Extending support of women beyond International Women’s Day

For Swietelsky Rail Australia (SRA), supporting women and their careers goes beyond marking International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March each year.

The 2024 IWD theme of ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress’ is always at the forefront of their choices and reminds their team that opportunities must be created for women within every industry.

According to the United Nations Women Australia, the theme is focused on “examining the pathways to greater economic inclusion for women and girls everywhere.”

For SRA, this means supporting events to empower women in the workplace to step into leadership roles and focusing on their own strategy to increase female participation in the workplace.

In their progress towards investing in women, SRA are aiming to increase female participation in the Australian rail industry both directly and indirectly. One of their initiatives to help with this goal is their ongoing corporate sponsorship of the Suzy Miller Women’s Leadership Development (WLD) Program.

The program supports emerging regional female leaders across all industries and sectors, and mentors who will grow them in their journey into leadership roles. This support has also been extended with SRA’s also sponsoring the upcoming BoostHER Professional Development Event in Maitland, NSW on 19 March 2024.

BoostHER was a transformative half-day event dedicated to supporting and empowering women in leadership roles or those aspiring to lead, embodying the 2024 IWD theme. It’s also designed to be an introduction to the Women in Leadership Development Program to show attendees the support and opportunities available for those in our region.

Managing Director of SRA, Anne Modderno, said that this sponsorship is close to her heart having been involved with the program herself, for over four years. She is delighted to lead SRA’s involvement with the program, and the impact of Suzy Miller’s team.

“SRA has always been passionate about providing leadership and career pathways for women. However, we were wanting to take that next step and support businesses and initiatives like Suzy Miller’s to help pave the way for future leaders across all industries,” Anne said.

“We’re hoping that events like BoostHER will remind us of the importance of investing in women in leadership, management and on-the-ground roles.”

SRA was also recently a sponsor and prize donor at The Equal Futures Project International Women’s Day breakfast in Newcastle. With all money raised from the event went towards Zara’s House Refugee Women and Children’s Centre. Guest speaker for the event was the ABC's 4Corners investigative reporter Louise Milligan.

Her book: Witness: An Investigation into the Brutal Cost of Seeking Justice and her investigative journalism into one specific case started the government process and introduction of consent laws across Australia. In her inspirational address, Louise shared her experiences and ongoing commitment to find the truth and report the facts, as she has continued to show us with her follow up reports covering Cranbrook School in Sydney.

In addition to supporting initiatives like the Women’s Leadership Development Program and the Equal Futures Project, SRA has been leading the charge for investing in women and women’s futures within their business.

Women represent 33 per cent of their executive leadership team, 25 per cent of their senior leadership team and 14 per cent of their total workforce.

SRA believes removing discrimination barriers around employee policies and leave entitlements is critical to create a workplace where equality can be achieved.

It is why they offer 12 weeks paid parental leave for all parents regardless of their primary or secondary carer status. This leave can be taken flexibly, for up to three years after the baby joins the family.

SRA were proudly ahead of the curve, offering superannuation on parental leave before the Federal Government announced on 07 March 2024 that it will pay superannuation on government paid parental leave commencing 01 July 2025.  

They also offer a range of other employee benefits including an additional week of leave a year as a ‘Balance Break’ or wellbeing leave, one paid day of volunteer leave a year and additional days for Long Service for every year accrued after five years.

Beyond these initiatives, SRA believes in the importance of creating a flexible work environment for all team members to help support their staff and families, and the option of minimum 2 weeks Family Care and Carer’s Leave.

Additionally, SRA’s Sustainability Strategy 2023-2025 specifically targets increasing female participation within the business and rail industry, as well as other STEM-related industries.  

It’s initiatives like this that have been brought into SRA following Anne’s first-hand experience of the challenges women face in the rail industry.

“Barriers and discrimination can occur in both complex and simple ways. Simple examples from early in my career include construction sites with no female bathrooms, PPE that didn’t fit me during pregnancy, and expectations that I organise work social events, take meeting notes or order lunches. Complex ways can have significant impacts on female employee wellbeing, confidence and her ability to progress her career, ” Anne said.

“Because of my own experiences, I want to ensure the women in my team and those I influence don’t feel the same way and that both men and women understand the importance of respecting all women and accelerating their careers.”

“Investing in women is more than just saying thank you on International Women’s Day. It is taking action every day to remove barriers to equality and calling out inequity when you see it.

“At SRA we’re ensuring our team are treated fairly, offered equal career opportunities, and everybody understands the importance of supporting the women on our team each and every day,” Anne concluded.