ISF celebrates third 'woman of influence'
Professor Cynthia Mitchell, Deputy Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at UTS, has this week been announced a winner in The Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards for 2015.
Professor Mitchell has been recognised in the Public Policy category for her world-leading transdisciplinary work for economic, environmental, and social sustainability in the water and wastewater sector, particularly as a key influencer of infrastructure policies and investments.
She has led more than 80 highly successful and innovative projects with government and industry over the past 20 years, producing thought leadership and behavioural changes that have flowed through to improved public policy and more sustainable infrastructure investment.
Professor Mitchell’s award marks the third time in as many years that the 100 Women of Influence Awards have chosen to recognise inspirational female researchers from ISF. In 2014 Nicky Ison was recognised in the Young Leader category and Dr Dana Cordell also won in 2013.
Professor Mitchell is a leader in the new and emerging research area of restorative infrastructure development that seeks not just to minimise negative impacts of development, but to use development to drive net positive economic, environmental and social sustainability outcomes. Through her this concept is influencing high-profile developments – such as Sydney’s Barangaroo – and leading utilities – such as Yarra Valley Water – and shaping the direction of infrastructure planning and development in the utilities sector more broadly.
“We now know that we have overshot the limits of many fundamental biophysical processes that sustain our planet. If we are all to live well, then we simply must reconfigure our brains to find new solutions to age old questions, like how do we manage the enormous demands of cities?” Professor Mitchell said.
“The next generation of influence I want to have in public policy is core to this reconfiguration. It’s about asking: what if we planned and invested in infrastructure that aims not just to ‘do less harm’, but that instead is restorative, regenerative, ‘does more good’? It’s a profound paradigm shift.”
Professor Mitchell draws upon principles from her engineering and science training, overlaid with economics, social and organisational learning, futures thinking, systems thinking, diffusion of innovation, and sustainability science.
“I’m always trying to find the right balance between relevance, so that my practice-based work makes a difference, and rigour, so the difference it makes is useful,” she said.
Professor Mitchell’s early work towards the engineering of more sustainable treatment systems led to guidance materials still referenced by the NSW Government fifteen years on. Turning her focus to costs and economics, she developed breakthrough guidance materials that underpin how government-owned utilities, and the sector more broadly, make investment decisions. Widely respected in government, industry and academe, she is called upon to provide strategic advice on a range of issues with impact on public policy, both in Australia and abroad.
Professor Mitchell is a Fellow of both the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) and Engineers Australia, and is a passionate advocate and lobbyist for the role of women in engineering, helping to shift the outlook in the traditionally male-oriented field. In the mid-90s, her study into the experiences of first-year engineering students at the University of Queensland led to the establishment of the Centre for Women in Engineering, with Professor Mitchell as the inaugural head.
In its fourth year, the 100 Women of Influence Awards celebrate outstanding women from a wide variety of sectors across Australia. There are 10 categories: Board/Management, Public Policy, Diversity, Business Enterprise, Young Leader, Global, Local/Regional, Innovation, Culture and Social Enterprise.
Entrants into the awards were assessed by a panel of esteemed judges and have been recognised based on their outstanding ability to demonstrate vision, leadership, innovation and action in and beyond their fields.
Ainslie van Onselen, Director of Women’s Markets, Diversity and Inclusion at Westpac, said: “The breadth and calibre of our 100 Women of Influence for 2015 is truly incredible. It is a privilege to recognise and celebrate the remarkable contribution these women are making to our society.
“Women have countless opportunities to be a driving force for change in Australia and shape our nation’s future through their respective fields. Cynthia is a shining example for how women can be truly influential in their career and have a profound impact on long term outcomes. She joins an illustrious group of Australian women as part of the Women of Influence alumni, which continues to grow each year with diverse and exceptional talent.”
Joanne Gray, Australian Financial Review Boss Editor, said: “The array of influential women who have been recognised this year display many great capabilities and skills, but chief among them are energy and drive and a commitment to something bigger than themselves. The Women of Influence awards impress upon us yet again how vast is the pool of female talent in this country. The awards continue to bring to light extraordinary women, who despite their achievements and because of their humility, might otherwise have remained in the shadows.”
A gala awards evening celebrating the 100 Women of Influence in 2015 will be held at Sydney Town Hall on Thursday 15 October. The 10 category winners and overall winner for the year will also be announced on the evening.
For further information, visit 100womenofinfluence.com.au.