Meet our women engineers, architects, and scientists
On 8 March, International Women’s Day, we celebrate women’s achievements and reflect on and take action to achieve a diverse and inclusive world. We spoke with six staff to hear what IWD means to them, why workplace diversity matters, and important advice they have received.
Martine Craswell, Acting Senior Heritage Architect, The Rocks, Sydney. Joined NSWPW in 2019.
About: I have worked in built heritage for most of my career. Built heritage is a diverse and interesting field as it combines history, architecture, and archaeology to find solutions to ensure buildings remain viable and useful for future generations.
Proudest achievement at NSWPW: Each time the scaffold is dismantled following our Ministers Stonework Program external conservation works, and I can see the culmination of years of work from the project team of which I am a small part, I never cease to be proud. The 1893 former William Street National School at the Australian Museum and Hunter Street Annexe Newcastle TAFE are memorable projects due to each building’s interesting history, building fabric and architectural detailing.
What IWD means to you: It signifies the important contribution women can make in all facets of society, including the workplace.
Importance of diversity: Diversity within project teams makes for additional ideas, skills and viewpoints, which in turn improve outcomes.
Important advice received: Continue to learn and improve your skills and knowledge.
Shilpa Shashidharan, Senior Engineer, Water Resource Management, Parramatta, Sydney. Joined NSWPW in 2022
About: I was very fortunate to have a nomadic upbringing, as we moved five countries before calling Australia home. I enjoy the simpler things in life and believe keeping an open mind and being naturally curious is a wonderful way to experience all that the world has to offer.
Proudest achievement at NSWPW: Working with a great bunch of people who are selflessly working for projects that uplift our community and are giving back to the community. There is nothing more empowering than that.
What IWD means to you: We stand on the shoulders of giants who have come before us and bequeathed us the world we live in. It’s still in living memory, a time where half the population of the world was disenfranchised and weren’t recognised for their contribution to society. It’s a great time to reflect on all that we have achieved as a culture.
Importance of workplace diversity: The problem with having a homogenous workplace is we bring our preconceived notions and ideas on how things can be accomplished and lose out on all the dynamism a diverse workplace has to offer. The world is a diverse place, and the workplace should aspire to be the same.
Important advice you’ve received: Be punctual, be kind, be brilliant – you must be at least two out of the three on any given day.
Catherine Burman, Project Manager, Newcastle. Joined NSWPW in 2022
About: I’m a mechanical engineer that has worked in project management since graduating. Nineteen of my 20 years in the workforce have been part time after having my first of four kids. I love football (soccer), and still play now. I sing at the top of my lungs in the car but am terrible!
Proudest achievement at NSWPW: I haven’t been here too long, but I’m loving learning about the intricacies of different projects. I’m excited to get the design projects I’m working on completed and into construction!
What IWD means to you: It highlights the inequalities and difficulties that women face every day, that many may not have even thought about. I hope that by having these events, and including everyone in the stories, we can more quickly overcome the gender bias that is so prevalent in everything we do, so our world is a better place for our children and children’s children.
Why is diversity in the workplace so important? By reducing diversity in the workplace, businesses miss out on massive chunks of our society, and the different experiences, and ways of looking at things, that may provide the best solution to a given problem. If we do not try to include humans of all race, gender and experiences, we rob ourselves of the full human experience.
Important advice you’ve received: Treat others with respect. Stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves. Call out unacceptable behaviour when you see it, so the behaviour (hopefully) becomes less and less prevalent, and we can move toward a more inclusive society.
Nicola Jones, Project Manager, Wollongong. Joined NSWPW in 2019
About: I grew up in Bathurst surrounded by some amazing women who encouraged me to be whoever I wanted to be. I studied environmental engineering at University of Wollongong and have been fortunate to work overseas in Timor-Leste and Uganda. In my spare time, I oversee the Olave Program for Girl Guides, play saxophone in my local wind band, and explore mountain bike trails with my partner.
Proudest achievement: Being part of the bushfire impact assessment teams on the far south coast during and after the devastating bushfires in 2019-20. It was humbling to be trusted with people’s stories of hardship and survival and provide the community with advice about where to go for assistance.
What IWD means to you: There are so many amazing women who are working towards improving equity for women, and IWD is an opportunity to celebrate those women and acknowledge their achievements and impacts in the community.
Importance of workplace diversity: Diversity is how we achieve equity. Without diversity, we maintain the status quo and are not challenging the thinking that we have used in the past. Connecting with a range of people with differing experiences allows a broader understanding of challenges and subsequently improves outcomes for the communities we serve.
Important advice you’ve received: Put your hand up for opportunities. Whether it is a networking event, a secondment, or a temporary assignment, putting my hand up for opportunities has helped me grow and progress my career.
Rasha Haymour, Environmental Scientist/Planner, The Rocks, Sydney. Joined NSWPW in 2017
About: I’m an environmental scientist with 15 years of experience. I work in the heritage, environment and planning team. I prepare environmental impact assessments and planning advice for diverse development projects.
Proudest achievement at NSWPW: Being able to contribute to the development of our state and to serve the communities of NSW, through obtaining the relevant environmental planning approvals and ensuring that the delivery of infrastructure projects will not have significant environmental impacts.
What IWD means to you: The celebration and recognition of women’s achievements all over the world.
Importance of workplace diversity: Our differences bring us together. People from different backgrounds have different set of skills, so having a diverse workplace provides a platform for sharing knowledge and experience, which will ultimately assist in achieving better results/delivery of projects.
Important advice you’ve received: To get out of my comfort zone and take on new challenges.
Jale Refik, Clients and projects delivery manager Riverina Western Region – Bathurst Office. Joined NSWPW in 1985
About: I joined the Department of Public Works in 1985, working as an architectural assistant in the Government Architect’s Office. Since then, I’ve moved around and taken on new roles, including as an architect and project manager. I’ve been based in the Bathurst office since 2004.
Proudest achievement at NSWPW: To lead a diverse team of project managers to deliver a variety of projects in western NSW in the last 18 years.
What IWD means to you: It is an opportunity to celebrate what women have achieved in different parts of the world. It is also a reminder that rights won in the past can be lost and we should not be complacent in our pursuit of equality in all aspects of our lives.
Importance of workplace diversity: It is as important as biodiversity in life itself. More people with a broader range of life experiences and different ideas result in better and more creative decision making. A broader range of skills makes it easier to adapt to the continually changing environment, like the way living creatures evolve.
Important advice you’ve received: My high school principal (who was a woman) advised me to go to university to get a professional qualification that would give me financial independence.