Hospitals 08 March 2023

Building a gender equal future

Every year, 8 March marks International Women’s Day. The UN Women Australia theme for 2023 is Cracking the code: Innovation for a gender-equal future. The International Women’s Day team also has a theme; encouraging individuals to Embrace Equity.

We discussed these themes with three women changing the game through their work at the Victorian Building Health Authority (VHBA) and broader Health Infrastructure Division, Department of Health.

'Equity requires flexibility'

Tina Skliros has been with the VHBA for eight years, having recently gained an Executive Director position.

She began her career as a practicing lawyer in the major projects/finance sector before moving into government where she has led large health infrastructure projects.

Her current role combines overseeing VHBA’s public private partnership (PPP) program with project initiation and a broader commercial support function.

What does equity mean to you?

‘Equity for me is about giving equal opportunities to people in the context of recognising their differences. One critical factor is flexibility in working styles – allowing people to have a more balanced life, depending on their individual circumstances.

'By giving people autonomy and flexibility, we are allowing people to be more output focused. You’ve got to create the environment and infrastructure around people to help them understand their deliverables and enable them to manage their own work.

'By providing this flexibility, you are allowing for a diverse workforce.’

Headshot of Tina Skilros, Director of Public Private Partnerships at VHBA

'A change in mindset is what is needed to recognise the skillsets and attributes that women can bring.'

Tina Skliros, Executive Director, Public Private Partnerships, VHBA

How does the infrastructure industry embrace equity for women?

While infrastructure – including health infrastructure – has traditionally been a male-dominated sector, Tina says she has seen firsthand a lot of positive movement around embracing equity.

'A change in mindset is what is needed to recognise the skillsets and attributes that women can bring.

'With lots of roles and opportunities opening up, I believe this step change will happen, particularly as we get more women in the industry who "become" the industry.'

What advice do you have for women wanting to obtain senior leadership roles?

'Seek out mentors and champions to assist your journey and ‘Stay the course,’ adds Tina. ‘Often the biggest barriers faced are those faced in the beginning.

'From my experience, the initial opportunities were more difficult. However, once you are given a chance and you’re able to demonstrate your skills, perform and deliver, the doors will open.

'Hopefully, it’ll become easier for those coming through with more women in senior positions who recognise the challenges and complexities and can assist in the path forward.'

'Honesty and open conversations require courage'

Diana Shmulburd recently joined VHBA as Executive Project Director of the New Melton Hospital Project.

She started her career as a finance lawyer and has extensive experience in both the public and private sectors across the social, infrastructure and transport industries.

How do you promote inclusion and innovation at work?

For Diana pursuing innovation and equity requires courage, first and foremost.

'Honest and open conversations sometimes require courage. It also means using actual examples … listening to and telling real stories.'

How does the work we achieve affect women more broadly in the Victorian community?

As Executive Project Director, new Melton Hospital, this ranges from helping address barriers to women accessing healthcare to setting an example for women in senior leadership in infrastructure.

‘Women are disproportionately affected by inadequate social infrastructure,’ explains Diana. ‘Focusing on delivering great social infrastructure helps women help themselves, and their families.’

At the same time, Diana says the best thing about being a woman and working in infrastructure is ‘meeting so many skilled talented women who are great at what they do and really want to help others’.

Headshot of Diana Schmulbard, Executive Director of Melton Hospital

‘Focusing on delivering great social infrastructure helps women help themselves, and their families.’

Diana Shmulburd, Executive Project Director, VHBA

What advice do you have for women wanting to obtain senior leadership roles?

Like Tina, Diana has seen the infrastructure sector come a long way in embracing equity. Though, she believes there is still work to be done.

‘I would advise people who want to enhance women’s roles in senior leadership to have courageous conversations with male leaders who do not have at least 30 percent or more than two women in their leadership teams.

‘It is a good indicator that unconscious bias is still operating in that team or organisation. It is time to stop telling women to change or fix their own absence in leadership roles.’

'You can't be what you can't see'

Philippa Tippett is the Executive Office, Office of the Deputy Secretary in the Health Infrastructure Division. She leads a team of advisory, project and support staff. Philippa joined the Victorian Public Service in 2016 and has been with the Health Infrastructure Division since 2020.

How does the work we achieve affect women more broadly in the Victorian community?

For Philippa, being able to work with women on infrastructure projects that benefit women, is also a big draw to working at VHBA.

‘I don’t think I’ll ever stop being amazed by the work we do and the hugely tangible impact it has on Victorians,’ says Philippa.

‘For women in particular… infrastructure can have a differentiated impact on women’s safety and wellbeing and plays an important part in achieving equitable outcomes.’

Some of Philippa’s highlights so far include the Barwon Women’s and Children’s Hospital, as well as expanded or new services in hospital builds addressing barriers that women face accessing specialised and complex care.

‘The first Women’s Prevention and Recovery Care centre completed last year provides tailored treatment to women but also includes accommodation for dependent young children.’

Headshot of Philippa Tippett, Executive Officer to the Deputy Secretary, Health Infrastructure

‘Women often minimise their worth contribution and achievements. If you’re invited to have a seat at the table, it’s because you deserve to be there.’

Philippa Tippett, Executive Officer, Office of the Deputy Secretary, Health Infrastructure Division

How do you believe having women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will help progress gender equity?

While women are often vastly outnumbered by men in STEM fields due to gender stereotypes and unconscious bias, challenging gender gaps is beneficial in many ways.

Phillipa says that from a practical perspective, encouraging women and girls to pursue careers in these traditionally male-dominated sectors can help reduce bias in products and services delivered.

Phillipa has strong words of encouragement for women looking to make a career in health infrastructure.

‘Women often minimise their worth, contribution and achievements. If you’re invited to have a seat at the table, it’s because you deserve to be there. Imposter syndrome will only reduce your ability to be present in spaces you worked hard to get into.’

What are the benefits of having women in senior leadership roles?

For Philippa, seeing other women in senior leadership roles in the Victorian Public Service and at VHBA has helped greatly.

Phillipa recites the much-repeated maxim: ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’

‘There is much to be learned from those who have come before you and those you work alongside. Seek out a mentor. Be curious, listen, lift others up and be kind to others and yourself.’


This International Women’s Day, we congratulate all women striving to achieve their life and career goals. If you are interested in a career in health infrastructure, find out more about working at VHBA or explore our current opportunities on the Careers.Vic website.

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