“To encourage more women to enter the clean energy sector, we need to help women develop, but also make space for them to step into positions of influence”
Where do you work and what do you do?
I am the CEO/Managing Director for LAUTEC Australia. LAUTEC is a Danish consultancy that specialises in project controls, GIS (mapping) services and accompanying software for the renewables industry, particularly offshore wind. My role primarily involves business development, leading the Australian office and coaching international clients on topics related to project governance, interface management and project controls topics. With the rise of the offshore wind industry, there are many people with related experience from other industries. I spent the last 7 years in Denmark working for the offshore wind industry, so I’m in a unique position to share my direct experience through coaching.
Aside from this role, I have a background in Leadership development. I have some executive coaching clients and I teach a course called “Leadership for Social Change” through a college in the US. I’m also working on a digital app for women in technical industries called “Her Toolbox”. There comes a point in most women’s careers where being good at your job isn’t enough to get promoted. Other factors come into play such understanding power, boundaries, emotional intelligence and soft skills. Therefore, I’m creating a series of courses that help women develop their leadership potential by focussing on common derailers. For example, “Be liked without being a pushover”, “Be respected without the emotional distance” and “Achieve goals without being a slave driver”.
How did you get into the renewable energy industry?
After 16 years in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as a pilot and aeronautical engineer, I moved to California and worked briefly in the Aerospace industry as a Program Manager. Whilst the US was a great experience, I wanted to try living and working in Europe as well as work for an industry that was making a concrete difference in the world. Given my background as an aeronautical engineer, offshore wind was a logical next step.
Changing industry was not an easy move given that most of my experience was in leadership and project management roles. Typically you need to be in a specialist role that transcends industries. Given that I had a background with organisational development, and educational qualifications to match, I was hired into an internal project management role at Siemens Gamesa where I supported the Offshore Engineering team in its growth from 30 to over 100 staff. I helped teams mature their processes and develop their engineers to meet the operational demands of the organisation. Within 18 months I was selected as a head of department and was thus able to continue my career in leadership roles instead.
What do you like most about your job/the renewable energy industry?
I absolutely love working in an industry that aligns with my values to leave the world in a better place than we found it. When I first started working in the industry in Denmark, I found that others also embodied these values. My industry colleagues were passionate, nice and trying to make a positive difference in whatever scope they had. There was a mentality circulating that even though we might have competitors in the industry, our real competitors were fossil fuel companies – that we had to work together with others in the industry to make a green transition possible.
I also love working for an industry that is newer and less mature than most other industries. The offshore wind industry has more of a “start up” feel and for those of us who have experience from other industries such as Aerospace, Oil & gas and Construction, we have an opportunity to contribute to its maturation. For example helping projects run more smoothly through setting up best practice processes. This is harder to do in older industries where there is a lot more organisational inertia. In the renewables industry there is more capacity to influence organisations.
Regarding my job at LAUTEC, in my previous role at Ørsted I was working remotely on a portfolio of projects in Taiwan. Therefore it’s been great to come back to Australia into a role that allows me to utilise my specialist experience, keep my connection to Denmark and network throughout the industry as part of my business development.
What have been the biggest challenges for you as a woman working in a male dominated industry?
Having worked in 3 countries (USA, Denmark and Australia), there are cultural differences everywhere you go. These are not only national cultural differences, but also organisational, gender, age and every conceivable social and professional grouping/spectrum.
One thing I notice about Australia, having spent 10 years overseas is that not many people pay attention to the difference in men’s culture vs women’s culture. The culture here is very “blokey”. When you are used to a diverse range of working styles, especially when some are more effective than others, it can be difficult to explain that vision to people who are used to the thinking that comes from a male dominated culture.
For example, I notice that there is a hyper-rational culture coming from a lot of men who are engineers. This approach is good at finding flaws with an idea, but fails to take the next step of envisioning how to overcome it. By contrast, I find that women’s culture is more nuanced and pre-disposed to listening, and I would even say that the Danes are far more innovative in their engineering, partly because they embrace not only the masculine, but also “feminine” qualities such as listening, collaborating and trusting that if you give an issue deliberate space, solutions to problems always emerge.
In terms of the challenges directly for me, “women’s culture” is not necessarily valued in a technical industry. This requires navigating a set of unofficial rules that results in a lot of unnecessary competition, rather than collaborative approaches. Men’s culture tends to be based on a hierarchical pecking order, where as women’s culture is based on in and out groups. I look forward to the day when we have better gender balance because that typically enhances the good and diminishes the negative qualities of both cultures.
What do you think would encourage more women to enter the clean energy sector?
In my broader network, I notice that women leave companies that fail to understand the experience of women and thereby fail to support them in their ambitions. Therefore to encourage more women to enter the clean energy sector, not only do we need to help women develop themselves, but also to make space for women to step up into positions of influence, by removing barriers and setting particular targets. This means providing a supportive workplace culture that recognises that good talent in all its forms, and understands the experience of those who experience barriers. All participants need to orient towards an inclusive, egalitarian mindset and culture if we want to attract more women.
What advice do you have for women looking to work in renewables?
There are many things you can do, but here are some of the main ideas that have helped me:
A combination of these actions will afford you an edge in identifying a diverse range of upcoming opportunities.