Building Northrop's diversity infrastructure
As a young child raised on the NSW north coast, Northrop's Group Manager, Structural Drafting, Amanda Thomas, was brought up with the firm belief that she could do anything she wanted to do. Certainly, anything a man could do.
It was a belief instilled in her by her father and one she carried through her education. But one she found, upon starting her career, didn't necessarily reflect the reality of the early 2000s.
"It was a bit of a shock when I started work," says Amanda, who joined Northrop in 2018. "I've definitely had my fair share of knocks and hits, and experienced some pretty awful stuff in the industry.”
"When you're young, you just get on with it, until you get to a certain age and you just say 'no, that's not happening'."
The industry is a very different place today compared to what it was more than two decades ago, but Amanda's drive to make the sector a better, more inclusive place for everyone is stronger as ever.
And, as chair of Northrop's Diversity & Inclusion Committee, she is well placed to do just that.
"The whole purpose of the committee is to encourage a culture that's both accepting and celebratory," says Amanda, who's chaired the committee since 2019, after being a committee member previously.
"Northrop's mission is to realise potential – in both people and projects – and one of the ways we can help people realise their potential is by creating and nurturing an environment in which you can bring your whole self to work, and one in which you can express yourself."
Diversity and inclusion in action
The 17-strong committee comprises people from across the business and meets once a month.
As well as creating internal educational content and facilitating internal awareness events, the group also acts in an advisory capacity, helping all departments sense-check and improve their approach to diversity and inclusion.
Each month, working groups are formed from the committee to tackle projects within the group's five focus areas, cultural diversity, gender diversity, First Nations, LGBTQIA+ and family and good health.
As a senior leader in the business, Amanda's one of many strong role models in Northrop. And, as well as being passionate about the company's overall inclusion and diversity, she's also passionate about her role of Group Manager, Structural Drafting.
"There's the technical aspect as well as the people aspect," she says.
"From a technical perspective, I was a bridge drafter for the RMS and a couple of other organisations, and bridges are still a fulfilling specialty focus," she says.
"My drafting team and I are based in the Parramatta office, and I was asked to manage the team a couple of years ago. I'd not managed people before, I was very much focused on the technical side of the role, but I gave it a go and quickly discovered this to be an untapped skills potential and fulfilling part of my role.
"It has its challenges, but I really enjoy it, and we've built a great, settled team."
Walking the walk
In addition to role modelling leading technical attributes and strong managerial talents, mother-of-two Amanda is also a role model for flexible working in the business, working four days per week flexibly with some 7.30am starts to finish in time for the school run.
Amanda believes it's vitally important for all businesses to embrace diversity and inclusion and adapt themselves to the needs of different types of people.
"I've been really disappointed when I've heard much younger women express a fear around taking time off to have children and what that might do to their career," says Amanda.
"It not only takes the organisation to have the right attitude to flexibility – but that means very little if the leaders in the business don't walk the walk."
Fortunately, at Northrop, there are a number of leaders – including Amanda – doing just that.