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Meet the grass-roots initiative that turned into a global network supporting the women at Weir

Julie Truss Weir Minerals
· 650 words, 3 minute read

In the lead up to AusIMM's International Women's Day Event Series, we asked the newly appointed Chair of Weir's Women's Network (Australia), Julie Truss, to share the success story of a grass-roots initiative founded by women on the engineering floor, that momentously flourished into a global women's network.

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Julie Truss, Weir Minerals General Manager Operations - East at  a Tailings Booster Station, Queensland

When Weir Minerals’ Regional Managing Director (RMD) Kristen Walsh first commenced with the organisation in 2021, it wasn’t too long before it became clear that she is a passionate advocate for inclusion and diversity. Kristen approached me to launch an Australian chapter of the Weir Women’s Network, an initiative that started at a grassroots level at Weir ESCO in 2014 in the United States and has since expanded to Weir locations all around the globe.

After having some time to think through how this could work in Australia – I decided I needed to reach out to women from as many Weir locations across the country as possible and in differing roles to ensure a diverse representation. At the time I did not realise how important this would be, I just knew we needed broad feedback. Having worked at Weir Minerals for 20 years, in many different roles that involved travel, I had gained a large number of contacts, co-workers and friends within the organisation. So, I started calling them to talk about the Network. Every person I spoke to was keen to get involved – I couldn’t believe it!

The next step was to bring everyone together in a virtual format to explore what our Network should focus on and how we could make a positive impact. Kristen Walsh and Melissa Davison (Managing Director Australasia, Weir ESCO) both attended showing their commitment by listening and understand our needs.

Our committee was then formed and I was elected chair of the Australian chapter of the Network.

We soon after developed a SharePoint page for the Network with bios on our committee members, our vision and mission as well as information on our inaugural launch event.

Our launch event was held in November 2022 and was a “Virtual coffee with Kristen and Melissa”. It was attended by more than 260 employees – over a quarter of all employees in Australia!

For the event, we made sure to strongly encourage women and all supporters regardless of gender, especially leaders and managers, to attend. In the lead up to the event, our committee members fielded many questions from men in our organisation who were “Just checking whether it’s OK for me to attend?” Our response? “Yes, of course!”. 

We learnt from this that just inviting people was not enough, additional encouragement was required. The amazing women on the committee made sure to talk about the event to their colleagues at every opportunity – in meetings, one-on-one's, in lunch rooms, on teams calls. Having representation from our committee at most locations and in different parts of the business meant that our reach was broad and the impact significant.

After the event, we sent out a survey to seek feedback and research on what our new community would like to see from the Network going forward. Anecdotal feedback from the survey revealed people felt motivated and there was higher engagement following the event.

I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved in the short time the Weir Women’s Network has been in Australia. My heartfelt thanks go out to our committee members for their dedication, hard work, and most importantly their willingness to be honest, listen to others, and go out of their way to make all others feel included.

For me personally, the journey so far has shown me the incredible impact feeling included, supported and comfortable has on a workplace. Being represented is fundamental to this.

Image: Trudi at Copper mine in NSW with colleagues Grant Payseno and Nirmal Weerakesara

Julie at a copper mine in NSW with colleagues Grant Payseno and Nirmal Weerasekara

What is the Weir Women’s Network?

Weir's Women Network is dedicated to attracting, retaining and developing women working at Weir. Interestingly, it did not start from a corporate initiative, but rather as a grass-roots effort by the women on the engineering floor at Weir ESCO in Portland, Oregon, in 2014. The network has gradually expanded to Weir locations across the globe, including here in Australia.

What’s next for the Weir Women’s Network?

We are planning to repeat our “Virtual Coffee” format regularly, featuring interviews with women across all disciplines in resources. Mentoring will be a high priority in response to the feedback we received from Weir employees, so facilitating a supportive mentoring program will help relationships thrive across the business.

This article was written by Julie Truss from Weir Minerals, a Signature partner for AusIMM's International Women's Day Event Series 2023. 

For more inspiring stories like Julie's, make sure to follow AusIMM on social media and follow the hashtag #CelebratingWomeninMining

Join us for our fifth national International Women's Day Event Series, 3-10 March for inspiring celebratory luncheons and workshops where we will continue the conversation on diversity and inclusion in the resources sector.
There is just under a month left, so get your tickets here today!

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