WA’s mining and resources sector gathered in early March to celebrate the power of gender diversity, with the 12th annual Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA’s (CME) Women In Resources Awards.

A crowd of almost 1000 people gathered at the Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre to see five inspiring women recognised in the individual award categories.

CME Chief Executive, Paul Everingham, paid tribute to the winners and their inspirational stories.

“These women reflect the enormous value that diversity and inclusion provide to our sector,” he said.

“Some are currently in leadership positions and some will progress to those types of roles. But each is already an outstanding role model for the tens of thousands of women who work each day on mining and resources operations around WA, and many more who might be considering careers in our sector.

“I’m very proud to work in a sector that has a genuine commitment to promoting and achieving equality, inclusivity and diversity in its workforce.”

  • Outstanding Woman in Resources
    Sara Braund, Vice President Digital Technology, South32

Sara is the Vice President of Digital Technology at South32, where she is responsible for the delivery of technology services, platforms and business applications for 10 operational sites and six corporate offices.

Growing up in northern Scotland, Sara gained an early appreciation for the economic contributions of the oil and gas sector and, after showing an aptitude for numbers at school, eventually pursued a joint honours degree in mathematics and computer science.

As a graduate with Logica UK, Sara worked with a variety of oil and gas majors and a move to Perth in the early 2000s led to a stint at Woodside, where she became the company’s first female Chief Information Officer.

Sara’s journey to Australia is a reflection of her determination to succeed. Despite fears of both flying and public speaking, she accepted an invitation to travel from Scotland to present at a conference at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre – and found she liked Australia so much that she wanted to stay here.

Sara is sponsor of South32’s Technology Foundations program and played a major role in the company’s rapid transition to remote working due to the onset of COVID-19.

She is lead sponsor for the South32 Introducing Girls to STEM initiative, serves on Murdoch University’s IT Advisory Panel and regularly shares her career challenges and lessons learned at panel events around Perth.

  • People’s Choice Award
    Pooja Haria, Reliability Engineer, Fortescue Metals Group

Growing up in a low-income background in Kenya, as the daughter of non-English speaking Indian immigrants, Pooja understood quickly that an academic focus would pave the way to a better life for her and her family.

That meant travelling overseas with the help of her community to study, initially in Malaysia and then in Melbourne, where she completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours, Mechanical Engineering) at Victoria University and was subsequently offered a PhD specialising in robotics.

Pooja’s career in mining started with an internship at Rio Tinto’s Weipa operations in far North Queensland, where she was quickly promoted to a graduate role as the only female mechanical engineer.

Pooja’s leadership qualities were evidenced by her being entrusted with a $2m capital project while still a graduate and eventually serving as Acting Railway Superintendent at Weipa.

Since moving to join FMG in April 2020 in a FIFO role at the Solomon mine, Pooja has driven key improvements in the site’s lubrication systems, resulting in improved efficiencies and reduced downtime.

Pooja is a strong role model for FMG’s younger engineers and has previously taken on formal mentoring responsibilities and been involved in campaigning against domestic violence.

  • Outstanding Operator/Technician/Trade Woman in Resources
    Laura Allen, Process Owner, Woodside Energy

Laura is a talented female tradesperson with an infectious personality, a passion for her trade and a natural leader.

Throughout her career she has always been different – often the only woman on site and usually the youngest – which has built a resilience and drive that is an inspiration to others.

At a young age she identified she wanted to learn a trade and became an electrical apprentice, becoming Apprentice of the Year at Electrical Group Training. Laura’s approach and work ethic has led her to be recognised for her capability and leadership.

She has spent about 10 years working offshore and in 2015 became Woodside’s first female Registered Person Electrical, meaning Laura was responsible for the safe execution of all electrical work performed on the offshore facility she was based in.

In 2018 she moved into a leadership role supervising a team of 80 people offshore. Laura completed two overseas assignments in the Singapore shipyard leading a diverse and multicultural team.

In 2019, she moved into a temporary office role for 18 months developing more business skills and stepping up as delegate for the General Manager Operations.

Laura Allen (Woodside), Katie McDonald (BHP – company award initiative), Rebecca Prain (Cube Consulting), Sara Braund (South32), Pooja Haria (FMG) and Alison van Lent (Woodside). Image: Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia.
  • Technological Innovation Award
    Alison van Lent, Commercialisation Manager, Woodside Energy

Alison started at Woodside as an Instrumentation and Controls Engineer, working on the Offshore Goodwyn asset before moving to Karratha for four years where she worked on the Pluto LNG Project team during commissioning and early operations.

After several lead engineering roles and demonstrating capacity as an innovative high performer who had the potential to move into senior management, Alison was selected as one of two employees (out of 3000+) in 2016 to be sponsored to complete her MBA full time. When she returned, she shifted from Engineering to Technology to the robotics team.

Her primary responsibilities were to guide the Operations and Projects teams to take advantage of Intelligent and Autonomous Systems. In that space of time, the team now have the highest in-house robotics capability of any oil and gas company in Australia (perhaps even in the world). In June 2020, she moved into her current role, which is looking at commercialising a product she and her team built.

The robotics capability that Alison has worked to develop within Woodside is world-class. Software, co-developed by her and her team with NASA, is being used to leverage robots on the Woodside assets.

  • Women in Resources Champion
    Rebecca Prain, Managing Director, Cube Consulting

Originally from New Zealand, where she trained as a geologist, Rebecca chose to work and raise her family in WA, where she became general manager of Cube Consulting in 2013.

Rebecca has been heavily involved in the grassroots championing of gender equality in the mining and resources sector. As an active member of the Women In Mining WA community, Rebecca has spent the best part of a decade formally mentoring young women in the sector – 14 in all – and informally mentoring many more.

She has also been a driving force behind the Kambalda Geology Symposium, which in 2019 had gender-balanced speakers. Rebecca’s own WIMWA Summit presentations have showcased the ability for women to have longevity in mining and resources while also managing family commitments.

Rebecca is well-regarded for her meaningful, personal and persistent advocacy for women in the sector and an authentic leadership style that easily earns people’s trust.

  • Outstanding Company Initiative
    BHP, Office creche and family-friendly workspaces – Perth and Newman

In 2017, the BHP Perth office established a creche and two family-friendly workspaces, with the intention of providing emergency and adhoc care to parents when their regular childcare arrangements fell through.

This year, that service has been expanded to Newman, with the provision of a flexible work centre that includes four hot desks, two family-friendly rooms and a meeting room accommodating five people. BHP has also supported the Newman Neighbourhood Centre Creche next door to go from a two mornings per week offering to a full-time service.

The Perth facility has now been used by more than 400 families, who had made more than 2700 bookings by the end of October 2020. More than 40% of the bookings were male, signifying increased shared caring responsibilities that enable women to return to work.

In Newman, the service was used by 80 families making more than 300 bookings within the first four months of opening and numbers continue to rise. Some 60% of bookings were community-related, demonstrating the far-reaching social value of the initiative.

Feedback and testimonials show the initiative is helping BHP retain talented women and increase employee engagement, with significant take-up during school holidays when parents and children get a kick out of going to work together.