Empowering the future: the women shaping Australia’s energy landscape

To mark International Women’s Day 2024, we’re celebrating women’s contributions to the energy sector. We’ve assembled a series of profiles of women who are making an incredible impact with their diverse skills and expertise. These women share their insights and experiences working in energy, from how they got their start, to advice for others in the field.

By highlighting the stories, we hope to facilitate meaningful conversations, create connections, and showcase the myriad of opportunities for women to enter, and thrive in, the energy industry.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress’

Naomi Wynn, Regulatory Policy Manager, Ausgrid

Photo of Naomi Wynn

What do you do, and what do you most enjoy about this role?

As Regulatory Policy Manager I prepare submissions to government bodies to advocate for Ausgrid’s position to regulatory bodies. This includes the five-yearly regulatory resets. I love that I get to work with engaged and passionate people who deeply care about improving outcomes for energy consumers and enabling the net zero transition.

How did you get into the energy industry?

I got into the energy industry while in University. I knew that climate change would be one of the greatest wicked problems of our time and that the energy sector would be a significant, challenging and exciting sector to transition to net zero. I saw I could contribute to making change in a complex and rapidly changing industry. As such it would always provide something new to learn about and that’s held true!

What advice do you have for women already in, or looking to enter the energy sector?

Like any new sector, it can seem daunting. However as the energy sector is in a rapid state of transition, there’s frequent changes to the regulatory framework or a new technology development. This means that we have an open learning environment with lots of lovely people who are happy to explain a particular component of the energy sector that you might be new to.

As a growing and changing sector, we always need new people with fresh perspectives on the challenges we’re faced with. If you’re interested in working with passionate people and making a contribution towards the net zero transition then take a look at the energy sector. Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’d be happy to have a call or exchange messages for any questions about the industry.

Lucy Holder, Customer Engagement Manager, AusNet

Lucy Holder photoWhat do you do, and what do you most enjoy about this role?

My team oversees AusNet’s research and strategic engagement functions – all our regular forums, customer and stakeholder research programs, and our engagement on price reviews where we work with customers and other stakeholders to determine what services AusNet offers, our service standards, and how much customers pay for the network component of their bill. I love the intellectual challenge of the work, my smart and passionate colleagues, and working with people from across disciplines. Coming to work every day with the objective of understanding and protecting customers’ interests in the decisions we make is also very cool and extremely rewarding.

How did you get into the energy industry?

My first energy industry job was telemarketing sales for an energy retailer while I was studying. Sales wasn’t for me, but it did get me really interested in the energy sector, and soon after I started working a consultant. I covered many energy projects, for retailers, generators and government, which set me up well for a move into the most interesting part of the supply chain (networks!).

What advice do you have for women already in, or looking to enter the energy sector?

Energy has been heavily male dominated for a long time, but the type of work energy businesses do and the way we do it is changing rapidly. Many new roles are being created. There are so many opportunities in energy full stop at the moment, and there’s never been a more important time for different ways of thinking … so women have a huge amount to add.

Djuna Pollard, Chief Executive Office, Power and Water Corporation

A photo of Djuna PollardWhat do you do, and what do you most enjoy about this role?

I have been the Chief Executive Officer of Power and Water since 2020, having first joined the organisation in 2000. The services we provide to our community are essential and I am proud of the way we make a difference to the lives of Territorians, every day. Our gas, power, water and sewerage services are critical to the Northern Territory lifestyle and future opportunities. I grew up in the Territory and it is incredibly rewarding to play my part in giving back to the community.

How did you get into the energy industry?

I started my career as a trainee in the Energy Division of the NT Department of Mines and Energy while undertaking tertiary study in Finance and Economics. That sparked my strong interest in the energy industry through until today, at a time of a rapidly changing energy landscape. It is fantastic to be on the Board of Energy Networks Australia and collaborate with energy leaders from around the country.

I have also been able to apply the skills I have learned in the energy industry to the water industry.

What advice do you have for women already in, or looking to enter the energy sector?

The energy sector is an incredibly exciting sector to be working in, particularly during a time of global energy transition to be less reliant on fossil fuels and more so on renewable energy sources. There are so many opportunities in the energy sector from trades, to engineering, to finance. The energy sector has something for everyone. Building a great support network around you that drives you to grow, develop and ‘hold the mirror up to yourself’ is also very important. Remember to back yourself to make it in the energy sector – it will be incredibly rewarding!

Susie Riali, Head of Service Delivery – Distribution, AGIG

A photo of Susie RialiWhat do you do, and what do you most enjoy about this role?

I lead a team responsible for the successful and safe management of a distribution gas network. This includes ensuring compliance with the relevant regulatory bodies, fault and emergency management, scheduled maintenance. and the delivery of large-scale capital programs. What I enjoy the most about this role is the fact that every day brings something different which keeps me interested, I don’t really have time to be bored in this role. On top of that I love working with my team and ensuring they are developed and ready to take on any challenge that may come their way.

