Women in Industry 2020: Manufacturing’s best recognised

Four of Australian manufacturing’s brightest stars have been recognised at the Women in Industry Awards, taking out the Excellence in Manufacturing, Excellence in Engineering and Social Leader of the Year.

The Women in Industry Awards aims to recognise and celebrate women in traditionally male-dominated industries, such as manufacturing, engineering, transport and mining.

Winners are chosen across 10 categories: Excellence in Engineering, Excellence in Transport, Excellence in Manufacturing, Excellence in Mining, Mentor of the Year, Safety Advocacy Award, Industry Advocacy Award, Business Development Success of the Year, Rising Star of the Year and Social Leader of the Year.

This year’s awards saw a 27 per cent rise in nominations compared with last year, as well as a record number of individuals, businesses and organisations represented.

The Women in Industry Awards winner for Excellence in Manufacturing this year is Rochelle Avinu, a senior scientist at Leica Biosystems. She said the award, in addition to winning the Victorian Manufacturing Woman of the Year in 2019, has enabled to her to have a bigger platform to share her story.

“Having a curious mind and acknowledging the contribution of transferrable skills, adds diversity and inclusion to any team or business,” she said.

“Winning the Excellence in Manufacturing would further enable me to hopefully inspire the manufacturing industry.

“Diversity and inclusion are not just about race or gender but encompasses all differences including experience and knowledge in multiple disciplines.”

In 2020, Avinu accepted a site leadership role at Leica Biosystems Melbourne, moving into the Danaher Business System Leader role (DBSL).

The role promotes and facilitates the successful implementation of DBS. Initiatives include targeting safety, quality, delivery, cost and innovation using Lean manufacturing and other tools to drive sustainable business success and associate development.

Senior scientist Rochelle Avinu of Leica Biosystems, winner of the Excellence in Manufacturing award.

Avinu said the best thing about working in the industry is the multiple career pathways and experiences that are available.

“Often the manufacturing industry is portrayed as factory work, but there are endless opportunities in the industry in cross-functional disciplines, such as laboratories, quality, procurement and management and leadership,” she said.

Through her experience of winning the manufacturing award as a trained scientist, Avinu hopes to inspire people from all disciplines to apply for roles outside of their industry. At the same time, she hopes hirers will see the value of “hiring outside the box”. Avinu believes this will attract diverse and innovative thought to propel the industry forward.

Her advice to any new starter in the industry is to not be afraid, inspired by former US first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

“Do one thing every day that scares you,” she said. “There are endless possibilities in the manufacturing industry. Maintain a curious mind, ask questions, speak up and put forward your ideas and feedback.”

Winner of the Excellence in Engineering Award, Elizabeth Taylor of RedR International, echoed Avinu’s sentiment, and regards the endless possibilities in engineering as a positive.

“Each new project brings its own wow factor,” she said.

Taylor said her proudest achievement to date is empowering diversity within decision making, as well as achieving her first design – a small timber jetty.

Elizabeth Taylor of RedR International, winner of the Excellence in Engineering award.

Her passion for engineering and envisaging its stewardship of the natural world has led to exciting projects.

“Taking my passion for engineering to envisaging its stewardship of the natural world while meeting the challenges of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” she said. “I’ve recently taken on the role of Chair Elect of SmartCrete CRC, with a vision to shift concrete, humans’ second most used material, into the circular economy.”

For people starting out in the industry, Taylor’s advice is to be open and “never lose your wonder”.

“It is an honour to have been considered. The award provides opportunities for fascinating conversations and insights,” she said.

BAE System’s Jackie Lewis-Gray, winner of the Social Leader of the Year award is attracted to opportunities that encourage the younger generation enter the engineering profession.

“My proudest contribution would have to be the work experience that I organised for some students,” she said. “The students, myself and the company all gained some valuable knowledge and experience out of the program.”

Jackie Lewis-Gray, graduate mechanical engineer at BAE Systems, winner of the Social Leader of the Year award.

Lewis-Gray said winning the award is not about the recognition, but the opportunities it provides to inspire the younger generation into an engineering career, especially females.

