Steve Cooper on why we should #PressForProgress

I was lucky enough to join Advisian, part of the WorleyParsons Group, in 2010. This was my first managerial role responsible for people, and I really wanted to focus on doing the right thing. I was very lucky that I had a wonderful female boss and mentor in Jan Hayes who helped shape my thinking and my outlook at work. She is a technically-gifted person who has helped shape the Australian oil and gas landscape, and is still one of the smartest people I know.

Since 2010, I have employed a reasonable number of people with WorleyParsons and Advisian, and fortunately, the areas of the business that I have been a part of have always grown, even during the quiet time. When I reflect back over the last 20 hires, of which at least 75% were female - a rather odd statistic for an energy support business - I wondered what did I actually do differently?

Did I go out to hire a female over a male? No. I focused on getting the right person for the role, the person with the right attitude and ability to be able to listen to our clients and then deliver. On reflection this happened to be from not only a mix of females but also a mix of cultures and experiences too.

In the past few weeks I have listened to a few prominent speakers on the topic of diversity and inclusion, one of which was Fiona Vines, Diversity & Inclusion Lead at BHP. As a typical man, I was left with some questions about certain aspects of the talk and wondered what I could do differently. I came to the conclusion that I had almost missed the point, and the inclusion component was equally important as the diversity part. If you want/need different opinions and alternate ideas, then you need a diverse pool of thoughts. However these ideas and new knowledge are useless if you are not willing to embrace them and include it in your business. Thank you, Fiona.

Did I go out to hire a female over a male? No. I focused on getting the right person for the role.

This led me to contemplate, why had I potentially been more successful than others in regards to teams that I have led? My conclusion is that I was able to create a safe environment for debate and differences of opinion to occur, I fostered inclusion in my teams and wanted to hear everyone’s voice; even the dissenters.

Gripes were aired in the open and barriers removed. We did the simple things well; so we could focus on open conversations and improvements that helped the team get better, become more knowledgeable and stronger. The environment allowed people to flourish and people embraced it. I learnt that the best team was not about gender, although some of the most intelligent people I know are female, it was about an openness to listen to input from others and include it; to acknowledge an alternate and to be brave and go with it sometimes.

I have also realised that I was one of the few that had already been practising these principles of diversity and inclusion within WorleyParsons and Advisian without really knowing it.

Many of our life attributes come from learnt behaviours. I was lucky enough to have a female mentor for over seven years – thanks Jan! - and I think she heavily influenced my style. But at the same time she always wanted me to be me, as you can only be you!

I share my short story in the hope that other leaders will see it. Diversity can and does work, and we can all further #PressForProgress.

Steve Cooper

Steve Cooper

Director - Energy Chemicals & Resourcing

Steve is a chartered chemical engineer with over 20 years of experience in the offshore oil and gas and onshore petrochemical industries. His specialist fields of competence include concept selection, safety engineering, formal safety assessments, risk assessments and computer consequence modelling of hydrocarbon and toxic chemicals. His excellent knowledge of toxic, flammable and combustible hazardous materials stands out when looking for inherently safe solutions.