The early rise was more than compensated for by the very open, honest and engaging presentations by six very impressive panellists. Melissa Meeker (Executive Director, WateReuse, US), Cynthia Mitchell (Deputy Director, Institute of Sustainable Futures), Karlene Maywald (Strategic Adviser, Water Opportunities and former Minister for Water Security in South Australia), Anne Barker (Managing Director, City West Water), Leith Boully (Board Chair, Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence), and Sue Murphy (CEO, Water Corporation) shared openly the highs and lows of their careers and how they successfully balanced family and work. The morning was MC’ed by Louise Dudley, WSAA’s Chair and MD of Queensland Urban Utilities, and there was great discussion between the panellists, and with the audience.

There were many gems and advice shared including:

  • Apply for the job, even if you have only 4/10 requirements (that’s what most of the guys do).
  • Forget work life balance, there is just life. Enjoy it.
  • Focus on being good at your job. You will get the respect.
  • Take the opportunity to stand in the shoes of strong women - see how it feels.
  • Focus on what is really important: a happy home, not a clean home.
  • Don’t try to be a man. Be you, be authentic, say what you need to say.
  • Say yes! (then figure out how), but know you don’t need to say yes to everything.

The six women on the panel have all had successful careers in an industry that includes many traditionally male professions. At the breakfast they encouraged the audience to remember that women can do anything, including those typically male jobs.  A classic quote recounted by Sue Murphy from one of her daughters many years ago was “Mum, can boys be engineers as well?”.

With such honest and open dialogue between the panel and the audience it hardly seemed right that it all was all over in an hour but it was and off we all went, grateful to have been able to glean some advice from such a talented bunch of women in our industry.

For those wanting to read more, the following books were recommended by the panellists: ‘The third space’ by Adam Fraser and ‘The Wife drought’ by Annabel Crabb.

Overall it was a fantastic session, and we look forward to similar events, also including men, where successful, respected leaders share about their personal journeys.


From Sandi Kolbe, Lisa Ehrenfried, Gayathri Ramachandran and Laura Jaquest, WSAA

21 Jan 2016

Sandi Kolbe

Sandi Kolbe

Communications Manager