“I also hope that the award inspires not only graduates, but also experienced female engineers to step out of their comfort zone to have an impact, be a role model and encourage the younger generation,” she said.

For her next project, Lewis-Gray endeavours to organise a “design a toy” initiative, where students design toys that incorporate elements of engineering, aimed at young girls.

“The defence industry is a great opportunity to meet some influential contacts that will be able to support me in my endeavours,” she said. “They have a great enthusiasm for STEM and are always looking for more ways that they can contribute to encourage more students into engineering.”

Lewis-Gray said studying and progressing through a career as a minority can be tough.

“Take every opportunity you can,” she said. The phrase “you only got it because you are a girl” can be extremely degrading, and never let it hold you back. Who cares how you got the job, either way you know you worked hard for it and that’s what matters.”

The many courses to success

After staying with the same company for almost 20 years, ifm efector marketing manager Rachael Ashfield knows a thing or two about how to grow the business.

As the recipient of the Business Development Success of the Year award at the 2020 Women in Industry Awards, Ashfield has been commended for a number of innovative campaigns that have grown ifm in the food and beverage manufacturing, and mining sectors.

ifm efector marketing manager, Rachael Ashfield, winner of the Business Development Success of the Year award.

Ashfield’s role sees her develop a number of marketing and communications campaigns to expand its customer base for ifm sensor technology and equipment.

ifm’s products are applicable to a number of industries and fully embrace the advantages of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) 4.0 technology through its sensors and automated technology.

Ashfield’s longstanding career with ifm has resulted in developing a deep understanding towards automation technology – starting in administration and working her way up to the company’s marketing manager.

Her colourful role has helped strengthen ifm’s national and international presence. Ashfield has developed relationships with publishers, trade event companies and cartage contractors, which previously she had no relationships with.

She has also familiarised herself with a number of industries that were foreign to her prior to starting her career at ifm.

Harbouring this knowledge, Ashfield has identified that a stronger presence in sector-targeted advertising and marketing was needed.

Growth areas for ifm that Ashfield identified included the mining sector, food and beverage manufacturing.

In the past year, Ashfield has launched two campaigns that have enhanced ifm’s visibility in the Australian market, along with being utilised by ifm’s global marketing out of Germany.

One of the two campaigns was directed at mining, where Ashfield helped develop an animated marketing campaign that focusses on the safety aspects of ifm’s solutions for the mining industry.

In 2019, Ashfield launched the “Still Working” campaign, with part two released this year. It is designed to show that ifm’s sensors can withstand extreme situations and conditions to highlight the robustness of the products.

The “Still Working” campaign’s innovative approached followed a “mythbusters’ video format and featured ifm employees well known in industry circles, and showed the equipment was still working at the end of the harsh condition testing.

The videos are designed to be fun and unique to ifm – demonstrating the company’s business model as a likeable, playful yet reliable and solid “out-of-the-box” business.

Ashfield also worked alongside a web development team – stillworking.com.au – to complement the videos and to emphasise the messaging behind the campaign.

The campaign has received praise from ifm’s Asia marketing them, followed by the company’s top Germany team, who have since instructed each country to replicated it for their own markets.

Ashfield’s innovation behind this campaign has allowed her to achieve global-ifm status due to her ability to look outside of the box using a multifaceted approach to expanding the company’s market presence.

Being the front-runners of WII Awards does not only affect the winners themselves, or even their company and industry, but also those who have the privilege of recognising their achievements.

Christine Gibbs-Stewart, a 2020 WII judge and recipient of a WII Award in 2016, is humbled to be in their company.

“As a judge, it was great to read each applicant’s inspirational story. Each is unique and should be told, and these awards are a great way to do that,” the Austmine chief executive said.

“We have been a supporter of the WII Awards for many years as it is great to recognise the achievements of some amazing women.”

The 2020 winners and nominees are regarded as “strong and influential women”, who have led positive change across Australia.

“Hearing their stories is not only inspiring but shows the steps the industry is making to reach gender equality,” WII judge and Tradeswomen Australia head of operations Angela Gaylard said.

