass it on. But it’s not an easy thing to do, and I hope I am okay at it!”

Naomi Wilson (HFC Capacity Completion Manager)

What or who has made a difference and/or supported you in your career?

“I have a mixed group of mentors at nbn who have helped me progress and develop. Managers both male and female have believed in me, even when I didn’t, by re-enforcing my achievements in periods of self-doubt and putting me forward for opportunities that I didn’t think I could accomplish.

“Some of my latest managers have had a profound impact helping me transition from being an individual contributor to a people leader by helping me change my mindset and approach to issues and resolutions.

“One good metaphor shared with me on changing perspective is the balcony and dance-floor perspectives.

"As an individual contributor, you are on the dance floor, acting on what is around you and making decisions in the moment with limited information. As a people leader, you elevate your perspective to the balcony above the dance floor, where you can see patterns, and watch cause and effect as a whole.

“This ensures you are able to make informed and strategic decisions. The important link is ensuring you don’t lose sight of the staircase that links the dance floor and balcony together, allowing you to intentionally move between both levels to gain insights and knowledge and cross-connect the perspectives of each role.

“Additionally, and most importantly, has been working with nbn’s Indigenous pillar and being part of nbn’s reconciliation journey. This has helped me work on my anxiety of public speaking, as well as giving a sense of value to the company and community through my diversity.”

New gender targets at nbn

Our celebrations for IWD supports our commitment to building a more inclusive organisation, and to ensure we offer a workplace that promotes equal access to opportunities for women and men.

To this end, we’re introducing an ambitious new target of 40 per cent of leadership roles to be held by women by 2025. This is an increase on our current 33 per cent gender target by 2020, and it is an important indicator of how serious we are about achieving our vision of nbn as an industry leader in gender equity.

To help us achieve the target for these leadership roles, some of the initiatives to support gender equality currently underway include:

  • commitment to flexible and agile ways of working
  • tailored mentoring and sponsorship programs designed to support women’s career development
  • a flexible parental leave policy designed to make it easier for both men and women to manage their career and family life
  • inclusive leadership and unconscious bias training for all employees
  • ensuring gender-balanced recruitment short lists and interview panels when hiring new employees
  • encouraging strong internal networking forums, such as the nbn™ Equals Gender Equality Network
  • focus and action on gender pay parity on joining and throughout an employee’s career

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