Why we celebrate International Women's Day at HQP

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Why we celebrate International Women's Day at HQP

CEO Jason Wilson shares a few thoughts about the importance of International Women’s Day, how diversity leads to different perspectives and better decision-making, and the significance of appointing HQP’s first female District Manager, Tracey Grigor, and  first female General Manager, Michelle McAndrew, who has joined the Executive Leadership Team. A Q&A with Michelle follows outlining her career path, the obstacles she overcame, who inspired her along the way and how Michelle hopes to inspire others to achieve their own career goals.

Employee measuring the diameter of a Southern Pine tree using a diameter tape measure

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the achievements of women and a call to action for accelerating gender equality and eliminating bias. This year, Jason Wilson, HQPlantations CEO, says we have a lot to celebrate...and more to do.

“Once a year we take the time on International Women’s Day to recognise how far we have come over the last few decades to improve equality and inclusion for women. It is also a day to focus our attention on how far we have yet to go,” said Jason.

“For me, I see benefit in reflecting on what was once a completely different employment environment for women in HQP and being proud that we have progressed to a point where we have been recognised by Diversity Council Australia as an Inclusive Employer. But this has taken a long time and we have more to do. Our focus needs to be on the future more than where we have come from,” he said.

“This year’s theme for IWD being ‘Inspire Inclusion’ I think is very relevant to HQPlantations and our desire to have a Growing together Culture to create OneHQP. We have seen several changes in the relatively short time that I have been here including the recent announcement of two first’s for HQPlantations. We have appointed our first female District Manager, Tracey Grigor (pictured left), and our first female ELT member in Michelle McAndrew.

“Bringing diverse views to the Leadership table helps HQP make better decisions that are more informed, with better perspective. That relies on having qualified and capable people with the appropriate skills that are complimentary, yet in some cases different, to others at the table.

“Michelle has demonstrated for many years that her knowledge and insight adds value and her inclusion into ELT should be seen as inspiring to others. I am keen for this same model to be spread more widely across HQP and the industry. Diverse views are not only sought but valued across many different teams, not just the ELT Table. 

“There is so much potential for us to grow and prosper by harnessing the potential that exists already in the diverse knowledge and perspectives of the HQP team. Hopefully, Michelle’s promotion inspires more inclusion at all levels in HQPlantations,” said Jason.

Q&A with Michelle McAndrew, General Manager Stewardship

Michelle, this year’s International Women’s Day theme is Inspiring Inclusion. What does inclusion mean to you? To me it means being included in the conversation, feeling comfortable to speak up and knowing that I’ll be heard. HQP can inspire inclusion by having open communication lines and creating a safe space where people can raise ideas and concerns and ensuring feedback is provided and actioned when it is adopted.

Who are the women who have inspired you along your career path? My mum – raising five kids, supporting the family business and being involved often in a leadership capacity in a wide variety of community groups and events. She never shies away from a challenge!

Who did you look to for female role models in forestry? Within HQP that would be the growing cohort of women I work with every day and seeing how they collectively take on those challenges often unique or disproportionately affecting women, yet continue to ‘get stuff done’ to a high standard.

What obstacles have you experienced as a woman working in and working your way up in a male dominated industry and how did you overcome them? For the most part I’ve been lucky enough to work with a great group of men who have been open in sharing their knowledge in a respectful and supportive way. Probably the main challenge I’ve experienced is one I put down to unconscious bias, where despite proven performance there can be a lingering doubt whether you’re ready to step up to the next level. In overcoming this personally, my approach has just been to work hard and prove them wrong! More broadly, I think as industry continues to actively promote diversity, equity and inclusion and invest in leadership training, we will see more and more capable women taking on challenging roles and unconscious bias will become a thing of the past.     

You’re readiness has clearly been recognised now – you’ve just been promoted to the Executive Leadership Team, the first woman at HQP to reach this level. How do you think a woman on the ELT will inspire other women and help HQP become more inclusive? In breaking the ‘boys club’ stereo type, I hope having more diversity within the ELT will continue to shift our culture to one where there are no perceived barriers to women wanting to pursue career goals at any level of management and across all our business functions.

You’ve worked your way from an entry position as a graduate forester to a general manager. Can you take us through your career path?

2001 – Graduated with dual science and forestry degree from Australian National University

2001 – Forester in Training (various locations throughout SEQ (Southern Pine, Araucaria, inception of the hardwoods plantation program, cypress pine and hardwoods native forest management). The highlight was working out at Injune, staying in bush camps during week.

2002 – 2004 Forester for SE Hoop Region based in Gympie

2004 – 2008 Project Officer, Forest Policy Unit

2008 – 2013 Forester Sustainability

2013 – 2019 Senior Forester Sustainability

2019 – 2023 Stewardship Systems Manager

2023 – appointed to General Manager Stewardship

What do you find most satisfying about working in forest management? Knowing that everyday I’m working in an industry that’s growing a renewable product for the benefit of society without comprising the planet and having the privilege of seeing and experiencing those magical moments you can only find in the forest.

What advice would you give to other women at HQP?

You know there’s really something special about a workplace that regularly gets to celebrate people having been in the business for 20, 30 and even 50 years and hear them talk about how they still love what they do. People in the industry tend to be passionate about the environment and contributing to the production of renewable resources from the forest. To me, that passion, combined with a wide range of available roles, exciting developments in the use of cutting edge technology, and an industry being recognised as one of the most effective measures for combating climate change and you’ve got a pretty rewarding career opportunity!

Hosted by Board member Nancy Zhu and Michelle McAndrew, managers from across the business gathered to celebrate the growing presence of women in leadership at HQP on International Women’s Day 2024. 

Rear left to right: Nancy Zhu (Board member), Kim Lincolne (Business consultant), Kate Clapson (Woodflow Coordinator), Fiona Kirkman (Legal Counsel), Sally-Anne Smith (Resource Planning Manager), Stephanie Hunt (Stakeholder Engagement Manager).

Front left to right: Alison Dillon (Lead Stewardship Forester), Lynn Loftus (Financial Controller), Leisa Overs (Nursery Manager), Michelle McAndrew (General Manager Stewardship), Nicole Prajbisz (Forester), Kristie Gannon (Human Resources Manager).

Absent: Shona Heading (Commercial Planning Manager), Tracey Grigor (District Manager - Burnett & Downs).

Board member Nancy Zhu, business consultant Kim Lincolne, Human Resources Manager Kristie Gannon, General Manager Stewardship  Michelle McAndrew.