International Women's Day 2024

ASI celebrates International Women's Day

ASI is a proud supporter of inclusive work cultures where women’s careers thrive and their achievements are celebrated. This special feature to mark International Women’s Day on March 8 recognises the vital role women are playing in growing steel’s future.  

Sandra Orlando, Lendlease

Sandra Orlando has more than 25 years’ experience working in the construction industry. General manager of one of Lendlease’s largest divisions the NSW Construction Business, Sandra is fully accountable for safety, profit, loss and its people. Sandra’s interest in steel construction was sparked by her father, also a civil engineer, who ran a construction company in Sydney for more than 20 years. “I begged him to take me from site to site with him on weekends and school holidays as a kid; he thought my brother would follow him into building, but it was me.” Sandra said Lendlease was a great company for advancing the interests of its women employees. “All of our women have earned their positions through hard work and merit-based performance. In NSW alone we have 43 women who have had a 15 year + successful career at Lendlease across a variety of leadership roles." Sandra’s key projects in recent years include working on the Powerhouse Museum development at Parramatta, the Liverpool Hospital & Academic Precinct and CommBank Stadium. Lendlease is an international building company with an Australian heritage. Sandra is a board member of the ASI.

Bethan Farmer, Icon Metal

Bethan Farmer is business development manager at Icon Metal, a Silverwater NSW-based structural and architectural steel fabrication workshop. Flexibility is critical for the Wollongong mum of four school-age kids, who works two days from home, and two in the Silverwater office. “In a field where only 12% of workers are female nationwide, Icon Metal recognises the important role women play and work towards supporting their efforts,” Beth said. This includes helping women navigate parenting, pursuing higher education, managing mental health, or simply navigating the complexities of life. “About a year ago my body started to change in unpredictable ways; perimenopause left me feeling like an imposter at work. I was lucky enough to receive help from my GP and my understanding CEO that allowed me to reach a place where I can continue to do my job. Many women aren’t so lucky and suffer quietly because in many workplaces it’s a taboo subject.” Icon Metal’s services include miscellaneous metalwork, balustrades, glass, cladding, rigging and project management. Its in-house capabilities include building information modelling and metal fabrication. 

Lauren Baxter, United Steel

Lauren Baxter is a driving force for steel as the national marketing manager for United Steel. Including GAM Steel and Calibre Steel, United Steel has a national footprint servicing Australian steel businesses across many industries. Lauren’s role also oversees marketing for steel distribution business Coil Steels. Lauren is instrumental in helping the ASI connect people to the ASI’s compliance schemes – namely the Steelwork Compliance Australia and Steel Sustainability Australia certification programs. Prior to United Steel, Lauren worked in marketing roles for BlueScope. United Steel distributes steel products manufactured by leading steel mills including BlueScope, Liberty, InfraBuild, Bisalloy Steels, Orrcon Steel and AusTube Mills. Lauren has a Master of Marketing from Monash University.

Karen Bonenfant, BlueScope

Global safety manager for BlueScope Karen Bonenfant is a key figure in promoting safety in the steel industry, most recently as convenor of the Global Safety Summit in Wollongong NSW. Karen was one of three BlueScope women who shared their safety experiences at the summit. Others included BlueScope chief executive Australian steel products Tania Archibald and chief legal officer, company secretary and event panellist Debra Counsell. The summit was organised by Karen to provide an opportunity for attendees to gain real-life lessons in safety innovation, with 28 unique network sessions. Karen has 14-years’ experience in supply chain, transportation and OHS management and a master’s degree in supply chain management.

Emma Carrigan, Belmore Engineering

Belmore Engineering administration and finance manager Emma Carrigan plays a key role in promoting jobs in steel in the northwest region of NSW. Over her 15 years with the company Emma has been instrumental in organising careers expos in Tamworth, including this year’s engineering and manufacturing showcase to help young people take up careers in steel and address trade worker shortage in the area. The showcase provided information to locals on how apply for apprenticeships, traineeships, and general positions in Tamworth's leading engineering and manufacturing businesses. Belmore Engineering is the largest steel fabrication workshop in northern NSW, having made the transition from basic fabrication and fencing to customised structural steel for tier 1 and tier 2 building projects including the Western Sydney International Airport and Shell House, Wynard. Its Flash Starts Program connects secondary schools with employers and offers a work experience opportunity for school students in the metal fabrication industry. The program is supported the NSW Government’s Regional Industry Education Partnerships (RIEP) program and is an infrastructure skills legacy program which aims to nurture future industry talent and provide career pathway opportunities.

