Leadership group to tackle diversity in the spatial industry

By on 8 March, 2018


SIBA | GITA CEO Deanna Hutchinson.

Heavyweights of the spatial and surveying industry are teaming up to increase diversity within the profession, kicking off with a focus on gender diversity to mark International Women’s Day.

Led by SIBA|GITA CEO Deanna Hutchinson, the first part of the initiative will see 20 of the industry’s senior female leaders working together to develop and implement an industry-wide agenda that delivers a vision for a diverse spatial and surveying industry.

The founding group of women represent a cross section of generations, geographies, cultures and professions within the Australasian spatial industry — but there’s room for the men too.

“It’s important that we do this as an industry,” Hutchinson said.

“We have reached out far and wide and I am delighted to welcome participation from the private sector, governments academia and peak bodies. This initiative starts with gender diversity, as there are some immediate priorities we must address together to improve our 80:20 male:female ratio,” she said.

“Our goal is to publish a vision for a diverse spatial industry, and an accompanying action plan.”

“To count Australia’s first two female Surveyors-General Narelle Underwood in NSW and Dione Bilick in WA in our team, and the CEOs of the two largest industry associations being SIBA|GITA and CSN working side-by-side is very exciting and signals the importance of this work,” said Hutchinson.

This initiative originated from the need to establish a publicly accessible set of profiles of women in spatial who can perform public speaking, specialist advisory tasks or serve on panels, where quotas are increasingly being enforced.

A 2016 study found that Australian women are disadvantaged in STEM fields, both in terms of education and earning capacity, with women representing just 13 percent of the workforce in the engineering sector.

Hutchinson said that the group are unanimous in the view that diversity initiatives must meet the needs of industry and not just a quota, and quickly identified that women in leadership roles would be best positioned to collectively develop a roadmap, and work alongside their male colleagues in its design and delivery.

The experience will is intended to inform the creation of similar strategies for other sectors in the spatial and surveying industry.

“We already have some mentoring programs and networking groups in place – we hope to supercharge these and also to recognise people of all diversity sectors who can act as champions of diverse thinking,” she said.

“We’ve all built our careers in male dominated industries — STEM and finance in most cases — and the last thing we want is gender being seen as more important than skills. We need to know who the women are, what they have to offer and how their skills can be leveraged for the benefit of our industry. There are some incredibly talented women in our sector, and they can be beacons for the women and girls around us. Similarly there are men who are fathers to daughters, husbands to wives and brothers to sisters who we want to work with to help mentor and encourage women into our industry.

“I have two young sons. I encourage in them a love of geography, maths and science. And I want them to share that love with all of their friends,” she said.

“We are experiencing a cycle of not enough women to attract more women, and the challenge can seem overwhelming. This initiative is about working together to find ways of sharing the load and encouraging our male colleagues to help.”

The founding leadership group includes: Narelle Underwood  Surveyor General (NSW), Dione Bilick Surveyor General (WA), Amelia Chapman, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (Vic), Michelle Blicavs (CSN), Honey (Anna ) Palathinkal (SSSI), Dr Lesley Arnold (Geospatial Frameworks, SSSI, CRCSI/ Curtin University, and World Bank Group), Wanda Skerrett (Open Spatial), Assoc. Prof Cheryl Desha (Griffith University), Colleen Yates (RDA Perth), Mehrnoush Ghorbani (Here), Mary-Ellen Feeney (Jacobs), Dr Kate Crawford (Eviva),  Lynette Terrett (Spatial Technologies) and Alisa Starkey (Ozius).

If you are interested in joining this initiative please contact the group secretariat, Tonia Scholes on tscholes@spatialbusiness.org.

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