Providing opportunities with Programmed’s diversity and inclusion

Programmed has been at the forefront of supporting the water industry through its facility management operations. Its initiatives around diversity and inclusion (D&I) are providing the best people for the roles.

Programmed has been at the forefront of supporting the water industry through its facility management operations. Its initiatives around diversity and inclusion (D&I) are providing the best people for the roles.

Programmed’s approach to diversity and inclusion (D&I) is about practical steps. This approach is less about ‘big’ programs or women-specific programs. Instead, Programmed aims to achieve diversity and inclusion balance through embedding sustainable changes to have a more diverse and inclusive team.

People like Rebecca Ower, one of the regional human resources managers, are working to get people into jobs across the water and wastewater industry.

“I sought an opportunity within a company where I could leverage my skills in working with and developing individuals to help them excel in their roles,” Ower said. “Equally important to me was finding an employer whose values aligned with my own. Programmed turned out to be the perfect fit for me in both respects.”

She is part of the multi-faceted approach that Programmed takes. It focuses on encouraging girls and boys to study science, technology and trades, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects at primary and secondary schools. At a community level, it wants to challenge the stereotypes and advocate for people to think about what they say and do to influence young people and their future directions.


Ower believes that the biggest challenge for the water industry is the lack of understanding of what the industry is about.

“In the realm of facilities management, and by extension, the water industry, there is a noticeable scarcity of opportunities that effectively showcase job opportunities,” she said. “When such opportunities are presented, the efforts are often suboptimal, typically emphasising behind-the-scenes activities. This presents a significant hurdle in recruiting individuals within the facilities management and water industry, amplifying the challenge of attracting suitable candidates.”

What is Programmed trying to do to solve this issue?

Programmed has crafted initiatives to heighten awareness of occupations traditionally underrepresented by women or individuals from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

Moreover, it actively organises purposeful and engaging visits to schools and communities, where insights into various careers are shared, fostering encouragement among young girls and culturally diverse individuals so they may see the broader opportunities available to them for future career paths.

“We’ve also devised and implemented ‘Try-a-Trade’ days,” said Ower. “It allows young people to experience firsthand the life of a tradesperson. This provides valuable exposure and also creates additional opportunities to cultivate gender and generational diversity, supported by real-life examples.”

Water and wastewater industry are leaders

Programmed remains committed to its strategy of enhancing women’s representation in leadership roles and attracting women to trades and operations. The company has actively collaborated with specialised organisations such as the National Association of Women in Operations (NAWO) and Tradeswomen Australia to achieve this. These partnerships aid in developing targeted talent-sourcing strategies for specific recruitment opportunities, whether in leadership, trades, or operations positions.

Ower reflected on Programmed’s efforts, stating, “From a Programmed perspective, the water and wastewater industry excels in terms of diversity and inclusion operations, particularly when compared to programs in other industries.”

She emphasised the organisation’s aspiration to achieve a 50/50 gender split among new apprentices, trainees, and graduates, noting the significant progress made in some sectors of the water industry.

“Traditionally, attracting women to the industry has been challenging,” Ower remarked. “But over my six years with Programmed, achieving a near 50/50 gender split in our recent apprenticeship program is a testament to the fantastic work of our teams.”

The initiative to attract and recruit female candidates for trade apprenticeships aligns with Programmed’s broader goal of increasing female representation in trade roles. This strategic approach not only addresses the gender gap but also contributes to building a diverse and talented pipeline for future leaders, which better reflects the communities they serve.

Moving forward

Programmed are members of the Business Council of Australia’s working group on STEM to develop an evidence base and to clearly identify the critical issues that need addressing. It also subscribes to the Male Champions of Change approach and thinks men must actively drive change.

“We aim to create and maintain a safe, inclusive and diverse culture across the business inclusive of the water industry,” said Ower. “That is about recognising, respecting and valuing all people.”

Promoting success stories with profiles of Programmed’s female employees in trades and operations roles is key to developing opportunities for women and other diversity groups. Similarly, Programmed has worked with its customers to encourage girls and boys to consider trades as a career pathway.

Taking a leadership role

Programmed is a firm believer in having a clear diversity strategy. That’s not just for itself – it extends to its clients.

“We collaborate closely with our clients to integrate our social procurement platforms seamlessly into our operations,” she explained. “Additionally, we actively seek to engage community organisations in developing programs to foster inclusivity. These organisations may encompass a wide range, such as disability groups, First Nations groups, and women’s programs, to name a few from a potentially extensive list.”

“It revolves around the initiatives that Programmed employs to enhance outcomes for its clients while actively listening to their unique concerns. Recognising that each client holds distinct priorities, Programmed is committed to customising programs according to their specific needs. The goal is to involve clients in the journey of enhancing diversity and inclusion, ensuring a collaborative and tailored approach.”

“We organise expos to spotlight our clients and their respective industries,” Ower explained. “Our aim is to offer tangible examples to potential employees by featuring individuals who can share their firsthand experiences in the industry. This approach is crucial in breaking down barriers for individuals considering a career change. For instance, having female apprentices and tradespeople visit schools to articulate their personal journeys serves as a powerful and relatable example.”

The future of D&I for the water industry is only positive in the eyes of Ower.

“There are so many different areas that you can be involved in when it comes to the water industry. The more we showcase the industry, the better it gets.”

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