What is it really like working in a male-dominated industry?

August 7, 2023
working in a male-dominated industry

Imagine an underground mine, a drill gouging out the inside of a mountain. It’s all noise and power and sweat. 

Traditional (or perhaps out-dated) mindsets would have that this grunt and grit is not the appropriate employment landscape for a young woman. Well don’t tell that to Cassandra Bourke, Tools Sales and Support Representative – Rock Tools at Sandvik, who has found herself captivated by this usually male industry.  

For Cassandra, it probably helped she was interested in machinery and how equipment operates from an early age. 

“I don’t have a trade, but I am mechanically minded, this passion is what kept me engaged in the company’s Parts and Service division for six years. 

“Thankfully I now have a sound understanding of drills, trucks, loaders, and all the aftermarket add-ons that complement these – Rock Tools, Fire Suppression, Ground Engaging Tools and so on.”

This flurry of mine-speak might leave some a little confused, but Cassandra’s eyes light up when she speaks of it all, and so we had to find out more about how she came to feel so comfortable and excited by this traditionally male dominated industry. 

How to start a career path in a male-dominated industry

Cassandra stresses it doesn’t really matter where you get started. Her own start was certainly low key.

“My career at Sandvik started at the Kalgoorlie warehouse back in 2011.

“For four years I worked on the floor picking and packing orders, loading and unloading trucks, delivering freight across Kalgoorlie to our local customers and collecting components from our workshop and rock drill room to be sent out to mine-sites across Australia.”

When a position in the Parts and Service division opened, the company encouraged her to apply. She got it.

A photo of Cassandra Bourke

“This is where my career opened up. It wasn’t always easy, but I had the right mindset to continuously learn my product and strive to help my customers.

“It was – and still is – important to me to speak the same language as my customers and understand their equipment to the best of my ability. I took home parts manuals and did a lot of internal online training to educate myself on Sandvik’s Equipment.”

A supportive company benefits everyone

Sandvik’s encouragement to help Cassandra develop her experience, along with her own hard work and dedication, has been central to her advancement.

Sandvik has invested a lot into me and equally I have invested a lot into Sandvik.

“I’ve built my knowledge around Sandvik products, and while a lot of this knowledge can be transferable to other businesses, I hope to continue to build my future with Sandvik.”

Dig deeper into Sandvik’s inclusive, anti-discriminatory, and supportive approach to their employees.

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The level of support and attention Sandvik has displayed in Cassandra’s development is something she says is reflected across the company’s culture.

“The company really sees the value of people with diverse backgrounds and skills which helps develop careers that previously didn’t quite fit the ‘textbook’ criteria,” she tells us.

And that’s reflected in perhaps the best indicator of a healthy company culture: loyalty.

Sandvik tends to have long-term employees. A lot of the employees you speak with have 10 or more years experience and they’ll continue to grow their careers here because Sandvik is such a great company to work with.”

A culture that supports the success of all

Cassandra admits that her journey as a woman in such a male-dominated industry hasn’t perfect, not because of anything at Sandvik but more because of the wider culture of the sector in general.

“I’ve never been treated differently because I am a woman, but being a woman in the roles I’ve had has certainly come with its challenges. I guess this is how we learn resilience and discover our strengths.”

Sandvik, however, has an amazing culture that is continually reinforcing how well it lives its inclusive values. Cassandra mentions various events, such as “Kick-Offs” which are held at the start of every year after the holidays, and which involve a cross section of employees from all levels of the company.

A photo of Cassandra Bourke

“The thing I appreciate most,” she says, “is the collaboration of all the teams we work with throughout the year. It’s so nice to feel inclusion, not just to talk about it.”

A career that will continue to rock!

Having come so far in her 12 years, Cassandra says she has now found a home away from home.

“I’ve made some great connections and friends throughout my years in Sandvik, some long-lasting connections with colleagues who know me both personally and professionally.”

A sense of trust and flexibility within the company and its internal networks means Cassandra has been able to develop a sustainable approach to her career.

“I have now established a very good work-life balance at Sandvik. Trust among staff has been built to manage our workflows differently.”

And where does she see her career going over the next 11 years?

“Perhaps I will sell equipment one day or work closer with the product lines on implementing offerings to further support our customers”.

“It may be something completely left-field, but I am confident in that aspiration at Sandvik – it’s very diverse and full of opportunities depending on where you want to go.”

For both, it’s a rich vein of success that looks like it will just keep delivering a high yield.

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About the Author

Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

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