As a female engineer and the chair of QinetiQ’s diversity and inclusion committee, Anthea shares her career story in the hope of inspiring more women into science fields.
I didn’t contemplate a job in defence or aerospace, after completing my degree in mechanical engineering. Instead I took a position at BHP, researching ways to improve steel rolling processes. It was only after BHP closed its research facilities that I applied for a position with AeroStructures (now QinetiQ).
I started out working with Defence, Science and Technology (DST) Group and then in QinetiQ’s usage monitoring team, making good use of my statistical analysis and mathematical modelling skills. Less than two years later I was promoted to lead the team.
Following the births of each of my sons, I took several months’ maternity leave, before returning to my previous role on a part-time basis.
Balancing work and family and transitioning in and out of the workforce are challenges that many women face. I was once told by a training provider that you can’t supervise staff when working on a part-time basis. But I have never found that to be true. Managers are often out of the office travelling or visiting clients, so there was no reason I needed to be in the office every day. In fact, working part-time improved my ability to delegate and manage my time effectively. These are important skills that I have taken with me throughout my career.
Now, as project lead for military helicopters, I manage a team of highly skilled engineers and work closely with the Defence Aviation Safety Authority and DST Group, ensuring Australian Defence Force assets are airworthy and safe. QinetiQ has built a strong engineering capability that is respected within the Defence community and I’m proud to be a part of that.
Last year I had the privilege of hearing SQNLDR Samantha Freebairn speak about her experience as a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force. She spoke about the pressure to conform to the prevailing culture in a male dominated environment and challenged women not to lose themselves in an attempt to fit in.
This prompted me to reflect on my own career. Working in predominately male environment is so normal to me that I often forget how few women work in my field, until there is a second female engineer in a meeting. There have been times when I have failed to be fully me, because consciously or unconsciously I was concerned that the real me didn’t really fit in. This is something with which I continue to struggle, but which I hope younger women won’t have to face.
As the recently elected chair of QinetiQ’s diversity and inclusion committee, I’m focused on giving back to the business that has supported my career for well over a decade. Along with my committee members, we are working to ensure that everyone in the company has equal opportunity to succeed and that we continue to be able to attract and retain diverse talent.
I hope that as the committee and I progress our diversity and inclusion strategy we can support all employees to bring their true selves to the table.
A career in STEM can lead you down many paths and a foundational understanding of science and mathematics provides you with many career options.
I’m proud of how far I have come, and I hope to see more and more female colleagues join the ranks.