IWD 2024: Interview with Grace Mulcahy

By on 6 March, 2024
Grace Mulcahy

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day 2024 this week by showcasing outstanding women who are helping to shape Australia’s geospatial sector.

In this interview we speak with Grace Mulcahy, Mine Surveyor for Resource Development with Rio Tinto and Secretary of the Australian Institute of Mine Surveyors.

Spatial Source: Please tell us about your current role and responsibilities.

Grace Mulcahy: I work a fly-in, fly-out roster in the beautiful Pilbara region of north-west Australia. I lead a team of survey assistants, and together we maintain a spatial model of all exploration activity across our East Pilbara Iron Ore assets.

Our main responsibilities include mapping greenfield disturbance, protecting sites of ecological or heritage significance, curating GNSS-empowered machine guidance systems, and providing survey support to our colleagues in hydrology, geoscience, operations or environmental teams. Our favourite tools for the job include UAVs, GNSS receivers, and our 4WD utes of course.

In my spare time, I hold the role of Secretary for the Australian Institute of Mine Surveyors (AIMS). A national association run for surveyors by surveyors, I’m always proud of how our connected, caring and committed group represents our profession. It’s humbling and inspiring to meet so many of my peers through AIMS, all of whom passionately serve and contribute within our community.

SS: How did you get into this field, and what attracted you to it?

GM: As a farmer’s daughter raised in rural Victoria, I’ve always felt at home amongst the hills and bush. I grew up watching how weather affected the water, which affected the vegetation and livestock, and the impact on the local economies and communities that followed. Our physical landscape and the way we interact with it has always fascinated me. Pair that with a love for maths and science, as well as an appreciation for cool technology, and a surveyor was born!

But what really sealed the deal for me was the wide reach of the surveyor’s role. There isn’t an industry, landscape, project or community out there that isn’t influenced by the work of a surveyor. As my career continues to grow, I will never stop admiring how diverse a surveyor’s role can be.

In addition to being a mine surveyor, Grace Mulcahy is also Secretary of the Australian Institute of Mine Surveyors.

SS: What do you enjoy most about your job?

GM: I love how a surveyor has the ability to speak on behalf of the physical landscape. We respect the data we work with and share it lovingly, knowing that we’ve done our best to truthfully represent the shapes and trends that the landscape presents. Surveyors can translate concerns about water levels, road conditions, structural deformation or habitat loss into quantifiable data which can inform meaningful action. Our skills help us put bridges over water, roofs over heads, and minds at ease.

My current role relies on me to perform this translation; this is what I love most about my job. Every day I’m called upon to use my maps and data to communicate the challenges or opportunities the landscape is offering us. As a surveyor, I keep my colleagues safe by virtue of understanding our physical world.

SS: As a woman, have you had any struggles during your career? Conversely, have you had support?

GM: I’ve never had to fight for a seat at the table, and for that I’m glad. But I feel that the modern challenge for women in our profession is to feel heard at the table.

We’re qualified and capable professionals, yet we feel the need to justify our presence as though we didn’t earn our place — as though the only reason we got the job is because they relaxed the standards for us. This is simply not true. However, these feelings often manifest in persistent and complex anxieties, especially when some amongst our peers express their disapproval or scepticism towards things like diversity strategies or the gender pay gap. Many of us recall feeling as though we’ve been treated like a trainee or viewed as a novelty instead of the professionals we are. It’s not just women in surveying who feel this, but women in many of the adjacent STEM fields.

Establishing myself as a surveyor in the mining industry, both of which are traditionally male-dominated spaces, has proven to be the biggest challenge of my career so far. But I proudly report that I have felt nothing but pure support and appreciation from each of my surveying colleagues. I will never be made to feel unwelcome by a fellow surveyor — of that, I’m confident.

SS: What would you say to young women who are considering a career in geospatial?

GM: Do it, and we’re all here to help you! This is such a diverse and evolving profession; you’re guaranteed to find a role or project that aligns with your passions. And down the line if your interests or priorities change, you’ll be capable of shifting your career in any direction you want without needing further study. The money’s good, the adventures are great, and the people are the best!

Even though our community is small, our hearts are large — you’ll find yourself surrounded by supportive people who want to help you succeed. Gender diversity in surveying is still low so you’ll need to have a bit of grit, but there won’t be many days you’ll need to use it.

You may also like to read:

, , ,


Sign up now to stay up to date about all the news from Spatial Source. You will get a newsletter every week with the latest news.

Geospatial in the age of the metaverse
The geospatial sector is set to both underpin the metaverse ...
$140 million allocated for WA Spatial Digital Twin
The 10-year project aims to improve infrastructure delivery,...
March 21: Celebrating Global Surveyors’ Day
March 21 is the day on which we celebrate the essential work...
Government releases new Local Drone Rules map
UAV users can now easily see whether they need to obtain aut...
Photogrammetry with enhanced cloud capabilities
SimActive has announced improved cloud environment enhanceme...