Less than one-fifth of workers in the Australian mining industry are female, according to 2018-19 government stats. Sevi Rich is working to change that. Beyond overseeing a portfolio of key capital infrastructure projects at BHP Western Australia Iron Ore, Rich leads the charge to increase diversity, including more female participation in project management roles.
She achieves this by developing internal talent pipelines and enabling succession through targeted development opportunities. She also champions the company’s efforts to promote and improve inclusion through global and regional councils, by targeted recruitment and by training employees on unconscious bias.
“Even though we see more females in project management roles, the resource pool still has room to grow as we look to lift female project leaders’ numbers,” Rich says.
Her strategies took root four years ago when she was charged with integrating a project management department into the wider business as a trusted partner. Rich built a team from scratch by drawing from more diverse talent pools. It worked: The portfolio now has two development teams—and keeps growing.
“There’s enough benchmarking out there to prove that diversity and inclusion not only positively impact the bottom line, but also increase employee engagement, innovation and agility.”
The push for inclusion continues, including potential new forms. Rather than rely solely on traditional recruitment and resourcing, she envisions an Uber-type app that could match required talent to active projects.
Rich says project managers should be focused on “delivering only the right projects at the right time through understanding key stakeholder needs and developing the highest-value solutions.”
For her, that comes down to three must-have skills: continuous learning, adaptability to change and agility. “Project managers who develop their critical thinking muscles through endless curiosity will be ready for the future.”
Q&A: Sevi Rich on COVID-19 innovations, developing talent and Sir Ken Robinson
What project has most influenced you personally?
As a child, I found NASA’s space shuttle missions fascinating. The effort and dedication it took to develop each project from early design to being flight ready over a very long project life cycle was remarkable. As an adult, most recently, it’s COVID-19 projects. It’s fascinating to see the acceleration in innovation, such as how Dyson designed completely new ventilators in just 10 days, and how the U.K. government developed a smart screening process to ensure new ventilators comply with existing safety regulations. And it’s incredible to see the extraordinary collaboration between scientists across the globe to increase velocity of finding the right vaccine.
How are young people changing the world of projects now?
They’re more interested in how they can deliver on specific missions where they can build new skills and gain meaningful experience. So we’ll see the world where projects are benefiting the whole ecosystem and we’ll see more fluid resource movements. Companies with the most meaningful projects and with the right setup to invest in developing their people will win the best resources until a better project or company culture becomes available.
What famous or historic person would you want on your project team?
Sir Ken Robinson. As an author and adviser, he can motivate teams on how to become more creative and continuously learn.
Listen to Sevi Rich discuss the fight for gender equity in the workplace on a recent episode of Projectified®