Mandurah chemical engineer breaking through male dominated industry 

PIC: Supplied

Curtin graduate Katie Marshall is leading the charge and proving women can succeed in the male dominated industry of engineering.

The 22-year-old Mandurah local has just landed a graduate chemical engineering role at Alcoa of Australia's Wagerup alumina refinery and has also taken out three awards in Curtin University's fourth-year engineering prizes. 

As a high school graduate Katie took out Alcoa’s Bev Corless Memorial Scholarship, which helped fund her engineering studies.

Growing up in Harrisdale, Katie’s career trajectory into mining came as a surprise to her family.

“We are not a family of engineers or miners,” she said.

“Mum is a primary school teacher and Dad is a carpenter by trade. My younger brother started studying surveying last year with the hope of also entering the mining industry. There’s certainly a lot more hi-vis fluro in the laundry than there used to be.”

Katie said engineering seemed an obvious and ideal career choice for her as she loved maths, science and creating new things through problem solving.

“Engineering is very creative as it gives you the chance to think outside the box and come up with solutions that don’t yet exist,” she said.

“You also can research and discover brand new ideas or pursue ideas further. I chose chemical engineering because I really liked working with processes.”

Katie is now encouraging other women to consider careers in traditionally male-dominated industries, including the resources sector.

“When I was in high-school, I had never even considered the possibility of working in the resources sector,” she said.

“It was such a foreign concept, especially with me being a girl. Looking back, I think we can do more to show young females that there are jobs in this industry that they would enjoy.

“I do work mostly with men, but I have found all of them more than willing to teach me and include me, whether it be taking the time to step me through some piping, or chatting around the lunch table.”

Alcoa of Australia Chairperson and Managing Director Michael Parker echoed Katie’s call, saying diversity was essential to the company’s ongoing success.

“A culture of inclusion is what we strive to create at Alcoa,” he said.

“We want every employee to bring their whole selves to work and feel included and valued for who they are and for the diversity of ideas and experiences they bring.

“It’s proven that companies that invest in diversity outperform and employees who feel valued are more creative, innovative and productive. The business case is clear and the personal benefits are significant and worth striving for.”

Alcoa has been named an employer of choice for 16 consecutive years by the Federal Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

As one of the agency’s Pay Equity Ambassadors, Michael said he was proud that in 2017 Alcoa was successful in reducing the pay gap, increasing female workforce participation and attracting, promoting and retaining women.

Katie said engineering was a challenging degree and it was important to surround yourself with supportive people and maintain a balanced lifestyle while studying.

“My school teachers at Carey Baptist College (in Harrisdale) encouraged me to pursue engineering and I am grateful for my family who have been by my side the whole time,” Katie said.

“I also had a really good network of friends and mentors while studying at university.”

“My advice to others considering further studies is to volunteer, play a sport, learn an instrument, just make sure you take a break and connect with others.”


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