Women at work

Working at a power plant in a high-vis suit and steel-capped boots is not typically considered a feminine occupation.

But the owners of Yallourn Power Station and Mine want to change that, today launching a campaign that calls on women to consider a career in the Valley’s energy sector.

Energy Australia plans to advertise 10 operational positions at Yallourn Power Station from early November.

These will include five female power station trainee operators and five female apprentices to join the 500-strong workforce in 2017.

“While women fill a variety of critical operational roles across the site, including driving huge dump trucks at the adjoining mine, there are none working as plant operators or apprentices,” EA managing director Catherine Tanna said.

Ms Tanna said half of the company’s senior management were women.

“But while we’re making great progress in gender balance across our leadership roles, there are parts of our business where we have ground to make up,” she said.

Head of Yallourn Power Station and Mine Mark Pearson said filling 10 roles might sound like an easy task, but the energy sector had historically low female participation and recruiting women continued to be a challenge.

Mr Pearson said women comprised about 23 per cent of the utility industry workforce in Australia, compared to 46 per cent more broadly.

“In the decade I’ve worked at Yallourn we’ve seen more women fill operational roles, but we have struggled to identify and recruit women into our operator and maintenance teams,” he said.

He said the company had considered barriers to female participation such as flexible working arrangements and were ensuring equal pay, but also that women were reluctant to apply for roles when they did not meet all the advertised employment criteria.

“I hope we can convince more women to see energy as a great option for a rewarding career and an opportunity to play a role in leading the industry toward a lower-emissions future,” Mr Pearson said.

Gyorgyi Danka knew from an early age that she was destined for a ‘non-traditional career’.

“I remember being 12 years old and certain I wanted to be an air force fighter pilot,” Gyorgi said.

“A few years later I was looking at aircraft design, which eventually led me to mechanical engineering.”

Today she is the only woman in a team of 19 engineers and maintenance workers in the turbine team at the Yallourn Power Station.

She said she was astounded women represented such a small percentage of the workforce at the brown coal power station because it’s “such an interesting industry and so full of opportunities”.

“While I’ve worked alongside relatively few female engineers, I’ve never been bothered by it, probably because I don’t get treated any differently,” she said.

“We have a really good culture in our team, regardless of who you are, age, gender, ethnicity, none of it weighs in; we all get on with it and get the job done.”

She acknowledged working at a power plant wasn’t for everyone, but said it was a rewarding career.