You may not immediately think of an IT Manager in a utility when you think of male allies supporting equality and progress in the workforce, but Simon Thurtle is exactly that.
His role at Western Power is in the Information Technology Business Relationship space, and in his 33 years with the organization he’s spent a considerable amount of time mentoring women to enhance their development.
We spoke to him about why diversity is important, his role as a mentor, and how the workforce has changed over the course of his 33-year career at Western Power.
A career with impact
Simon describes Western Power’s role as providing an essential service to the people of Western Australia that enables our modern lives. There’s been a lot of change in the organization in his 33 years there, but their overarching role remains the same.
There are a range of opportunities in Information Technology at Western Power. Simon has moved through project and program manager, leading technical and support teams, and thrives in his relationship manager role. In his day-to-day, Simon explains:
“My role is to help create value using technology. I’m involved in bringing people together to enable technology solutions. I do this with an open mind and an attitude that everyone brings something different to the table.”
And the things he loves most in his career is;
“The feeling that I’ve helped teams to work together to achieve great things”.
In fact, creating impactful, effective teams is a big focus of Simon’s work, and he said people are often surprised by the number of people it takes to bring an IT project to life. Hearing from all those people equally helps Simon’s teams be successful.
The value of diversity
“Diversity brings greater creativity and innovative ways of working.”
Simon knew he’d made the right decision to join Western Power straight away.
“I saw how teams were supported and valued to achieve great things.”
The investment in people is an important part of the culture at Western Power, and something Simon continues to cultivate. As a strong male ally, he has a real focus on allowing everyone to thrive at work and encouraging every voice to be heard.
We asked why that’s important to him, and he shared:
“Because we need to tap into the diversity of thought that comes from varied skills and life experiences. We have a shortage of IT professionals in our industry, so we need to do everything we can to break down any employment barriers to entry.”
Over the course of his career, Simon has seen a number of changes in the industry, in terms of gender equality in IT. Firstly, the access to careers in IT has shifted, as we live in a digital world now.
“Most people younger than me have grown up in a tech world. There’s a level of skill that is not restricted to certain people, such as those who study IT at university. This is a great starting point.”
Additionally, in more recent years many more men also desire to work flexibly and be active in their families’ lives.
“In 2021, men are demanding flexible working patterns just as much as women. We can all meet our family responsibilities and work in demanding roles too.”
And finally, changes in the way we work and the technology we have to support that helps provide greater access to flexibility and remote work locations.
“Technology has progressed to the point where our work location, home or office, doesn’t matter like it used to.”
Supporting women at work
Because he understands the value of diversity and hearing from every unique employee voice, Simon is a committed advocate for women in the workplace. We asked him what other male allies can do to support women in a positive way in the workplace and he shared:
- Understand bias. Check your unconscious biases; how do you perceive women in your industry? Know the research data and why we still have to strive for equity as well as equality for women in ICT and leadership roles.
- Open your hiring pool. When hiring, look past the CV’s and interview some women you may not have shortlisted previously. Find news channels to advertise and talk about the WIFW (what’s in it for women) in your adverts, so that the benefits complement the desire to apply for a role in your team.
- Mentor and support women. Leaders must encourage women to have the confidence to progress their careers. Ask team members to say what they aspire to and support them on their journey. Sponsor women in the workplace. Mentoring is usually offered, and it still feels top-down advisory model. Sponsoring helps build visibility, personal and professional brand, and perceptions of leadership.
Simon is passionate that now is a great time for Women to join Western Power.
“We are at a really exciting time in our industry, using technology to tap into renewable energy for the benefit of the community. It’s very rewarding to be a part of it!”
And to women thinking about joining who want to be sure they’ll really be given the opportunities to advance their careers, he says:
“We are constantly encouraging our diverse workforce to aim high in their careers, providing opportunities to grow through our skills of the future program, secondments, and acting opportunities.”
With pro-active sponsorship within the business, expansion of sourcing channels, and inclusive hiring and development policies and practices, we should be an employer of choice for women in Australia.
As Western Power continues to provide an essential service to its customers, the possibilities for women in their organization are expanding and evolving along with the energy sector in WA.