Women in Water on International Women’s Day

Rural water corporations play an important role in communicating positive diversity values to their communities. On International Women's Day, Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water is showcasing its diverse workforce.

Rural water corporations play an important role in communicating positive diversity values to their communities. On International Women’s Day, Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water is showcasing its diverse workforce.

Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water (GWMWater) is a government-owned statutory corporation established in 2004. It is responsible for providing, managing, operating and protecting the water supply and sewerage systems for the community.

The organisation is geographically the largest water authority in Victoria, covering approximately 25 per cent of the state, and offers exciting career opportunities for all its employees.

GWMWater is committed to achieving gender equality through a Gender Equality Action Plan. This includes strategies and measures to build, develop and sustain organisational growth.

As part of International Women’s Day, three women from the organisation share their experiences in the workplace and what International Women’s Day and this year’s theme of #InspireInclusion means to them.

Adele Rohde

Image: GWMWater

Adele Rohde is GWMWater’s Executive Manager of Customer and Employee Experience. Rohde is responsible for ensuring GWMWater’s employees and customers feel supported by and connected to the organisation.

“I enjoy the commitment we have to continuously try to get the best possible outcomes for our customers and community,” said Rohde. “We’re always innovating and problem-solving to ensure our community thrives.”

Rohde is a journalist by trade and switched to not-for-profit communications in 2012. Working in the community services sector for almost seven years, Rohde developed a strong passion for organisational culture and social justice. She joined GWMWater as Manager of Communications and Engagement in 2019 and was then appointed to her current role in 2022.

“GWMWater has seen a significant shift in inclusion for women, even just in the time since I joined the organisation,” she said. “This is very deliberate and driven from the top. Our board, executive and senior leaders understand the benefits of and are fully committed to diversity in all its forms,” she said.

For Adele, this year’s IWD theme, #InspireInclusion, is an opportunity for women to recognise their importance in the workforce.

“Women are notoriously reserved about their contribution to the workforce and don’t necessarily fully understand the value their perspective adds,” said Rohde. “When that switch flicked over, it was incredibly powerful for me. I was able to let go of that feeling of ‘imposter syndrome’ and get on with doing the job without the self-doubt.”

Rohde believes IWD is an important day to reflect on how far women have come and recognise how far there is to go.

“Unfortunately, women still face far more barriers and discrimination than men, and IWD is a reminder that we all have a role to play in taking action to correct that,” she said.

Narelle Ezard

Image: GWMWater

Meet Narelle Ezard, GWMWater’s Senior Customer Service Officer. She is responsible for managing the organisation’s Call Centre department. That includes training and developing the team, assisting customers with enquiries, and much more.

“If we are lucky enough to find a job that we love doing, then it is not a chore,” said Ezard. “Productivity increases when you’re happy and engaged in your role,” she said.

Ezard started as a Customer Service Officer in 2022 but has since moved into her current role. She also backfills the Head of Customer Support role when her team leader is on leave. It allows her to fulfil higher duties and gain valuable experience in a management role.

Ezard believes inclusion in the workplace is important to ensure staff are engaged and have a purpose.

“Everyone wants to feel like they belong,” she said. “We are at our happiest when we find our fit. We feel confident, engaged and have a sense of purpose, and that’s a wonderful feeling.”

Ezard has a background in retail management before taking on a role with Services Australia and then switching to GWMWater.

“GWMWater does a great job toward inspiring inclusion of women, which is demonstrated by the current positions filled by women at all levels of the organisation, as well as the opportunities provided to staff to backfill in these roles when staff take leave,” she said. “I love that GWMWater gives me the opportunities to grow professionally and personally. GWMWater is willing to assist with providing training for staff to get them the qualifications they need to move up in the organisation. I think IWD is an important day because we need to acknowledge how far we have come over the years and our achievements. It will encourage each other to pursue our career goals. However, there is still important work to be done in this space, especially in bridging the pay gap between men and women, which is an issue still in many industries across Australia. We want to bring our daughters up with strong mindsets so that they know they can do anything and ensure their work is valued as much as men’s.”

Audrey Kottek

Image: GWMWater

Audrey Kottek is the GWMWater’s Graduate Engineer. She works in the Planning and Development division at GWMWater. Kottek is responsible for planning and developing water treatment capital works projects.

“Depending on the project, this work can include technical and economic evaluation, design and documentation, tender preparation and review, and construction and contract management,” she said.

After graduating from university with a Bachelor of Engineering, Audrey worked in an Optimisation and Process Efficiency role at a dairy factory in South Gippsland for three years.

“It was a very interesting role, but I knew I wanted to explore capital works further,” Kottek said. “I decided to move to Horsham and took on a Graduate Engineer role with GWMWater. As with all workplaces, the best thing about GWMWater is the people and the great location. We have many knowledgeable staff – on all levels, from operations staff to technical engineering expertise – everyone is very willing to share their skills and help whenever possible.”

Kottek believes IWD is an important day to step back and consider ways to improve gender equality and women’s rights.

“But then the important part comes from carrying these good intentions throughout the year and working to address any areas of improvement that might be highlighted through IWD discussions,” she said.

For Kottek, #InspireInclusion challenges us to consider how we can include women in all areas of the workplace.

“I think there are lots of areas in the workforce in which women haven’t traditionally been included – for example, within engineering or operational staff,” said Kottek. “It is one thing to start ‘physically’ including women within these work areas, but there is also work to do in making women feel ‘socially’ or ‘psychologically’ included too. I think this can include treating women the same as others – ensuring they are offered the same opportunities others in the same role would be offered. But also, if appropriate, differently – for example, ensuring women have appropriately fitted PPE, as ‘unisex’ PPE may not be suitable. Inclusion can create a sense of belonging and confidence for women and the wider workforce.”

To read GWMWater’s Gender Equality Action Plan, visit gwmwater.org.au/gender-equality

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