Top awards for Queensland resources sector trailblazers

Queenslanders have taken out two gongs in the Women in Resources National Awards (WIRNAs) presented at Parliament House in Sydney last night.

Dr Jennifer Purdie, a 30-year resources sector veteran and trail blazer for women in the field has won the Exceptional Woman in Australian Resources category.

Alicia Hurkmans’ dogged determination to become a process engineer and her fast progression through the ranks scored her the Exceptional Young Woman award.

Dr Purdie, Executive General Manager Gas Distribution with pipeline company Jemena, and Ms Hurkmans were among five Queenslanders who progressed to the national titles after taking out the state awards conducted by the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) and Women in Mining and Resources Queensland (WIMARQ) in March.

Dr Purdie has been a strong advocate for improving the gender balance in the resources sector workforce.

“Over the past 30 years, I have been one of very few women in the heavily male dominated resources businesses,” said Jenny.

“I consider it a privilege to pioneer the way for the women who have since followed in my footsteps,” she said.

“In 1997 when I joined New Zealand Aluminium Smelters as an operations superintendent, I was the second female ever to perform this role on that site, and in 2005 as Point Henry General Manager I was the first ever female leader of that site and the second ever female GM of an aluminium smelter in Australia.”

Dr Purdie has also found time to raise three children, contribute to the community through environment and disability groups, and mentor women in the resources sector, including through the QRC/WIMARQ Mentoring program.

She has a PhD in chemical engineering, an Executive MBA, and graduated from the Australian Institute of Company Directors course with Honours.

Awarded a $30,000 scholarship from the Australian Institute of Management in the Queensland awards, Dr Purdie gifted her prize to Ms Hurkmans.

Ms Hurkmans, Turnaround Engineer with Shell, said at the time she was ‘shell-shocked’ and incredibly grateful for the opportunity to take up the scholarship to further her academic qualifications and have Jenny as a mentor. She has already begun an MBA program under the scholarship.

“I hope that I can use the award to bring some recognition to the fact that there’s still a lot of work to be done within the diversity piece within our communities, within our industry and within our sector, and I hope that the work that is being done can be celebrated.

“There are a lot of young girls out there who need to hear about the women who are working in the resources sector. It’s an incredibly rewarding place to work.”

Alicia is already helping to mentor the next generation of women, being one of 20 mentors in the inaugural QRC/WIMARQ Girls Mentoring Program to encourage year-12 girls interested in resource sector careers.

“These state and national awards play a pivotal role in our sector’s efforts to bring better gender balance to our workforce,” said QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane.

“Over the past 12 years since the introduction of QRC’s Women in Resources Action Plan, the proportion of women working in non-traditional roles in our sector in Queensland has more than doubled to 14.5 percent (from 6 percent in 2006) in our latest survey of members.

“Overall women make up 16.5 percent of our workforce.

“The amazing technological advancements in our sector are making it easier for men and women to balance working in resources industries with family other commitments.

“If we are to attract the best and brightest into our increasingly technological sector, we need to scoop from the entire talent pool, not just half of it.

“These awards provide a cohort of role models and ambassadors to inspire women to enter and remain in our resources sector.

“There are great economic and social benefits from a better gender balance in our sector and we believe that women should have equal access to the rewarding and high-paying careers it offers.”

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