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Jinda Nelson and Dawn Robertson head up Decom North Sea’s Board as Chair and Vice Chair. Now in post for almost two years, the duo is credited with revitalising the organisation, bringing fresh drive and focus. On International Women’s Day, they reflect on their positions heading up the strategic body, their own career journeys and experiences, and decommissioning as a welcoming and diverse sector.

International Women’s Day 2021 is held on March 8th, 2021, with the theme of Choose to Challenge.

 Early Days

“I didn’t want to be stuck in the kitchen, I wanted to design them.” asserts Jinda Nelson, Decom North Sea Chair and Bilfinger Salamis UK’s Decommissioning Development Manager. Reflecting on her schooldays, Jinda remembers the battle that girls had to study what were viewed as traditionally male subjects focused on design and construction, opposed to home economics and secretarial studies.

Having gone on to study for a honours degree in Architectural Technology, Jinda triumphed, but this was not without its challenges. She credits lessons learned from helping her father renovate the family home as a child in enabling her to follow her own path, as well as the early empowerment gained from membership of the Girl Guiding Association as she learned skills in self-sufficiency.

For Dawn, an early marketing role in the motor trade brought the reality of sexism in the workplace into sharp focus. Patronising attitudes were commonplace at her employer, but at 21 she outsmarted male management, engaging marketing agencies to propose the changes she knew were desperately needed and appointing an agency to undertake the work with board approval, all with the understanding that she would be leaving in search of more positive pastures new.

With a background in recruitment, Dawn, now Vice Chair at Decom North Sea and Global Strategic Sales Director at Bureau Veritas, discusses the hurdles she has come across for others.

She reflects: “After marketing, I moved into recruitment, and the attitudes of some employers were so outdated.”

Her response to this was to continue to propose the best candidates for prospective roles, adding:

“All I could do was continue to put the best people forward. I focused on skills, competence, and attitude. This was my way of challenging comments that we would receive around shortlisting candidates based on looks, sex, age, sexual orientation etc.”

Parenthood

Both Jinda and Dawn are mothers, and are steadfast in their joint assertion that although challenging, parenthood, and in particular motherhood, does not have to impact career progression.

Dawn asserts: “When you become a mother, many people presume you’re going to accept a lesser career. Be open and vocal about what you want, whatever form that takes.

“I want my son to see that mummy works. That’s not to brush over the very real challenges that present themselves. Motherhood continues to be the number one cause for women leaving the workplace, and its everyone’s responsibility to ensure that measures are in place to retain working mothers as a valuable resource in business.”

Jinda and Dawn agree that strength and strategy are central to achieving any sense of the illusive work/life balance.

“Don’t put off having family if that’s what you want, it is possible to do both.” says Jinda.

“There is help and support out there.” adds Dawn. “The government increasing funded childcare to 30 hours per week during term time for children aged 3 and 4 will make a huge difference to families and the career options of primary care givers, who are far more likely to be mothers.”

Decommissioning: An Inclusive Sector

Discussing decommissioning, the duo are confident that the sector is a welcoming and diverse option for all.

Jinda reflects: “Decommissioning opened itself to us, and fortunately we chased it years ago.

“It’s a relatively new growth area where there are more equal opportunities. If it had kicked off 30 years ago, we would not have seen the same numbers of women involved at all levels. The balance feels different, decommissioning is moving at pace and it’s an exciting new environment for energetic women to get involved in. I find that people are just too busy trying to keep up with what’s going on that there is no room for anything else but talent and drive regardless of gender.”

Dawn concurs: “For women entering the workplace, decommissioning offers amazing opportunities both for those that have studied STEM subjects, but also those in support functions such as marketing, human resources, finance, and business development.”

Asked what advice they would pass to the next generation, Jinda simply answers:

“Get a plan, and graft.

“Find a mentor who can help you navigate your career journey. Let them educate you, there are lots of great people in the sector who would be happy to help. Work hard, set goals, and be strategic.”  

Decom North Sea Leadership

Now entering their second year in position at Decom North Sea, Jinda and Dawn are keen to share the credit for the progress the organisation has made. Fresh ideas, revitalised attitudes, and new dynamic ways of working continue to position the organisation as fit for the future.

Alongside Will Rowley, who has been interim Managing Director for much of the last year, the wider board and leadership groups, and the executive team who work on the organisation’s day-to-day, Jinda and Dawn are confident that Decom North Sea is primed for decommissioning growth with a strong, and inclusive team, best placed to represent its members. 

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