Women Empowering Women

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Hunter Business Mining celebrated International Women’s day with the inspiring story of Sarah Withell on March 6, 2020. 

Leaders from the mining industry gathered on March 6 in celebration of women in the industry. As the first Hunter Business mining even for 2020, the day saw men and women come together at Merewether Surfhouse to listen to guest speaker, Sarah Withell, Head of HSE Business Partnership – BMC & NSWEC at BHP.

It was fantastic to see women of all professional levels in the audience, including women who work at the coalface and women in executive roles. There was a strong representation of women in the room, but also men in attendance. 

After their long-standing support of the Chamber, Orica have stepped down as sponsor with Strata Worldwide taking their place. Strata Worldwide General Manager, Tony Lobb, started by singing his praises for the women in his life and around him before welcoming Sarah to the stage.

The room was silent with anticipation as BHP’s Sarah Withell, chair of the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue and guest speaker stepped to the stage, and she was nothing short of amazing. 

From the moment she started speaking, Sarah gave raw stories and encounters from her career. She spoke with confidence and you could tell how much she believed in herself. Sarah was easy to relate to and has experienced many of the things that we had all experienced. When you think of the word inspiring, it’s easy to think of someone like Sarah, a down to earth, strong woman who has carved her way to the top. 

“I remember my dad asking me what I would do and what I would do next, and I said something along the lines of I might like to be a personal assistant or I might like to travel or I might like to do this and he turned around and said ‘Funny I always thought you’d be the boss,’” Sarah said.

ATCF 7.1 Women 2
Keynote Speaker Sarah Withell, Head of HSE Business Partnership – BMC & NSWEC at BHP

“So he has always been one of my greatest supporters deeply with my success, and has encouraged me to stretch myself into challenging roles.”

Sarah welcomed the changes to the industry over the years as we strive our way to equality in the workforce, but acknowledged there is still more to be done. 

When addressing what advice she would give to any female looking to make their way up in the mining industry, Sarah spoke passionately of both the benefits and challenges that may lie ahead. 

“We should never underestimate the value of having a path forwards, a role model to look forward to. Pathways show women the what, the why and the how to aspire to leadership,” Sarah said. 

The speech finished with a huge round of applause from the audience, and a flood of smiles as you looked around the room. It was a fantastic lunch, with a truly inspiring leader giving the audience their life and career experiences and a brilliant event for our industry.

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