Heidi Hutchins, Hutchins Bros Engineering

Heidi Hutchins is a director of Hutchins Bros Engineering, a family-owned fabrication workshop in country NSW. Heidi has 20 years’ experience in construction contract management and administration and a background in property equity research. She was awarded a university medal for her academic achievements while undertaking a bachelor’s degree in construction management. Heidi is responsible for managing the Narrandera-based firm’s operations, administration and business development, and maintains an active role in the tender and project delivery process. She also oversees the development and application of the firm’s occupational health and safety and quality procedures.  Heidi sits on the impartiality panel for Steel Compliance Australia and is an active participant in the ASI’s diversity and inclusion group.

Stephanie Johnston, InfraBuild

Stephanie Johnston is a marketing coordinator in InfraBuild’s Newcastle, NSW office. For the past 13 years Stephanie has provided graphic design, writing and desk top publishing services for InfraBuild nationally. Her work includes producing brochures, flyers, and ads; and content for conventions and trade shows. Born and raised in Maitland in Newcastle’s north west, Stephanie’s links to the steel industry go back to her grandfather’s day when he worked for Comsteel just across the road from InfraBuild. The biggest change Stephanie has noticed in her 13 years in the steel industry is the strong focus now on sustainability and lower carbon emissions. She said more women are taking up steel careers, particularly in STEM areas including engineering. While the industry is more attractive for women, more could be done to encourage women into senior executive roles, she said.

Denise Orr, Stramit

With more than 30-years’ global leadership experience holding several C-suite roles, Denise Orr is carving a new path for women in steel as executive general manager of roll formed steel manufacturer Stramit. Denise is passionate about harnessing talent, building capability and generating sustainable results with positive impacts for people and the planet. She is putting her experience in Australia, Asia, USA and EU within large scale, (A$100Bln +) multi-nationals to work further building Stramit’s reputation as a leading supplier of roll formed products, Denise is a board member of the Australian Steel Institute (ASI), with Stramit a founding member of the institute.

Rachel Schmidtke, WGA

Rachel Schmidtke is a structural engineer in Wallbridge Gilbert Aztec’s (WGA) Brisbane buildings team. She designs structures across a variety of sectors including health and aged care, defence, education, and sport and recreation. Rachel served as chair of the South Australia Women in Engineering Committee for Engineers Australia and facilitated discussions for its International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) breakfast prior to moving to WGA’s Brisbane office a month ago. She is passionate about getting young women interested in STEM careers and making the engineering industry a better place for women. Rachel said INWED gives female engineers around the world a profile in an industry where they are still under-represented. Only 13% of engineers in Australia were women in 2022, a number which has remained unchanged over the past decade. Days such as International Women’s Day and INWED create space to celebrate the achievements of women while also recognising areas for improvement, Rachel says. Further to that they play a vital role in encouraging more young women and girls to both take up and stay in an engineering career. Rachel won the small buildings category at the ASI’s 2022 Steel Excellence Awards for her work on the Memorial Tennis Centre building project.

Vikki Wood, Vulcan

Vikki Wood has been instrumental in Vulcan’s take up of Steelwork Compliance Australia (SCA), ASI’s certification scheme for the supply, fabrication and erection of structural steelwork. She has also contributed to several other ASI compliance areas. Vikki joined Vulcan’s Brisbane office seven years ago as first an internal sales and later operations lead. Her responsibilities include managing procurement, HR and operational expenses for Vulcan’s Brisbane office and warehouse sites and its 30 employees.  She said ASI’s compliance schemes were important tools for fabricators, enabling them to more easily meet their regulatory requirements and compete for work, keeping fabricated steel in Australia.