Another WII judge and National Committee for Women in Engineering 2020 chair Hayley Rohrlach says that the quality of nominees she reviewed were certainly impressive. She had a hard time splitting a number of the nominees and felt it unfair to not be able to give a full mark to each of them.

This goes to show the number of high performing female engineers throughout all stages of careers.

Rohrlach isn’t the only one who said it was challenging to be a judge for Women in Industry awards. National Association of Women in Operations board member Melissa Donald also had a challenging time judging due to the impressive calibre of nominees.

They include mentors who are committed to developing women in the sector, industry advocates who have positively shaped the portrayal of the sector and social leaders who have influenced change across the broader community.

The diversity of manufacturers that put forward nominees also creates an impression on Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre director, corporate affairs, Kelly Godeau.

“We saw nominations from some of Australia’s largest businesses through to smaller companies that expressed the same (huge) pride for the work their female staff contributed,” she said.

“The level of commitment these nominees dedicated to their roles exceeded what would be deemed necessary.

“Many sacrificed personal time to get things done to ensure a safer workplace, better policies, encouraging more women and younger girls into manufacturing, and lifted the perception of what it meant to work in Australian manufacturing.”

But WII judge and Institute of Quarrying Australia chief executive Kylie Fahey said that one thing stood out in each application: a genuine commitment and passion to improve the industry.

“The awards promote the contribution of women and support the broader agenda of diversity and inclusion,” she said.

“By highlighting and celebrating the contribution of women to the industry, we can encourage more women into careers, help increase representation in leadership roles and support change.”

Driving force behind WII

Atlas Copco, a long-term supporter of the Women in Industry Awards, came back this year as the sponsor of the Rising Star of the Year award.

As a global manufacturer of air compressors, vacuum pumps and industrial gas equipment, with offices in major cities across the globe, Atlas Copco has always maintained a strong focus on diversity and inclusion.

Atlas Copco’s commitment to creating an inclusive work environment for its employees is reflected in their commitment to supporting the Women in Industry Awards, five years in a row.

In the words of the company’s spokesperson, “The Women in Industry awards is a special way in which we can show our commitment to advancing the gender balance in industry.”

“As a global company, Atlas Copco recognises the link between diversity and innovation and as we say: ‘there is always a better way’ and contributing to these awards is just one way that we can show that Atlas Copco recognises the talent and achievement of females across our industry.”

Another long-term sponsor, BOC, has been supporting the Women in Industry Awards for the past six years. This year, they came back to support the Safety Advocacy Awards.

For more than 80 years, BOC has been producing high-quality gas throughout the South Pacific, using local talent and resources. Given the nature of their industry, it is not hard to imagine why safety is a priority for BOC when it comes to the awards’ sponsorship.

Michelle Blume, Director, HR, BOC South Pacific said the Safety Advocacy Award showcases the work done to successfully improve safety across numerous industries.

“Each of the finalists have demonstrated incredible leadership and dedication to improving safety at their workplaces and as a result their colleagues are able to return home to their families and friends each day safe and sound,” she said.

From her perspective, the awards are a “true testament” to leading women within manufacturing operation.

She said BOC is committed to diversity and creating an environment where women can thrive in their careers, and are celebrated for their achievements.

“The Women in Industry Awards challenges the traditional notion that manufacturing is primarily a male industry. At BOC we see a different reality – every day we see the triumphs and successes of the remarkable women working not only in our own business, but in our suppliers and across the broad base of our customer’s manufacturing facilities,” she said. “BOC is passionate about excellence, and modern manufacturing needs to harness 100 per cent of the best talent and ideas in Australia so that we can remain competitive and compete on a global scale.”

The Excellence in Engineering Award was sponsored by BAE Systems Australia. As one of the largest employers of engineers in the country, BAE Systems has a strong focus on gender diversity.

Director for Engineering Capability at BAE Systems, Kirsty Bateman, said the awards are an ideal platform to champion and celebrate the contribution of women on the engineering industry.

“These awards recognise the achievements of extraordinary, talented women, and also recognise the tremendous progress and achievements being realised within Australia’s manufacturing industry,” she said.

