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Assistant Project Manager

Emily is an emerging talent who wants to see a world in which gender equality is just not a KPI, but an accepted reality. She believes that education, mentorship and honest conversations are the most powerful ways to reverse gender bias at work.

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Who is Emily Salvati?

Emily is the Assistant Project Manager for the Bowden project. She manages a large number of contracts related to site works within the precinct, including civil and geotechnical activity on future townhouse sites, while also providing planning advice to the project team. She loves the diversity of her role and the tangible outcomes it produces.

When you decided to pursue your current career, did you give much thought to gender?

I never thought about gender at the start of my career: absolutely not. When I first entered the workforce, my attention was more focused on being a Development Assessment Planner, which is a field that has a good mix of females and males. I think because of that, when I transitioned to a Project Officer role (and am now in an Assistant Project Manager role), gender was not something that I envisaged to be an issue or factor.

Have you ever felt that your gender made it difficult for you to have a voice in the workplace?

I have certainly felt at times that my gender has made it difficult for me to be taken seriously in the workplace, especially being new to the Assistant Project Manager role. My confidence is sometimes tested as I feel like I don’t have the experience to voice my thoughts or ideas even though I know I am more than capable. I find this especially true when I’m in a room full of senior male Project Managers who can be intimidating and who sometimes dismiss ideas I put forward or think I am just there just to take minutes.

Please tell us about one of your greatest female role models in life.

One of my greatest role models is the former Project Director for Bowden, Alicia Davidge. When I first started at Renewal SA, Alicia was the only female Project Director in the organisation. She knew how to hold her own in a room full of male executives and she didn’t let them intimidate her; she just got on with the job and I remember thinking, ‘I want to be as confident as that one day’.

What do you consider to be your some of your greatest professional (and personal) achievements?

One of my greatest achievements has been working on the team responsible for the sale of the former Brompton Gasworks site within greater Bowden. This land release was one of the biggest projects that I have worked on to date and is now one that is set to transform Adelaide’s inner west. On a personal note, I am also very proud of achieving work-life balance, maintaining long-standing friendships and keeping my herb garden alive!

What advice would you give your younger self about the world of work?

I would tell myself to embrace every opportunity that comes my way, even those opportunities that I don’t seek but that cross my path anyway. I would also tell myself to develop a thick skin and that even though peers may judge me, play favourites and show bias, I can’t ever let that define me as a person or an employee.

What message would you give other women who might seek to work in your field?

I would tell other women to stay passionate, remember why they chose the path they did, and pay no heed to other members of the workforce who may seek to scare them out of pursuing their career aspirations just because they are female. I would also tell them that it is important to find a mentor to support them, embrace every challenge, give themselves the opportunity to grow and maintain a strong self-belief.

How can men be more supportive of women in the workplace?

I think that men can be more supportive of women simply by acknowledging that bias exists and backing them when they are confronted by it. For some, gender bias can be a daily battle. Importantly, I would like more men to understand that their female peers are not necessarily there to perform administrative duties or the ‘daily grind’ work that men are just as capable of undertaking themselves.

How do you think workplaces can achieve greater success in breaking down gender bias?

There is scope for a new type of course or professional development workshop that can educate men about gender bias in the workplace and give them the tools and strategies they need to work with women to help reverse this type of organisational behaviour. Given that there are already courses for women on how to navigate a male-dominated workplace, maybe it’s time to turn this on it head and train the men—who constitute more than 50% of the Australian workforce—and not just the women.

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