Having worked for WSP for 24 years focusing on the water sector, Mr Toomey is committed to creating a gender-balanced workplace and he says it all starts with having both formal and informal discussions as to the why.
In a recent interview with Mr Toomey, we discussed the importance of leaving a legacy for the next generation.
“For me, gender balance is about giving everyone a fair go. I have two daughters who are 13 and 9. They know the world is their oyster. And, I need to play my part in making societal change happen so that by the time they get into their careers, they have the same opportunities as everyone else. That’s my personal driver.
“The challenge for us in the water sector is largely around unconscious bias. I read a book called ‘Stop Fixing Women’ last year and it was enlightening. Most businesses are led by men. So, without even knowing, there is a male-skewed culture that’s existed for hundreds of years. It’s inbuilt and intrinsic and we need to address this. We need to allow women better entry to leadership positions.
“There are biases in most workplaces that you don’t even realise are there. They are mostly unintentional, and when they are brought to people’s attention, change does occur.
“That’s why we are making a conscious effort to have women involved on all selection panels for new talent and we are actively seeking to balance our teams.”
The Why is Key to Success
Recognising that excellence doesn’t distinguish between gender, Mr Toomey says that men and women are equal, not identical. As he points out, diversity in opinions, skills and approaches are essential to our success.
He says, “We need to elevate the discussion around the ‘why’ of gender balance. Take the great Aussie BBQ – men in one corner and women in another! Our workplaces are often no different. We need to find ways to collaborate more effectively and interact in a balanced way so there are flow-on effects through the business.
“Let’s start in the lunch room or at the coffee machine and have balanced chats by making concerted efforts to interact with the opposite gender. This small step change will allow us to use our differences to foster growth, not limit it.”
“At the end of the day, I want to be able to look my daughters in the eye and tell them they will get an equal go in the workplace. Right now, they have their dreams and believe in girl power – and I will certainly do my utmost to help them realise the rewarding careers they deserve.”
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