Hospitals 07 March 2024

Investing in women to build equality

International Women’s Day on March 8 is a day to celebrate the achievements of women worldwide. 

The theme for 2024 is Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress. When we empower women to participate in economic decision-making at all levels of society, everyone benefits.

We spoke with four women driving progress through their work at the Victorian Health Building Authority (VHBA):

‘It’s about leaders encouraging women to reach their full potential’

Ainsley Solomon

Ainsley works as a Senior Project Officer in the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund (RHIF) team.

Her team administers funds to over 120 health services across regional Victoria. They help with everything from new vehicles for b to new medical equipment and refurbishments of aged and deteriorating facilities.

What drew you to work in health infrastructure?

Before joining VHBA I worked in the university sector for 12 years and I was looking for a change. I was keen to expand my project management skills as I was studying a Graduate Certificate in Project Management at RMIT and the health sector was flagged as being an area of growth. Now that I am working in the sector, I realise how much more job satisfaction I have knowing that the work I do is supporting projects that benefit the community.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Why is it important that we continue to invest in women and gender equity?

When I started my Graduate Certificate in Project Management it was clear some subjects had a great deal more male than female students. It is important that girls and women feel comfortable to study and work where they are challenged but also where they feel encouraged and supported.

I am fortunate that I have often worked for and with many great female leaders, but I know many industries are not so fortunate.

Investing in women and accelerating their progress across all industries is hugely important. This is not just about education but also about leaders encouraging women to reach their full potential.

What career opportunities would you like to see for women?

I think it is important to support younger generations of women so they know that they can have a career and travel and have a family.

I was fortunate about 20 years ago to have an employer who allowed me to take a year of leave without pay to live and travel overseas. This experience was life changing and something I will always treasure.

I was also fortunate when I had my children to be able to take 12 months leave and then return to a job share position part-time. This meant all the hard work I had done to grow my career and secure my job was not lost and it also provided me with a great work life balance.

We often hear about work/life balance being so important, however, it is not always the reality. Working for organisations that offer flexible working conditions for women, especially mums, is really important. It ensures that people with great talent aren’t forced out of the workforce just because they want to have children.

What is your advice to women who are interested in working in health infrastructure?

If you have good communication and organisational skills, then working in health infrastructure is a great place to be. There is lots of variety and the busy pace certainly keeps you on your toes.

Headshot of Ainsley Solomon, Senior Project Officer in the Regional Health Infrastructure team

'Knowing that in some small way your work is helping build better health facilities, which in turn improves the experience for people working there or attending, is certainly something to be proud of.'

Ainsley Solomon, Senior Project Officer, Regional Health Infrastructure Fund (RHIF)

'Investing in women and advocating for gender equity sets an example'

Nhung Vo

Nhung is a Senior Project Manager in the Metropolitan Health Infrastructure Fund (MHIF) team. Her role involves using her construction background and project management skills to oversee and provide governance to metropolitan, community and Aboriginal health infrastructure projects.

What drew you to work in health infrastructure?

I was drawn to health infrastructure because of the niche and complex nature of these projects. It also feels rewarding to be involved in work that ultimately helps the sick and vulnerable people in our community.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Why is it important that we continue to invest in women and gender equity?

It’s a day to recognise the women in my life for the work that they do – at work, at home and in the community. It’s an opportunity to celebrate their feminine, unique and colourful existence. It is important that we continue to invest in women and gender equity because women have unique gifts to bring to the table, and these gifts need to be recognised and compensated.

Headshot of Nhung Vo, Senior Project Manager for the Metropolitan Health Infrastructure Fund.

'Investing in women and advocating for gender equity sets an example for how women should be valued in all parts of society including at work, at home and in the community.'

Nhung Vo, Senior Project Manager, Metropolitan Health Infrastructure Fund (MHIF)

When women are empowered, they will flourish and thrive in whatever they do. That comes back to benefit society whether that is in a social, economic or environmental sense. I feel lucky that throughout my career, I have met managers who listened and paid attention to what my strengths are. They invested in me by believing in my capabilities and giving me not only autonomy, but roles and salaries to grow into. Their support allowed me to experience what flourishing and thriving looks like!

What career opportunities would you like to see for women?

I would like to see opportunities, whether big or small and at all levels of management, that involve decision making and influence, and that pay well.

What is your advice to women who are interested in working in health infrastructure?

Just go for it. It's a saturated industry with lots of opportunities and lots to learn. The skills that you pick up are very transferrable.

'Women are smart, capable, dedicated and driven'

Sarah Skeels

Sarah recently joined VHBA as Principal Project Manager of the Youth Prevention and Recovery Care (YPARC) Program.

