Go west for diversity best and women in water

As a new organisation, Greater Western Water is building a culture founded on respect, inclusion and diversity. Chief People Officer Louise Meadows is leading the charge on developing a supportive workplace and culture that sees passionate and motivated people thrive. 

As a new organisation, Greater Western Water is building a culture founded on respect, inclusion and diversity. Chief People Officer Louise Meadows is leading the charge on developing a supportive workplace and culture that sees passionate and motivated people thrive. 

“At GWW, we take great pride in our diverse workforce, which brings a breadth of experience, ideas, and innovation. It also reflects our culturally rich service area and enables us to be better equipped to deliver trusted services for these customers and communities,” said Louise Meadows, Chief People Officer at Greater Western Water (GWW).

Meadows joined the water industry in 2013 after 15 years in the banking sector. Like so many people who enter the water industry, she found herself staying longer than planned.

“The sector appealed to me immediately. A strong sense of care and purpose resonated with my own personal values. I had not experienced this to the same extent in any other industry,” said Meadows.

And she did not hesitate to take the opportunity to step up to become the General Manager of People and Culture at City West Water (now GWW).

Support for women in water and diversity

In the ten years Meadows has been in the sector, she has seen a massive shift in how women are supported.

“All water utilities are committed to inclusion and equality in the workplace, which is reflected across the pledges and action plans,” she said. Meadows pointed to the four-year Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP) at GWW. It maps the creation of a sustainable culture that supports female talent. It represents their absolute commitment to supporting female employees in their careers and helping them to thrive.

“The key outcomes of the GEAP are to retain gender equality in leadership at all levels and improve economic security for women. It achieves greater gender diversity in customer, operational, field and STEM functions. At the same time, it builds a safe and respectful workplace for all. Collectively this provides the foundation for enabling women in the GWW workplace to progress and succeed in their careers,” said Meadows.

She believes the industry has become much better at communicating the value of equal gender representation in all roles. Meadows pointed out that society is seeing more profiles of individuals in positions not traditionally held by women. Leadership and networking programs such as The Women in Water Leadership Program and VicWater’s Women in Water Directors Network help to nurture and support women to thrive as leaders.

Attracting and retaining the best female talent

GWW’s commitment to nurturing female talent is reflected throughout the organisation – from culture and leadership to policy and people processes (recruitment, performance, skill, and succession).

Career progression for women is supported by a network of mentors and the Women in Leadership Development (WILD) program, of which GWW is a member. It allows emerging female leaders to build influence, create impact and develop lasting networks.

“We also have our new Parental Plus leave policy. It makes access to parental leave far more equitable and inclusive and provides greater flexibility for caregivers,” Meadows said. “The policy combats gender stereotypes and allows employees to access 16 weeks of paid parental leave from the day they start. We also provide a superannuation top-up on return. It recognises the importance of flexibility for new parents with an option to take leave in three blocks over two years.”

Meadows pointed out that GWW always seeks opportunities to address outdated policies, such as primary and secondary carers. As an organisation, they want to build an inclusive, family-friendly culture that reflects the real lives of their people. GWW values everyone for who they are and what they can bring. As an organisation, it aims to be as diverse as the communities they serve.

Women in water that deserve lifting up

Meadows said there were many notable examples at GWW but highlighted two when asked about some of the talented women at GWW. The first is Anafrid Bennet, a cyber and technology leader and strategist.

When she joined GWW, Bennet’s skills and values-based leadership saw her quickly rise to lead teams responsible for consolidating the technology infrastructure and managing critical tech and cyber risks. In 2022 Bennett was Highly Commended by the Australian Women in Security Awards – One to Watch in IT Security. She was also recognised in the Chief Security Officer (CSO 30) Australian awards.

“Another talented woman making an impact is Alexandra Mobilia. She started her career in soil science with an engineering science and an environmental engineering degree from RMIT. We were excited when Alexandra joined our inaugural graduate program in 2019. She rotated through several parts of the business to understand all aspects of our service delivery, from planning and construction of our assets to continued maintenance and operation,” said Meadows.

After the program, Mobilia became an engineer in the Product Quality Team, representing GWW’s sewage quality management system. She works widely across the business and creates strong relationships across the industry.

“I’m really proud of how GWW is providing her with the scope, guidance, and support to experience multiple roles within GWW to broaden her career within the water industry,” said Meadows. “It is just one example of how we support all of our people, particularly women.” 

For more information, visit www.gww.com.au

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