Wonderful Women in STEM: Meet Natalie Ambroso

“We need to get more women into leadership positions. I can guarantee you that there are plenty of women who are qualified and appropriate for these roles, but it’s critical for us as an industry to look at our unconscious bias.”

According to an article published by Engineers Australia, there is only 12% female participation in Engineering across the Built Environment here in Australia. There is no fundamental reason whatsoever why there shouldn’t be more women in engineering in Australia; 35% of engineers in Europe are women. Iran has more than 50% women in engineering and 70% of all STEM graduates are women. Similar representation needs to be achieved in Australia if we are to continue our place as global leaders.

For Women’s Health Week 2021, the team at Aptus took it upon ourselves to forge relationships with women who are leading the industry and highlight their passion, talent, and amazing stories about how they entered the industry.

We sat down with Natalie Ambroso, Building Engineering Leader of Victoria at GHD, mother of two, and Women in STEM advocate, to share her insights as she changes the face of the industry.

Natalie’s introduction to the Built Environment came from having several family members who were Structural Engineers, in particular her aunt. This exposure enabled her to follow that passion and participate in several industry programs, and complete her Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) at Melbourne University, specialising in Structural Engineering. Now, Natalie leads the state at a global engineering firm who employ over 10,000 team members worldwide, with Natalie managing a team of 30 across commercial, residential, retail, industrial, educational, health & aged care and community building projects nationwide.

When asked whether she has a female figure in her life who has shaped her, not only as a woman, but as a woman in the industry, Natalie smiles warmly, and says that she’s “lucky that throughout her life, [she’s] had a lot of female figured to look up to”. She cites her mother for balancing her career, as well as raising a family, without ever relinquishing her success. She also refers to Jo Metcalfe, the Global Strategy Leader at GHD, whose mentorship provides her with the perspective, and the ability to “see things with different lenses”. GHD proudly boast 40% female leadership, an incredible feat in such a male-saturated industry.

In terms of maintaining her wellness, specifically in a world heavily dictated by the global COVID-19 Pandemic, Natalie mentions that there are two key components to staying motivated, healthy, and present through trying times. The first component is a “self-awareness piece”, that she refers to as being critically aware of what wellness means to the individual, and what is required to maintain that level of wellbeing.

The second component, that is undeniably more challenging in this current landscape, is setting boundaries that enable her reclaim her power over her own wellbeing. Natalie cites reading a book that really resonated with her, which introduced the concept of “waking up one day and feeling nibbled to death”. She states that it’s the menial, tedious things that wear you down over time when clear boundaries between your professional and personal life aren’t set. She encourages us to be fiercely aware of the trade-offs women make on a long-term basis, that inevitably impact their ability to function and be their best.

“I set myself a KPI to show up as my best self everywhere”, which, for Natalie, was a self-check-in to ask herself whether she brought her “best self”, and if not, why?

Natalie’s profound self-awareness, resilience, and ability to balance her roles as a mother, leader, and fiercely strong woman, make her an inspiration, not only to young women in STEM, but women everywhere, that you never have to sacrifice your womanhood for a place at the table.

Watch a snapshot of Natalie’s video interview below.