The Public Works Department is actively encouraging women to think of a career in the Department at all levels and in particular at management and supervisory levels.

“We did an analysis of gender equity in PWD a few years ago,” explains Sam Namuri, Director of PWD, “Not surprisingly because of the sort of work we do, we had very few women in technical and management levels though a solid base of female officers in financial and administrative support posts. However, it was only 12% right across PWD. I told my team this was not good enough. I know it has to be merit based selection, but we had vacant posts and should go out proactively and attract well qualified women into the positions.”

Betty Harry is one of the new wave of women in managerial roles. Betty whose family is from Pentecost, received her primary education in Luganville at Sarakata Primary before undertaking her education with one year at Matevulu and completing Years 12 & 13 at Matevulu College. After working in the private sector with the ANZ Bank, Betty moved to the Ministry of Finance bringing her understanding of private sector work and target responsive approaches to the Government Business Unit. In 2007 Betty was promoted to the Central Tenders Board.

“I started studying at might to do my Diploma in Accounting her in Port Vila at the Emalus Campus, University of the South Pacific. Balancing work and children and study was very hard,” Betty commented.

Looking for new challenges, Betty saw an advertised position at PWD as Manager of the Administration, Finance & Procurement Unit. On paper this post supervises 11 staff in the Vila Office but in reality assists with overseeing finance operations of all of the Finance Officers and Storemen in the provinces with daily interaction with Division Managers, Civil Engineers and a plethora of private sector contractors – a complex role.

“I knew from Sam Namuri that PWD was moving from a model of actually doing the road works to contracting the private sector and provincial entrepreneurs to do delivery and maintenance work. This move would be demanding on the Contracts and Procurement Unit. I was given the chance to supervise this change. We had several vacancies in the Unit but now we’re fully staffed and starting to make exciting policy and procedure changes to speed up procurement, contracting, monitoring and payment processes. The team is solid, but we are looking for more good talent. If a young woman with good qualifications and experience applies, PWD is really open to growing our gender base!”

To meet this personal challenge of heading up a big Unit, Betty went through a Skills Gap Audit process, with management training identified. Betty Harry has been participating in the Diploma in Management offered by the Australian Pacific Technical College (APTC). The PWD training program is supported by the Australian Government through the Vanuatu Transport Sector Strengthening Program (VTSSP) Phase 11.

The Public Works Department has a capacity building strategy that has identified training needs not only based on bi-annual Performance Management & Review but also on Function Analysis and Retirement/Succession planning. This ties into a deliberate program to support, mentor and train its female officers. Currently eight PWD management staff, of whom two are women, are completing this internationally recognised Diploma targeted at identifying and solving problems in the work place through better management practices.

The APTC Diploma in Management with its focus on managing resources – people, budget, time – has been just what I need,” remarked Betty. “Each day, two or three of the 25 participants make presentation and we ‘brain storm’ solutions. It’s this peer mentoring, as the private sector NGO and public sector officers share their experiences, that I personally am finding so valuable.”

In addition to the study support, Betty Harry recently travelled with a PWD team to the Solomon Islands to investigate contracting and procurement practices there as well as funding models for infrastructure. “I found they were leading the way with innovations like their ‘Infrastructure Sector Fund’ but we were definitely way ahead with contracting and fiduciary governance processes. With the study and travel and the support I am getting from PWD to build my team and my career outcomes, every day here is an exciting challenge. ”

Johnson Binaru, Director General of the Ministry of Infrastructure & Public Utilities (MIPU) of which PWD is a Department, is also supportive of mainstreaming gender equity into the Ministry, “Our new Ministry Sector Strategy promised we would deliver on gender mainstreaming – a policy directive in the Vanuatu Government’s Priorities and Action Agenda (PAA). We recognise we cannot always compete with the private sector in Vanuatu with just wages to get the best people but we are putting together an attractive package of salary, housing, study support and opportunities to travel overseas to attract the best staff we can – and in particular – women. Betty Harry is one of the talented women we have attracted into challenging leadership and technical positions. There’ll be more as we put our Talent Acquisition Program into place. All citizens of Vanuatu, especially youth or students need to be aware that working as a Civil Servant does not earn you much but the services you provide assist the whole Vanuatu working population. The reward is not just the salary you receive but the experience you have from working in a wider sector than the private sector.”

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