The energy sector isn’t always the first industry women think of when choosing a field to pursue their careers.
But for Dr. Zahra Jabiri, there couldn’t be a better or more impactful career choice.
“I chose to start my career in the energy and utilities sector consciously, being proud of the fact that our infrastructure and our service co-exist with the community. I could see the impact that it has on every part of the community, from families to small and large businesses.”
Now, after more than two decades in the energy sector, Zahra still feels the same way.
Zahra is currently the Head of Regulation & Investment Assurance for Western Power, the state-owned corporation responsible for providing electricity and power to Western Australia.
But beyond all the projects she’s led and the ranks she’s risen through, Zahra feels her true success lies elsewhere: it’s in the path she’s leading for women in the industry as well as the brighter futures she’s helping create for communities.
We asked Zahra to give us a glimpse of her work and the impact she’s making for women in the energy industry. Here’s what she shared.
What’s your educational and professional background?
I am an Electrical/Power Engineer with a PhD in Asset Management from the University of Sydney. With over 20 years of experience in the energy sector and academia, I have worked as a senior manager, project manager, and maintenance specialist and on a wide range of transformational, community, safety, technical, financial, and regulatory programs.
What’s the main focus of your role?
Currently, I lead a team responsible for developing and managing Western Power’s regulatory Access Arrangement – a multi-billion-dollar investment strategy that facilitates the safe and responsible transition of our business to a reliable and green energy future. This requires close collaboration with the community, energy experts, and the engagement of numerous external stakeholders.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Balancing the practical and technical business solutions to meet the needs of our community and stakeholders is something that makes my work enjoyable.
How would you describe your personality?
Sociable. Sympathetic. Industrious. Trusted.
Did you face any significant difficulties in your career path? How did you overcome them?
My journey to leadership hasn’t always been a straight clear path. But I have been fortunate to have so many great colleagues to reach out to.
Are there promising career opportunities for women in the energy sector?
17% of all engineering roles at Western Power are held by women, with 29% of these in engineering leadership roles – surpassing the national average. While there’s big room for improvement in these numbers, this is a significant jump from 10.7% in 2018 and 14.75% in 2021.
Western Power has been a champion of gender and cultural equality in the energy sector, sponsoring programs and providing benefits that foster workplace diversity and inclusion.
How is Western Power helping attract more women to the energy industry?
To help achieve meaningful gender equity in the sector, we’re working to encourage more young women into the electrical engineering and STEM space through a variety of scholarships we sponsor. These include the “Women in Electrical and Electronic Engineering” scholarship for the University of Western Australia and the “Western Power Women in STEM” scholarship at Curtin University.
For the youth, we run our Circuit Breaker’s program, which is available to all primary school students in years four to six. This program provides the opportunity for girls to explore STEM topics at a young age, encouraging them to further their studies in this area.
This year, our theme is ‘Inventors and Innovators’. We want to hear from some of the talented and innovative women engineers that we have in the business to find out what drew them to a career in engineering and what they love about it.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of the enjoyable journey that I have had in my career and the opportunities to meet wonderful people.
The innovations and collaborations to deliver a better outcome to the community and engagements with the industry and the younger generation are the highlights of my journey. This includes our participation in the company’s annual scholarship program that grants funding to students.
I also feel proud mentoring energy professionals in their careers and supporting university students with their research, with the hope of instilling in them a passion for the energy industry.
What would you like to achieve in the next ten years?
A massive amount of change is happening in the energy sector, and I hope when I look back in 10 years time that it will be done in a responsible way.
What advice or lessons could others learn from your experiences?
Stay focused and engaged and curious.
Even after two decades in the energy sector, Zahra still feels as excited about the industry as she was when she decided to pursue it.
And together with Western Power, she hopes to share that same passion with others.
Before we ended our interview, we asked Zahra what her high-school self would say if she saw the work she’s doing now.
Zahra answered with a smile:
“Good on you! Your passion and hard work paid off!”