Her role involves managing the $141 million expansion of YPARC services across Victoria, an investment by the Victorian Government that is improving the mental health of young people.

What drew you to work in health infrastructure?

It was the huge variety in size, scale and type of projects that you can work on. There is such an exciting portfolio of projects on the go at the moment, with interesting opportunities expected over the next few years.

What does International Women's Day mean to you? Why is it important that we continue to invest in women and gender equity?

For me, it's an opportunity to reflect and recognise the achievements, big or small, of fellow women in a traditionally male-dominated construction industry. It provides a platform to share experiences, both good and bad, and to explore the impacts of those experiences, to invite collaboration and discussion to drive improvement.

'Count Her In' promotes broadening the viewpoints in decision-making rooms to achieve better outcomes for everyone.

Headshot of Sarah Skeels, Principal Project Manager, Youth Prevention and Recovery Care (YPARC) Program

'Investing in women ensures that not only are all the voices of the general population heard, but positive change can be implemented from the top of the organisation down.'

Sarah Skeels, Principal Project Manager, Youth Prevention and Recovery Care (YPARC) Program

What career opportunities would you like to see for women?

Women are smart, capable, dedicated and driven enough to take on any career role in which they are interested; in exactly the same way that men are. What I would like to see is the stigma of a 'diversity hire' being removed from women who may be the first of, or are the minority, in a role and instead recognise the skills and attributes of the successful applicant.

I would like to see skill and talent celebrated, and not the negative undertones of having achieved because of a notion of needing token female representation. This stigma placed on women is the failing of a system which has historically had inadequate representation of the general population which is made up of different genders, and an array of cultures and differing beliefs.

What is your advice to women who are interested in working in health infrastructure?

Just jump in! Health infrastructure provides such a versatile portfolio of work, that addresses the health needs of all ages and abilities, from planning, design and construction, that you are sure to find a project that you love working on.

'Work remains to be done to achieve inclusivity'

Valentina Vitali

Valentina recently joined VHBA as a Senior Project Manager for the Austin Emergency Department Stabilisation Project.

She is responsible for ensuring health facilities are built on time, on budget and to the highest standard.

What drew you to work in health infrastructure?

I have always been fascinated by architecture and construction. There is something almost magical about translating a sketch into a real building! And I believe how we do this can make a real difference in people's lives.

Working in health infrastructure offers me a unique opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the communities and their wellbeing. Understanding the needs of different cultural groups as well as how the health force is operating, developing new ways to efficiently support everyone, and building a facility where everyone can feel comfortable is something challenging and exciting at the same time, and I feel very lucky to be part of it!

What does International Women's Day mean to you? Why is it important that we continue to invest in women and gender equity?

It's a day to celebrate gender diversity and women's achievements and opportunities. It's also a reminder of the barriers that can be experienced by women, and the work that remains to be done to achieve inclusivity.

In my career in Australia, I had the luck of crossing paths with some very passionate and knowledgeable women, who inspired me and pushed me to do better in every sphere of life. Their ability to drive different teams and lead by example, be strong and supportive, not only positively impacts my work and my wellbeing but also makes me believe I can get better in what I do and become who I want in life.

I really would like all young women starting their careers now to have the same luck I had. This can be achieved by giving more exposure to women in leadership and investing in new and already existing mentoring projects for women in construction. Through this, we can create a network where women can find support and encouragement.

What career opportunities would you like to see for women?

I strongly believe gender equality should be applied in every job. Career progression should be simply driven by skills and not gender.

Currently, the health infrastructure industry has an amazing group of men and women who work collaboratively for the same objectives. It would be great to see this everywhere.

What is your advice to women who are interested in working in health infrastructure?

My best advice is to be who you are, be committed, and focus on your goals.

Headshot of Valentina Vitali, Senior Project Manager, Austin Emergency Department Stabilisation Project

'As an Italian architect who moved to Australia more than 10 years ago, I faced some challenges due to my different educational background, language and previous work experience. Being myself, working hard and not being shy to speak up and advocate for my ideas is what brought me where I am, and what will help me to become better.'

Valentina Vitali, Senior Project Manager, Austin Emergency Department Stabilisation Project

Work with us

Are you passionate about public health and interested in a career in health infrastructure? If so, we want to hear from you.

VHBA is responsible for the planning, delivery and oversight of Victoria’s public health infrastructure.

Our work includes:

  • managing the planning and delivery of new health infrastructure projects, including public hospitals, community health services, residential aged care, mental health facilities and ambulance branches
  • community and stakeholder engagement
  • developing best practice guidelines for managing health infrastructure
  • upgrading and managing state-wide medical and engineering equipment.

Find out more about working at VHBA and explore our current opportunities on the Careers.Vic website.

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