#diversitymatters With Nina Lee, “Pay Forward Respect, Empathy And Kindness”

Nina Lee

Associate – Structures, Sydney
+ 61 2 9770 3300

Nina Lee is an Associate in the Structures team in Sydney at BG&E, and an energetic Member of the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Committee. She is a pro-active and well-regarded technical professional, with more than 15 years’ experience in solving problems and fulfilling aspirations for clients in the Property sector.

When did you recognise that diversity was crucial in society and the workplace?
I left my home country of Taiwan when I was 14 years old. I had to adapt to a different country, language, climate, culture, school and circle of friends – and that was my first and memorable experience of diversity.
Adapting to a home shaped some of my thinking around the importance of embracing difference – because with difference comes diversity of personality, heritage, age, gender, life experience, opinions and most importantly, ideas.

As an adult/during my career, I’ve observed how unintentional behaviours/bias by a few, has a profound and lasting impact on many. Those behaviours/bias triggered a desire for me to grow my skills about diversity and help others have a voice and feel included.

I work with a talented and diverse team, and the accumulation of their experiences and viewpoints is fascinating and enables us to unlock true creativity when it comes to problem solving.

From school to university, and beyond throughout my career – if I only exposed myself to like-minded people, imagine the wonderful and different colleagues, clients and friends that I would have not known, in business and in life.

Do you have mentor that you seek guidance from about diversity?
Not one specific person, I take guidance and learn from many. My curiosity leads me to truly enjoy listening to inspiring stories from others.

At BG&E, I seek advice from various colleagues and most recently from Tom Benn, Associate and fellow Member on our DE&I Committee. Tom’s impartial and refreshingly helpful.

I also develop my thinking from various industry bodies such as Engineers Australia, Property Council of Australia and Roads Australia, to name a few. They are active in the diversity arena and frequently implement webinars, discussion forums, etc.

Is there something about diversity that keeps you up at night?
I sincerely believe that everyone at BG&E wants to work in an inclusive, fair and fun workplace. However, some colleagues are further along the journey of realising that ambition than others. I’m kept up awake at night sometimes thinking about what initiative will have the most impact, to help my colleagues along the journey? How do we achieve a united outcome, where we change unconscious bias and inclusivity becomes part of our DNA?

Do you have a diversity role model who has had a significant impact on your life/career?
My parents. My Mum, Penny, is a leader in her field, despite it being dominated by males. She started out as a Chinese Literature Lecturer at a military background university, then co-founded a national tutoring business where she thrived and continued her passion to educate others. During her career, she became the primary breadwinner in our household and that was inspiring (even if I didn’t completely understand it at the time).

My family supported my Mum’s career by moving to Australia, which meant my Dad, Gary, retired in his mid-40’s and to enable him to raise three daughters.

Their roles were unconventional for the era and for my culture, however because they share common values and have mutual respect, they recognised the choices they made, were best for our family.

My parents taught my sisters and I, to be open-minded about what we could achieve, to not put up barriers to success and to embrace difference.

What will shape a fairer future for the next generation?
Diversity is fundamental. It’s critical for humanity and for the world that I would like my daughter, Norah, to grow up in.

Advocacy is not action. We all have a role to play in improving diversity and inclusion. Reach out and connect with others, be interested in their experiences, and pay forward respect, empathy and kindness.