30/01/2017 - 06:30

Guthrie powers on post-Toro

30/01/2017 - 06:30

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Former Toro Energy managing director Vanessa Guthrie says recruiting and maintaining women in senior leadership roles remains a significant challenge in Western Australia, given the prevailing corporate culture.

Vanessa Guthrie wants to remain an advocate for women in the corporate world. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Former Toro Energy managing director Vanessa Guthrie says recruiting and maintaining women in senior leadership roles remains a significant challenge in Western Australia, given the prevailing corporate culture.

“You can put all the structures and the policies, flexible work in place, but at the heart of it is the culture,” said Ms Guthrie, who is embarking on the next stage of her career by way of seeking company directorships.

She said while women were often pressed about their career plans as they related to starting a family, there was rarely a similar degree of personal intrusion with male employees.

Ms Guthrie said despite the focus on structural and policy changes, behaviour was an important consideration because quite often women found it difficult to be accepted into workplace cultures.

“All of my peers, the women who have been in leadership roles, all of us will have at some point and to various degrees struggled with discrimination in different forms, with an inability to really demonstrate your true capacity just because of your gender,” she said.

Ms Guthrie said she hoped to continue her role as a mentor for young women while undertaking her new career pathway.

“In Australia, we’re blessed with an education system that means many of our young women are highly educated and don’t actually get to use it in terms of a lifelong career,” Ms Guthrie told Business News.

But for Ms Guthrie, who is chair of the Minerals Council of Australia, women in the workplace isn’t the only issue on her agenda – she is also passionate about promoting the role of mining in the state’s economy.

The resources sector had brought tremendous wealth to all of Australia, not just those working in the industry – something she said was not well understood by the community.

Moving forward

Ms Guthrie exited uranium hopeful Toro late last year after four years at the helm of the company.

During that time, Toro’s Wiluna project became the first uranium mine in the state to reach environmental approval, although development was delayed by the low uranium price after the Fukushima disaster.

“We fought long and hard in a tough uranium market and managed to maintain our agenda, getting the project through the approval process and positioning it ready for market,” Ms Guthrie said.

“The market has just taken a lot longer than we anticipated (to recover).

“I would’ve loved to have been on a rising market, that was always what I went there to do.”

Ms Guthrie said she’d now be looking to hold four or five non-executive directorships, possibly with listed mining companies, although she had experience with utilities and industrials.

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