Manufacturing, particularly advanced manufacturing, is a critical part of BAE Systems.  It ranges from producing parts on Australia’s own Jindalee Operational Radar Network – a strategic national security asset nation’s – to the building of a world class fleet of submarine hunting warships for the Royal Australian Navy, and other projects.

“In order to support diversity, we need platforms to ensure the extraordinary female role models we have, who, with recognition, will lead and inspire the next generation of women engineers,” Bateman said.

The Women in Industry Awards 2020 once again highlighted the achievements of women in the mining industry, as well as in manufacturing, road transport, logistics, rail and bulk handling, infrastructure and engineering.

The awards provided an opportunity for companies to learn from each other’s experiences and get inspired to extend their support for more inclusion and diversity across the sector.

Women in Industry 2020 winners

Social Leader of the Year

Jackie Lewis-Gray – BAE Systems Australia


Alanna Vial – BlueScope
Althea Papinczak – Women in Design and Construction (WIDAC)
Elizabeth Taylor – RedR International
Gemma Murphy – QBE Insurance
Jane Tiller – Monash University
Sarah McSwiney – Boeing Aerostructures Australia

Rising Star of the Year – Proudly sponsored by Atlas Copco

Alicia Heskett – Shell Australia (QGC)


Helen Vu – BOC
Kate Robertson – Geological Survey of SA
Kate Stanbury – Stantec Australia
Keren Reynolds – BAE Systems Australia
Louise Azzopardi – WesTrac
Nima Sherpa – BHP
Rose Lindner – MMG
Vera Milutinovic – Inenco
Noriko Wood – Fulton Hogan

Business Development Success of the Year

Rachael Ashfield – ifm efector


Caroline Murray – APS Industrial
Jackie Thew – Abrasive Media Supplies
Marika Logan – Elgas
Stefanie Frawley – Colliers International
Sonia Turner – Scope Systems

Industry Advocacy Award

Rose Read – National Waste & Recycling Industry Council


Elizabeth Molyneux – AGL Energy
Hayley Jarick – Supply Chain Sustainability School
Jacquelene Brotherton – Transport Women Australia Limited
Jodie Sainsbury – Kickass Women
Joy Marrocco – AGL
Shay Chalmers – Strategic Engineering
Sonja Malcolm – Sydney Metro

Safety Advocacy Award – Proudly sponsored by BOC

Nadine Youssef – Sydney Trains


Annastasia Denigan – Cement Australia
Lyndal Denny – Women In Trucking Australia
Maddy Holloway – CITIC Pacific Mining
Natalia Trewin – WesTrac Pty Ltd
Noelani Reardon – Transport for NSW
Terese Withington – Weir Minerals Australia Ltd
Tracey MacDonald – BAE Systems Australia

Mentor of the Year

Dayle Stevens – AGL Energy


Clytie Dangar – CRC ORE
Kylie Jones – Diageo Australia
Marie Varrasso – Officeworks

Excellence in Manufacturing

Rochelle Avinu – Leica Biosystems


Josie Costanzo – Brickworks Building Products
Marina Melik – Boeing Aerostructures Australia
Rebecca Parnell – Artisan Food Company Pty Ltd
Samantha McDonald – Bluescope

Excellence in Mining

Sarah Withell – Whitehaven Coal


Carlie Hayward – BHP
Clytie Dangar – CRC ORE
Jacqueline Madsen – Caterpillar
Kim Parascos – iVolve Industrial Technology
Rose Lindner – MMG
Terese Withington – Weir Minerals Australia Ltd

Excellence in Engineering – Proudly sponsored by BAE Systems Australia

Elizabeth Taylor – RedR International


Jane MacMaster – Engineers Australia
Jo Withford – Transport for NSW
Lesley DeGaris – Boeing Aerostructures Australia
Lidija Dumbaloska – Sydney Trains
Mandy Petrides – Bosch Australia

Excellence in Transport

Melissa Strong – Lindsay Australia


Agnes Leeson – Elgas
Camilla Drover – Transport for NSW
Danelle Kempton – Dananni Haulage
Jane Gillespie – Arup
Lyndal Denny – Women In Trucking Australia

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