Steve Killeen, Chief Executive Officer, Downer

by | Mar 13, 2022

This year’s IWD theme is #BreakTheBias – what have you found useful to break down conscious and unconscious bias in your organisation?

Sustainable change comes from being inclusive, curious, and valuing differences. It requires individual and collective effort every day.

Over the past few years, we have been shaping a more robust process around diversity and inclusion in our workplace and in the communities we serve. In 2019, we decided to bring together all our diversity & inclusive initiatives under #OwnDifferent. This on-going campaign helps us unify the way we celebrate the importance of diversity and inclusion regardless of your gender, business, or cultural background. It also celebrates our culture of acceptance, engagement and belonging across our 10,000 people.

As part of encouraging inclusion, we’ve been focusing on recognising and supporting our rainbow community. Through the process of the rainbow tick certification and on-going, we have used a range of education sessions to increase understanding across the business. We know that increasing inclusion of any one group leads to greater inclusion across the board, so we’ll take our learnings in this space as we look to further initiatives in our diversity and inclusion journey.

Programmes like these helps recognise and celebrate the women around us. And while that is important, it is just as important to take the time to introspect and be aware of any of our own biased views. When we know better, we can do better – and that is the first step towards change.

What progress have you seen in the NZ infrastructure industry over the last year to increase diversity and inclusivity?

New influences are coming from people joining our industry and our job is to create the environment where they are encouraged to be part of positive change.

In our organisation, we have seen more people prepared to stand up and share their own voice, especially our women graduate. We recently launched an initiative called Wāhine Kotahitanga which means women united. This initiative was led by and for young women to bring them together, grow and change the status quo of the industry. It’s great to see young professionals demonstrating leadership in that space.

What diversity and inclusion improvements would you like to see in the NZ infrastructure industry by this time next year?

There is a lot of benefits in connecting people together, so we’ll definitely value more networking events as they can provide opportunities for people from different horizons to share their inspiring and thoughtful perspectives.

Mentoring can also help navigate some of the steps along the way and support women’s career growth. In that regard, setting up a cross industry programme could bring value and insights to women who have interest in building a career in infrastructure and benefit from the experience of senior leaders.

As a collective, we also need to work harder to promote our industry to younger people and diverse groups.

How do you think we can attract more women to the NZ infrastructure sector?

Role modelling. The NZ infrastructure sector needs to demonstrate its commitment in raising awareness of the growing impact of women on the industry, and to highlight the breadth of opportunities available to them.

Attracting more women is important, but this is supported by looking to accelerate development of the women already in our businesses, so that others looking in can see how it can be done. Development programmes also provide the opportunity to connect women already within an organisation in order to create a community of learning, support and encouragement is key from my perspective.

At Downer, we started in 2019 The Women in Leadership Downer (WILD) programme. It provides a space for women to share and reflect on their leadership journey, learning from each other. Facilitated by a globally recognised leadership coach and referencing world leading studies, 40 women have participated in WILD, and now help develop and mentor younger women in the business.  Following the success of WILD, we launched Te Ara Whanake Wāhine Toa with an initial pilot in partnership with Te Puni Kōkiri, providing a framework for Māori women to be successful and confident leaders. 19 participants graduated from that initial pilot programme, and the programme held its first wananga for the 2022 group last month with 20 wāhine participating from across the business. There are two further wananga planned over the next six months.

How is your organisation celebrating IWD?

A number of events are taking place across the business and in the regions.

Many of our people have taken the opportunity to be involved in International Women’s Day by contributing photos of the significant women in their lives. Our Downer’s podcast Share. Learn. Connect. has been released with a special International Women’s Day edition that features Group COO, Peter Tompkins, and Executive Manager Commercial Governance & Performance, Solza Crow, sharing their stories on parenting and gender diversity at Downer.