Maya Donevska is Head of Corporate Affairs (Asia). Her career has predominately spanned across male-dominated industries – manufacturing and more recently resources. This is her story.
"I’m a first generation Australian, the daughter of migrant parents who arrived in Australia in the 70’s from the former Yugoslavia. I didn’t speak English until I started school and I was teased for bringing salami sandwiches and because of my name. I was working class, ethnic and female. I saw mainstream Australian families on TV and what I saw had no resemblance to my life. It was like watching sci-fi. The options presented to me at school were to be a nurse or a teacher – or something deemed acceptable for girls.
"I was lucky in that I loved school and learning and didn’t let any of this limit me but I saw a lot of girls opt for what was acceptable rather than what they wanted. There was also complexity that came with being working class in that if you aspire for much more than what you have you can quickly find yourself ostracised. You’re taught to never voice your ambition too loudly so as not to offend anyone.
"I’ve mostly worked in male-dominated industries – manufacturing for a long time and more recently resources. I’ve had my share of discrimination – overt and subtle. I think the best way to deal with it is prove yourself on merit. People discriminate a lot less if you’re adding value. Sometimes I have called it out. It’s a tricky situation to navigate. If discrimination happens to someone else, I do feel it’s important to help them deal with it but I ask permission first. Not everyone wants to address it directly and you have to respect people’s ways of dealing with things.
"I do my best to juggle being a Mum, a wife, having a career and all the other things I want to be and do. It’s a weekly proposition. Sometimes it feels possible and other weeks you’re not giving anyone your best self and it unravels. But, I have hope and it is changing. BHP has changed dramatically while I have been working here. Yes there is more to do but in a very short time the flex work conversation has changed from ‘why?’ to ‘let’s talk about it’. That’s very heartening. I’m also fortunate to be part of an amazing and supportive team – we rally round when things get tough. I couldn’t do my job without them.
"I want to make a contribution that will help everyone feel valued and included in the workplace. I also feel an enormous obligation to continue the work of all the people that have made progress in the past and for future generations.
"I believe diverse voices at the table will help the whole Company, culturally and also give us a competitive advantage. I’d like more diversity at every level of the Company, of every kind. I know some people fear that as it’s a challenge to the status quo – that’s why we need to take everyone with us. We need to acknowledge those fears, and face them through honest, respectful and challenging conversations. Even with those who resist it or feel uncomfortable. Change is never easy, but we will be much more successful if we do it together, all pulling in the same direction. "