Breaking the mold

Article image - Breaking the mold

Gnowangerup Shire has the unusual credit of being the only council in Western Australia with a female Works Manager according to the Local Government Supervisors Association.

And Yvette Wheatcroft believes she has earned her title.

“I was put in the position because I had the experience, and then I had to work hard to prove it.”

Wheatcroft doesn’t think she gets any favours from being a female, if anything she has had to work harder.

The 16 person works team at Gnowangerup Shire is quite multicultural which Wheatcroft thinks helps to lessen the stereotypes.

“For us its not about who you are, its about how hard you work,” she said.

“We have a really inclusive workforce; Indigenous workers, Kiwis, a Pilipino – the boys are quite accepting of having a female boss.

“Since I’ve been here I’ve brought in two other female employees. 

“They’ve fitted in really well, there’s been no issue with the boys. They just accept people for who they are.

“Women are gentle on machinery – its quite well known in the mining
industry,” she adds. 

Angie, an experienced plant operator, worked for several years in the private sector before coming to Gnowangerup Shire 12 months ago. 

She’s has plans to move to the technical side of things as in road asset management.

Beth is a trainee. 

“We advertised for a plant operator and weren’t successful so we arranged to take on this young girl after having worked with her through a contractor. 

“She approached us and we created a traineeship for her.”

Wheatcroft is ambivalent on whether there should be more women in traditionally male roles and is unsure if gender makes a difference to aptitude or rather attitude counts more.

“I believe it’s important that women think they can enter the field if they want to.

“Empathy helps in management. Looking for the good things in people. Praising people for the little things they do allows them to accept being pulled
up for something.”

Wheatcroft agrees that working in a traditionally male field is challenging. 

“You do have to work harder.

“People will turn to the man in the room when looking for the Works Manager not expecting a woman to hold the role.

“Some men don’t want to work with me, they want to deal with the men on the team.

“We have a female CEO but I don’t think you get any favours [from other women] if anything you have to work harder for them.”

Wheatcroft has grown into the role taking on more tasks and responsibilities as her confidence has grown. 

“I came in as Works Assistant and I was good at it. I really enjoyed it and I think if you enjoy something it’s easy.”

She has recognised the value of networking and feels well supported by colleagues and peers.

“We have a really good network of works managers within the region, we have meetings 3-4 times a year where 30 people come together. They’ve been really supportive.”

Wheatcroft came from a farming background, has worked as an archaeologist in the mining industry, and joined the Department of Agriculture as a technical officer doing research projects for the CSIRO involving genetics and sheep – lots of sheep.

Working in local government has given her the feeling that she can really make a difference.

“You see how things work at a strategic level but you actually make it work at the ground level, and I enjoy that.

“I enjoy managing people. I enjoy teams working together. Its really rewarding, quite challenging, but I really enjoy it.

“I’ve still got a lot to learn,” said Wheatcroft, “but I ask a lot of questions.

“If there is something I don’t know I don’t mind asking. 

“I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman.”