Breaking down barriers; opening up new horizons

Breaking down barriers; opening up new horizons

In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, and this year’s theme, #BeBoldForChange, we are featuring stories from our leaders and employees throughout the month of March, describing their own bold moments in relation to workplace equality and honoring diversity and inclusion.

How would you encourage women reading this to #BeBoldForChange?

My advice is to move out of your comfort zone, be brave and back yourself by setting stretch goals. If you encounter a barrier, seek input, advice and support to overcome or work around it.

Open yourself up to new experiences and different cultures. Relocating overseas is a bold change, but one with many rewards — you can learn a tremendous amount about yourself and other people through travel. I suggest women (and men) actively look for opportunities to gain more of a global perspective. There will be times during your career when travel will not be feasible or a high priority, but if you have the chance and the timing works, I say to go for it.

If travel is not an option, you can expand your horizons and build your global network through active online participation in AECOM’s technical practice groups and through LinkedIn connections.

How would you like to impact the world for women through your own actions?

Several years ago, I attended an amazing workshop on gender balance led by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, who recently wrote an inspiring piece in the Harvard Business Review, “How CEOs Can Put Gender Balance on the Agenda at Their Companies.”

I am deeply grateful to have been invited to this workshop, as it changed my perspective completely. Even though I was a senior woman leader, I was oblivious to some of the challenges related to gender bias that women can face as they progress in the workplace. Recognising these barriers and helping remove them became very important to me. It also showed me that regardless of gender, you can always work to be more empathetic with the people in your workplace and life in general.

One of the reasons I joined AECOM was the company’s focus on diversity and inclusion. Just one example in our Australia/New Zealand region is how we support women’s careers through the M-Circles mentoring program. The mentoring circles meet regularly to discuss common challenges facing professional women and senior leaders of both genders and give people the opportunity to share their perspectives on how to achieve their career aspirations.

I see it as a privilege to be able to facilitate and support women’s career advancement. On a personal level, I have two daughters of my own, and I want them to have fulfilling careers.

How do you recognize when opportunity knocks?

Career opportunities don’t always come at convenient times. I had my first major opportunity to advance when a manager and close friend unexpectedly decided to leave the company after a major restructure. I was asked to take the role, which I felt I was not qualified for, but I accepted it and found my way. I had to let go of my detailed planning and organising behaviors and, most importantly, I learned to delegate and empower others.

Conversely, I had opportunities to continue my global career and instead chose to return to Australia to be closer to family. This in turn created the opportunity for me to join AECOM — a company I am proud to be part of, in a role that I am extremely passionate about, and in a location that means a lot to me at this time in my life.

What is your 2017 pledge to be bold for change?

I will support AECOM to embrace digital technologies so we can gain efficiencies, differentiate ourselves and create new value for our clients. I will also surround myself with the brightest and most diverse group of people I can find, and support women entering technical fields.

Colette_Munro_AECOM_BW_89x100Colette Munro is chief digital officer for AECOM in Australia and New Zealand. After graduating as an electrical engineer from Newcastle University (Australia), Colette contributed in technical and project management roles on engineering projects across Australia, Europe and South Africa. She then managed a software development team, working full time while completing her master’s degree in business administration, before taking the step into business leadership. Over the last 10 years, she has been a leader in digital strategy and innovation.

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