SRLA celebrates International Women's Day 2021

Article date
05 March 2021
Monday 8 March is International Women’s Day – a global day to recognise the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women everywhere.

Suburban Rail Loop Authority (SRLA) leads by example when it comes to gender diversity in the transport infrastructure industry with women making up half of all staff and 60 per cent of our leadership team.

This year’s theme “Choose to Challenge” is a reminder to call out bias, celebrate the achievements of women, and cultivate an environment of inclusivity. 

Ahead of International Women's Day, we spoke to five of the many inspiring women at SRLA to hear their thoughts on the day, their advice for women in the industry, and how they are choosing to challenge.

Dr Allison Stewart – Acting Executive General Manager, Planning and Precincts

Image of SRLA employee Dr Allison Stewart

Diversity of thought is one of the success factors that comes up again and again in research about great teams – we’re off to a flying start at SRLA and IWD is a great time to recognise the diversity of gender that we have at all levels of our organisation.

We all have a collective responsibility to speak up when we feel like gender is playing a role in people’s voices not being heard. In any field where women are the minority, this can be intimidating, but you have the right to be heard – your team, project, and organisation will be the better for it. 

Be positive and know that you have a right to contribute your ideas.

Sarmila Palaniandy – Director, Finance and Administration 

Image of SRLA employee Sarmila Palaniandy

It’s important that we recognise the support we have received from, and have given to, other women. Amazing women have paved the way for us to be where we are today, and we can give back by doing the same for future women joining the transport infrastructure industry. 

I think that we can choose to challenge inequality by recognising any bias we may have ourselves, understand why that may be and challenge ourselves to grow. We should also approach challenge with respect. Having personally experienced different types of bias, I have had more success in engaging with the person to understand their thinking rather making accusations.

Julia Petousis - Graduate, Planning and Precincts

The discrimination which women continue to face today, particularly women of colour and members of the LGBTI+ community, shows us the ongoing importance of International Women’s Day. It highlights that the revolutionary spirit of the earliest Women's Day celebrations is just as relevant today as it was in the early 1900s.

As a newcomer to the planning field, my advice would be don't be afraid to speak up and contribute your voice to the conversation. If that means making mistakes along the way, then learn from those mistakes and don't let them discourage you from trying again.

 

Flora Haghani Pour – Civil Design Manager, Initial & Early Works

Image of SRLA employee Flora Haghani Pour

International Women’s Day is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate women's achievements to foster an environment of diversity and inclusion.

There are massive opportunities for women in the transport infrastructure industry. Raise your hand and don't be afraid of getting out of your comfort zone. Know your strengths and leverage them to learn more. You are not alone on this journey and others are there to help you.

I believe that we can choose to challenge by becoming an example for other women. 

Steph Fonti – Internal Communications Adviser

Image of SRLA employee Steph Fonti

Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by strong women who have all been there to lift me up and welcome me into the struggle and to teach me more about the myriad of issues that affect women.

“Back yourself” is the best career advice I’ve ever received, and it came from none other than my Dad! I think this advice applies to all career paths or chosen industries for all women. And why not challenge others to back themselves? 

We need to proactively go out of our way to lift other women up and celebrate women’s achievements. Alice Walker once said: “the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” And believe me, women have immense power and it continues to grow every day.