How did you get into the energy industry?

I joined the energy industry as a graduate engineer with the intention of staying for no longer than five years. When that five years came, I felt like I had only been in the industry for five months. Nearly 30 years later I am still learning.

What advice do you have for women already in, or looking to enter the energy sector?

The energy industry is one that is forever changing, especially in today’s world of decarbonisation. This is an exciting time to be joining the industry and bring a different perspective to you male counterparts.

As a woman in the industry I have seen the number of women in our sector grow throughout the years with so many different employers investing in women. This year’s theme ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women Accelerate Progress’ is the perfect reason to consider this this industry for future employment. It was definitely the right choice for me.

Verity Watson, Head of Transmission, Energy Networks Australia

What do you do, and what do you most enjoy about this role?

My current role is focused on electricity transmission, and spans a range of coordinating activities across strategic, policy, regulatory, market and commercial issues. Transmission has a key role in the transition to net zero. We need to reconfigure the transmission system to get electricity from the regions to the cities as renewable generators replace the capacity of old retiring coal and gas generators. There are so many stakeholders interested and impacted, so many different positions to take into account in order to move reforms forward that genuinely benefit all consumers. I enjoy the interactions with a wide range of stakeholders, the diversity, the constant reforms to improve the services we deliver.

How did you get into the energy industry?

Electricity represented a growing area as Jeff Kennett privatised the old SECV.  The industry looked exciting because it represented constant change, opportunity and challenge and it hasn’t stopped. It is still an exciting industry to get into, in a transformation where everyone is seeking to do better.

Moving to a net zero economy in a globally challenging environment provides so many opportunities for women, particularly in STEM . We take energy for granted until it isn’t there, but really the engineering and the physics rule – if the engineering isn’t right there won’t be an energy service for our consumers.

What advice do you have for women already in, or looking to enter the energy sector?

One of our leaders in the energy sector recently had the pleasure of meeting Cathy Freeman. Cathy’s quote to her resonated, ‘I represent a possibility’. Now, and over the last decade, we have had great women lead our key market bodies, from the Energy Security Board, AEMO, the AER and the AEMC, not to mention ECA, AEC and ENA and leading our network businesses. These women at the top represent a possibility for all women progressing through their career, for a more balanced workforce, opportunities right across organisations and pay equity.

We have moved forward but not far enough as I listen to our god daughters who are making great advances in their careers but share the war stories on gender bias. My advice, we need to keep moving forward on equal opportunity and equal pay.

Courtney Nelson, Senior Training Specialist, Essential Energy

Courtney NelsonWhat do you do, and what do you most enjoy about this role?

As a dedicated Technical Trainer specialising in the trade qualification of Distribution Overhead Powerlines, I take immense pride in my role. One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is the opportunity to engage in face-to-face training sessions, focusing on the intricate electrical principles that underpin this trade. Additionally, I am actively involved in delivering internal regulatory training and overseeing various other crucial aspects within the business.

What brings me the greatest joy in my profession is the ability to positively shape and influence the next generation of tradespeople. Empowering them with a healthy and positive mindset is particularly fulfilling, especially considering the inherent challenges of such a vital and potentially dangerous job.

Building professional relationships with a diverse array of individuals adds an extra layer of richness to my work. Collaborating with people from different backgrounds and perspectives enriches the training environment and contributes to a vibrant professional community.

And, of course, who wouldn’t find joy in the unique experience of climbing power poles? It’s a thrilling aspect of the job that adds a special touch of excitement and adventure.

In essence, I am truly passionate about what I do – contributing to the safety, knowledge, and positive mindset of those in the industry. I am honoured to play a part in such a crucial field, where every day brings new challenges and opportunities for growth.

How did you get into the energy industry?

I was employed as a contractor traffic controller for local Essential Energy crews, I found myself completely in awe of the remarkable work they undertake each day. Witnessing the dedication, precision, and significance of their tasks sparked a profound realisation. It became evident that I wanted to contribute to an industry that plays a pivotal role in our community, ensuring the seamless functioning of essential services.

What advice do you have for women already in, or looking to enter the energy sector?

The key is to break free from any preconceived limitations. Challenge yourself, be willing to tackle the tough tasks, and don’t let imagined barriers dictate your decisions. My experience in the industry has been a testament to the power of pushing boundaries and embracing opportunities that may seem daunting at first.

For those entering the field, my advice is simple: get involved, be visible, and prove a point. Show that dedication, skill, and passion know no gender. By actively participating and making a positive impact, we can change perceptions and pave the way for a more inclusive industry.

As a woman in this field, I know the journey may initially feel like breaking new ground. However, with enough support, influence, and determination, we can transform being a woman in this industry from a perceived minority to a powerful force. Let’s collectively shape a future where gender is not a limitation but a celebration of diversity.