Cultural diversity key to strengthening water businesses

Posted 27 September 2016
Cultural diversity at work
Diversifying the water industry isn’t all about gender, according to one of the sector’s leading managers, with cultural variety and inclusion just as important to strengthening workplaces.

Cardno Business Unit Manager Water and Environment Sarah Hesse was one of four panel members at the AWA NSW Women in Water event in September.

“It’s entirely valuable to have a diverse range of managers and mentors, which obviously includes females,” Hesse said.

“I also think it’s really important for individuals to expose themselves to different ways of thinking and doing things and that’s as much about culture and other aspects as it is gender. It’s really about learning from every experience you can.”

Arguments for the positive implication of gender diversification throughout business abound, but Hesse said more broader diversity is just as important.

“I manage a team of about 70 people which is about 45% female, we have a number of part-time and casual workers, people who work remotely, people with 40 years’ experience and people in their first job, and we also speak about 15 different languages. It is possible to achieve diversity and it makes for a very successful business,” she said.  

“Women are excellent communicators, which is a necessary and valuable asset to bring to the cultural mix.”

Hesse identified the role of executive level management in being a key to both gender and cultural diversity.

“The culture of a workplace, business or organisation comes from the top. And if the top layers of the organisation do not support those aspects, it will be a long and hard road to change that,” Hesse said.

And while setting standards for business diversity in the boardroom is a good start, Hesse said networking and mentoring is also crucial to ensuring staff are supported with guidance suited to their professional goals and needs.

“I think getting the support for your professional development along the way is really, really important. Being the best at something won’t necessarily get you access to those roles. You need supporters around you who can help propel you forward,” she said.

“My vision for women, in any sector, is that they have access to the people and learning that they need for their future career aspirations, whatever they may be. Not everyone aspires to be a senior executive, and anything is possible.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Association’s Mentoring Program, get in touch with your state or territory branch manager.