08 March 2024

International Women's Day 2024

The UN Women Australia theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2024 is Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress.

Women’s economic empowerment is central to a gender equal world. When women are given equal opportunities to earn, learn and lead – entire communities thrive.

While there’s no doubt that important progress has been made, the reality is that many women still face significant obstacles to achieving equal participation in the economy. It’s time to have some hard conversations around ensuring women and girls are given equal opportunity to build their capabilities and strengthen their capacity to learn, earn and lead.

The team at Umwelt has always taken great pride and time in investing in women. STEM based organisations have traditionally composed largely of male employees. Umwelt has certainly bucked this trend, with women making up 58% of our workforce.

With this year’s IWD theme in mind, we thought it fitting to shine a spotlight on one of our (many) strong female team members. So, we’d like to introduce Rhiannon Jaeger-Michael (affectionately known to us as Rhi) who is a Senior Social Consultant at Umwelt with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Psychology (University of Newcastle), and a Master of Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Development (University of Newcastle and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research).

We chatted with Rhi about her career evolution here at Umwelt, her thoughts on this year's International Women’s Day theme and how she empowers herself and the women around her.

Rhi's story is an incredible one that Umwelt has been lucky enough to support; we are beyond proud of her and her achievements and can’t wait to see what’s next for her.

1. Tell us about your employment pathway with Umwelt so far

I started at Umwelt as a work integrated learning student from my Bachelor degree at the University of Newcastle. I was placed in the HR team, supporting our Human Resources Advisor, Bianca, and loved my time working alongside her. Following my placement, I was offered casual work to finish the projects I had started. My casual employment turned into full-time work supporting our Chief Operating Officer, Jonathan Allan, with several operational projects including updating our project management training and career development pathway policy. I worked within the corporate services team for about 6 months, at which point Jono suggested I speak with our National Social Practice Lead, Dr Sheridan Coakes, given my background in psychology.

As soon as I met Sherie, I was drawn to moving into the national Social Team due to her passion and drive, and impressive professional accolades. I was offered a permanent role as a Social Consultant in 2018 and stayed in this role for a little over 2 and a half years, at which point I was promoted to Senior Social Consultant. I have been in this role for the past 3 years.

2. Throughout your career, what opportunities have you been provided that have helped you build your capabilities and strengthen your capacity to learn, earn and lead?

From day one of my placement, I felt very appreciated and empowered within Umwelt. Everyone in the business would listen to my opinion if I offered it and this grew my confidence working with the corporate world as a woman in my early 20s.

I was given a lot of responsibility from the beginning to implement meaningful change in the business and influence business outcomes, which meant I learnt a lot through trial and error. I learnt a lot about our business processes and what goes into running a business from my time in the corporate services team.

From my time working in the Social team, I have been inspired by our team and leaders. I have been given the freedom to raise and implement ideas to better our social practice; participate in discussions with passionate people inside and outside the organisation through informal industry catch ups, attending and presenting at conferences, and long chats over a coffee in the office; learn key skills through our professional development program; and learn from experience from being given the trust and responsibility to manage a range of diverse and interesting projects across Australia.

3. What does “investing in women” mean to you?

Investing in women must occur at all stages, whether it is investing in education for girls or in upskilling for women in the workforce. I think it is also important to appreciate what women bring to the workforce and how their skills can be used to benefit a company.

In our projects, we are often developing mechanisms and strategies to ensure that underrepresented groups are given opportunities to participate in the workforce. Umwelt leads by example through ensuring we have strong, women role models at all levels, starting with our Managing Director, Barb, and a number of the executive team; and that all the opportunities afforded to the workforce are equitable.

I’ve been very lucky in my career to not even have to question whether investment into women in my workplace is occurring, it has been a given.

4. How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

I have worked hard to increase my assertiveness and confidence throughout my career, and to not give in to imposter syndrome. I’ve learnt to be comfortable with praise and to trust my knowledge, and I find that empowering. I find that being open to other women’s suggestions and ideas, and recognising the value they create, is key to empowering women both within a workplace and in everyday life.


To find out what Rhi and the Social team can do for you, visit SIA, Engagement and Social Performance and submit our enquiry form.