“I think you’ve come to the wrong class and I don’t think you’ll be able to complete these subjects.”
These are the stinging comments Stanwell Power Station’s Reporting Analyst Programmer, Devi Kakani was told by a university classmate as she embarked on her career in engineering and computer science.
At university, Devi was the only female in a computer science class of 60 students and this is where she got her first look at the skewed perception of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
While some people might be discouraged by such a negative response, Devi became motivated to prove those classmates wrong.
“I told them, “Thank you very much for warning me, I will work hard to do well in those subjects now,” she said.
Now, almost 20 years into her career with Stanwell, her role involves complex analysis, database programming, report designing, and writing code to retrieve data from 14 business critical systems used across all business divisions – all things she was told she wouldn’t be able to do.
While Devi had to overcome discrimination in her studies and early career, she is encouraged by the uptake of women and girls starting careers in STEM fields, something she attributes to a positive shift in the way women are perceived in the workplace.
“It’s really pleasing to see so many young women entering STEM fields. It’s also great to see the big change in corporate policies promoting qualified women into leadership roles,” she said.
“With increased representation of women in the workforce, I’ve seen male-centric biases crumble and people have begun to realise that gender has nothing to do with how people perform in their roles.”
Another challenge faced by many women is returning to work from maternity leave and juggling the ever-changing priorities that come with becoming a new parent.
Electrical Area Officer, Amberley Thompson, is the sole female plant area officer on site at Stanwell Power Station and recently returned to work from maternity leave – a process she says has been a learning experience for not only herself, but her team as well.
“I’m the only person in this type of role at Stanwell Power Station who has had a child and my return to work process has been a bit of a learning opportunity for everyone,” she said.
“Thankfully, I work for an employer that understands this process is different for all women, so everyone has been really helpful and happy to just have me back on board, which has made this process so much easier.”
But starting out her career in an industry typically dominated by male representation wasn’t always easy, according to Amberley.
“Initially, I struggled with confidence and trusting myself and my skills, which meant I often struggled to make myself heard in my job,” she said.
“It’s been something that I’ve had to work on a lot, being a naturally introverted person, and Stanwell has been amazing at providing me with opportunities to work with people who have really assisted in developing my communication style to support this growth.”
Those support networks also make the process of forging a career much simpler, according to Warehouse Trainee, Taivia Dunne, who started her Traineeship at Stanwell Power Station this year.
“It’s really important to have female mentors in the workplace because it shows other women who are considering a career in this industry that it is achievable and that it’s possible to be given equal opportunity to progress and succeed,” she said.
“For example, my mum is my biggest inspiration; she has been such a strong role model for me my whole life because of her strength, resilience and work ethic.
“Mum has worked many jobs within industries that have been predominantly represented by males and it has taught me to be strong and not be afraid of any challenges or jobs, even if the perception is that it’s a job meant for a male.”
While they’re each at different stages of their careers, Amberley, Taivia, and Devi have valuable advice for the next generation of women looking to forge their own paths.
Taivia, having gone through the challenge of securing a traineeship, is fully aware how difficult it can be to get your foot in the door and kick-start your career.
Her advice for young women aiming for a career in the energy industry is to accept the challenge and never take it for granted if it comes your way.
“A traineeship or apprenticeship is one of the best opportunities to further your knowledge in your chosen field, so if you are lucky enough to secure one, give it 110 per cent,” she said.
After 10 years at Stanwell Power Station, Amberley’s confidence has continued to grow from someone who struggled being heard, to someone who has earned the respect of her whole team, and her advice is simple: give it a go.
“I would never have thought that when I started here a decade ago I’d be given so many opportunities for personal and professional growth – being proactive made it so much easier,” she said.
“It’s important to highlight to younger women that they don’t need to be scared to follow the path they would like to just because of their gender. There are always people out there willing to offer advice or guidance; all you need to do is reach out.”
All these years later, after being told she was in the wrong classroom and would never succeed in her career, Devi continues to kick goals.
She attributes her success to one piece of advice:
“Don’t let other people’s negative opinions about your capability undermine your goals.”
At Stanwell, we recognise and value that inclusion is essential to creating a safe, productive and diverse workplace.
In 2019, Chief Executive Officer, Richard Van Breda was appointed as a Pay Equity Ambassador by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).