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Spotlight on the Women Leading the Way in Hydraulics

In April 2024, the launch of the Women in Hydraulics Initiative (WiHi) marked a pivotal moment in breaking through barriers within the hydraulics industry. This exciting program aims to support and connect women in hydraulics, fostering a more inclusive and diverse professional community. AHSCA Qld had the pleasure of catching up with Helen Brown from ACO Australia and Brooke Ollikainen from Geberit Australia to learn more about the inspiration, challenges, and goals driving this initiative.

The Inspiration Behind WiHi

Helen and Brooke both saw a significant need for support and connection among women in the hydraulics industry. Helen noted that while many areas of the construction industry had seen a rise in female representation, hydraulics remained male-dominated. Events could be intimidating for women, particularly when attending alone.

“The first event I went to, I was one of only three women in a room of around seventy men. Even for a confident and outgoing woman, that was intimidating! I have also found that there can be the assumption that we don’t have the technical skills to assist, and enquiries were often averted to male colleagues,” shared Helen.

The idea for the initiative was sparked during a discussion between Helen and Brooke, who both recognised the lack of support for women pursuing careers in hydraulics. After attending a Master Plumbers Women in Plumbing Lunch, they confirmed the demand for such a network. Seeking to turn their vision into reality, they reached out to a dynamo in the field, Lorelei Broadbent from Agenda Management. With Lorelei’s invaluable expertise and the support from AHSCA Qld, ACO, and Geberit, they successfully launched the Women in Hydraulics Initiative. The interest and engagement in our first event exceeded our expectations, and we are excited to see many male consultants expressing their support for the initiative and recognising the importance of supporting and growing women within the industry.

“Collectively, we believed there was a gap in the networking industry, specifically in the hydraulics sector, that was supported for women, by women,” Brooke explained.

Backgrounds and Challenges

Helen started her career within construction as an interior designer, over two decades ago. Having worked across many segments during this time, she transitioned into specification-based roles, collaborating with and supporting engineers and designers on a range of projects. Brooke’s background in the plumbing industry began as a design consultant, supporting builders, plumbers, and the architectural community. Since joining Geberit over a year ago, she has developed a passion for the hydraulics sector.

Both women faced challenges in a male-dominated field, including intimidating networking events and assumptions about their technical abilities. However, they also saw significant opportunities to promote inclusiveness and support for women in the hydraulics industry.

“Being a woman in this sector can present challenges, specifically around the ratio of women to men, but it also offers significant opportunities to promote inclusiveness. I have personally seen a shift in this during my time in the industry,” Brooke noted.

Goals and Support for the Initiative

The primary goal of the Women in Hydraulics Initiative is to build a network where women can connect, grow, and support each other. For Helen, she hopes to attract, support, and retain more women in the hydraulics industry by making them feel valued and confident. Brooke aims to provide a fun, welcoming environment where women can share stories and build strong industry connections.

“By raising the profile of women in the industry, we hope to support them to feel more valued, supported, and confident within their roles, and ultimately, attract and retain more women within the field,” Helen expressed.

Currently, the initiative is gathering feedback to determine future plans and support needed. Women in the hydraulics industry can get involved by joining the mailing list and extending event invitations to colleagues and industry contacts. Both Helen and Brooke encourage young women to pursue careers in hydraulics, emphasising the blend of technical expertise and creativity the field offers. The broader industry can support the initiative through sponsorship and active engagement in events, helping to empower and connect women in hydraulics.

“Absolutely go for it! It’s a fantastic career that combines technical expertise with creativity, allowing individuals to work on incredible projects that shape our future infrastructure,” Brooke encouraged young women.

Register your interest by emailing ahsca@agendamanagement.com.au and connect with us on LinkedIn to stay up to date with upcoming events. Businesses interested in expressing their support through sponsorship of the initiative are encouraged to reach out and join us in empowering women in hydraulics.