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Women excelling in non-traditional roles

A long-term commitment to gender equity has resulted in women accounting for 43 per cent of all management positions in the City of Sydney, including Chief Executive Officer.

But women are not just making it big in management, they are also thriving in a traditionally male-dominated roles as the City celebrates International Women’s Day.

In 2007, Jennifer Khan was working part-time at the Ultimo Community Centre, cooking affordable meals for disadvantaged residents, but she longed to secure full-time work at one of the City’s waste depots, where not many of her friends believed she’d be able to keep up with the boys.

Now 65, Jennifer is an experienced member of the City’s cleansing and waste team, helping to beautify city streets and cleaning up after major events like New Year’s Eve and Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

“I loved working part-time at Ultimo Community Centre, but wanted a full-time job and kept trying to get into the cleansing and waste team. No one seemed to think I’d be up to it,” Jennifer said.

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Jennifer Khan

“When I finally did get the job, it was a bit intimidating at first and there weren’t many guys who would stop and have a chat with me. They seemed to think I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them and that they’d have to behave differently because a woman was around.

“But it all changed when they finally gave me what was described as a ‘man’s job’ – going on a run on the back of a mini-compactor truck and emptying bins.

“After going on a few runs, I was essentially one of the boys. They realised that I could keep up with them and I wasn’t to be underestimated.

“I feel like such a great role model when I’m on the back of the trucks because I often get people waving at me, especially little girls, because they don’t expect to see a woman doing that job.

“It sends a message that a woman can do any job, even the really blokey ones, and that’s important for all the girls out there to know.

“Since I started in the team, it’s changed so much. More women have come along and we proved that we’re more than capable of doing what the guys do. We’re not just there to work in the office, we can roll up our sleeves and do a physical job.

“Hanging off the back of the truck has helped me see the good and bad of this city, but I’m happy to say it’s mostly good. I moved here from Perth about 20 years ago and was only meant to stay for a couple of years, but I loved how you could be on the Pyrmont Bridge and hear about 10 different languages being spoken.”

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said she was proud of the City’s record on equality in the workplace and providing career opportunities to women.

“Women make up nearly 40 per cent of our entire City workforce, despite the fact that many of our staff work in areas traditionally dominated by men,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Last year we conducted our first gender pay equity survey and found the City’s gender pay gap is 2.5 per cent, well below the public sector average of around 12 per cent and the national gap.”

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