Celebrating Greater Female Participation in the Drilling Industry

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated around the world on the 8th of March. It is a day to recognise women for their achievements, to build support for women’s rights and to encourage the full participation of women in business, politics and the community.

The IWD 2020 campaign theme is #EachforEqual. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions. We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can make change happen and help to create a gender equal world.

At Magnetic People, we are passionate about fortifying gender equality in business environments, in which access to career opportunities and rewards is unaffected by gender. This IWD, we want to celebrate the achievements of women who have actively challenged stereotypes and fought bias, as well as celebrate the Companies that have adopted progressive policies and promoted the career development of women in traditionally male-dominated industries and roles.

As such, we spoke to Melanie Andersen, a Trainee Diamond Driller at McKay Drilling.

Hi Mel, could you tell us a little about how you got to where you are today?

Funnily enough, it started with being stalled in my navy application due to my tattoo’s! I got told I couldn’t join until I got one of my tattoos removed because you can’t have any visible ones in uniform. When that happened, my mother happened to tag me in a news article on Facebook about a drilling company who was about to start hiring women. I thought it would be a good temporary job until I could get my tattoo removed, but instead, I’ve fallen in love with drilling and everything that comes with it.

What prompted you to pursue a career as a Diamond Driller?

I would say the moment that I stepped on the pad I just fell in love with it. I definitely feel like I fit into this industry, like a puzzle piece, with the other personalities that work in it. I love physical work, and that coupled with women being so rare in the industry, it really made me want to be an example and encourage more women to join the industry in the future.

Can you share the steps you took to get into the role?

After I emailed the company and got an interview, the main thing was getting my truck license. After that, I was sent for inductions, and roughly a week later I was flying to site. I definitely recommend that anyone interested in the role research it like I did. Knowing what you are going into is a big help since a lot of new starters don’t realise the workload when they first arrive.

Have you faced any challenges, both in and out of the workplace, that are specific to being a woman? How have you overcome these challenges?

When I first started, there was a large and audible push back from a lot of the crews about hiring women, so much so that in my first interview they warned me about the negative attitudes. The best way to make change is to prove these attitudes wrong and work as hard as you possibly can. Do not accept that you aren’t getting anywhere because of other people, we are all responsible for our own work ethic, and if you put in the work, no one will have any poor attitudes towards you. I have to shout out to my drillers – Steve, Rabbit, Taffy, Combi, and Glenn – who have never treated me any differently and have taught me everything I needed to succeed on the rig.

What support has your Company or Manager provided you with that has helped you succeed in your role?

Both drilling companies I have worked under were amazing in providing good equipment and crews. These guys really are for MVPs for women in drilling because I wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t believed women could do the role and given me a chance. The main thing that my supervisors and managers (shout out to Boomer, Phil, Meataxe and Thirsty) have done that has made a world of difference to me personally is using their experience as a driving factor for women in the industry. A lot of younger blokes have had attitudes about girls in the past, and to have these guys with years and years’ of experience and so much respect attached to their names turn around and openly support women in the role, it really changes a lot of people’s minds. They have seen and done it all, and you’re not about to argue with a driller who’s been doing it longer than some offsiders have been alive.

Are there any key actions that you think leaders can take to employ and retain women in male-dominated workforces?

Not a lot of women know about roles like mine or know that some amazing companies hire women for those roles. I think the main obstacle is being patient, in time more women will join and it will become more known around Australia. I believe my company, McKay Drilling, is setting the benchmark right now for employing and retaining women in the industry. They have the right supervisors and support out in the field to support this movement.

You’re also an accomplished fisher; how did you get into fishing?

It was a family activity when I was younger. My parents would take us up to Kalbarri for a family holiday once a year and let us kids loose on the jetty and beaches. For the rest of the year out in the country, I was watching fishing shows and reading fishing books to get my fix. Luckily my parents are very supportive of my hobby despite it sometimes being expensive. I guess it helps that they always have a freezer full of fish!

Where’s your favourite or most memorable place to fish? Any interesting stories to share?

My favourite is without a doubt the Montebello islands. I go out there for a week at a time with Blue Lightning Charters and the fishing is incredible. There are big, nasty fish and even nastier sharks. I also love the history of the islands. They were used to test nuclear bombs back in the 1950s, but I haven’t caught a three-eyed fish out there yet! One of my favourite fishing stories (and definitely my mother’s) was going to Queensland to get an infamous 1-metre Barra. When I got a 101cm monster, I was so happy, only for 15 minutes later my mother to bring in a massive 115cm beast. She really showed me how it’s done that day!

On a tough day, who or what do you find inspiration from?

My inspiration definitely comes from my family. One of my family’s main focuses is work ethic, and it makes me proud to work hard and do well in a difficult job. My father is extremely supportive of me being in a male industry, and my mother and brother know first-hand about my role as they are both FIFO as well. There’s no way I’m about to let the team down when I love the job this much.

Do you have any messages that you would like to share with women pursuing equality in male-dominated situations?

Go and smash it! Just know that the longer you work hard and strive to be the best at your job, the less kickback you will get. And that goes the same for the men out there, if you love your job, are good at it, and support others in the industry, people will listen and build you up the same. Oh, and for the girls on the rigs, trucks are the best shields for going to the bathroom. Haha.

We loved getting to know Mel and are so grateful she let us share and celebrate her story.

To our readers, what action will you take to help forge a more gender equal world? How will you take action to address gender bias in the workplace?

To learn more about how to take action and improve gender equality in your business, reach out to Magnetic People for a chat.