Candice Lam

Technology Resource Management Partner, BHP

Candice Lam’s fascination with engineering and technology started early — inspired by wild-and-wacky spy accessories in the Inspector Gadget cartoons she watched as a child.

“Given the TV we were exposed to in the eighties, I don’t know how more people my age didn’t choose a career in engineering,” said Candice Lam, Technology Resource Management Partner at BHP in Brisbane and die-hard fan of classic television characters Inspector Gadget, MacGyver and Maxwell Smart.

“Those shows made us feel like anything was possible and any problem could be solved with a bit of clever thinking.”

It’s that optimistic approach to problem solving that Lam aims to impart to the female students she mentors at high schools in Queensland. She serves as an industry mentor with the Queensland Resources Council and is the Chairperson for the University of Queensland Women in Engineering Alumni Ambassador Council. Lam is also a mentor for the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM, which includes both male and female students.

“MacGyver would say, ‘Ok, we’ve got a problem. How do we get out of it? What do I have? What can I use?’,” Lam said.

“I don’t know if students are encouraged to think that way anymore, because there is so much pressure on them to comply and conform and to pass all of these tests. When I was at school, I feel that we had more time to explore and use our imaginations.”

“If an inclusive industry is the change that we want to see, we need to help make it happen.”

Candice Lam

Inspector Gadget, MacGyver and Maxwell Smart each took a novel approach to solving problems. Another commonality is that they were all male. However, Lam says she didn’t encounter gender-based obstacles until she entered the workforce.

“Perhaps its due to the relative scarcity of women [in engineering], but many guys seem to have this perception that ‘you’re threatening my job, therefore I won’t treat you as an equal’,” said Lam, whose engineering experience spans mining, subsea oil and gas control systems, technical training, asset management, precision maintenance and technology resource management.

“I think a lot of women can suffer from imposter syndrome in these sorts of environments where they may not feel that they are good enough. I’ve built up that resilience, but it’s in the early days where you can easily be swayed away from engineering.”

If companies are to attract and retain more talented women to engineering, says Lam, they require an inclusive culture. She says this comes down to leadership.

“If you’ve got great leaders, then you’ll build the right culture that you need to retain women. Of course, you’ll still need everyone to unite under that leadership, and that’s where every organisation needs to break down the silos.”

Lam added that attitudes must also change.

“Let go of the judgement and allow women in STEM to be their true authentic self at work. Leaders need to encourage men to adapt and to assure them that they are not going to be pushed out. Women need space to grow, but so do men.”

Lam has worked at BHP for the close to three years and says her role as Technology Resource Management Partner broadly entails “ensuring that we’ve got the right people on the right projects”.

As an early career mentor to high school students, she draws on stories from her own career and inspires them to discover ways to “change the world”.

“I tend to talk about engineering as finding solutions to problems, because it’s a very simple concept for kids to grasp, especially if it’s a problem that relates to them,” Lam said.

“You can see their eyes light up when they say, ‘I hate seeing plastics being washed up on our beaches, I could engineer something to solve that’. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.”

As an industry mentor with the Queensland Resources Council, Lam aims to support both women and men in the early stage of their career.

“I’m there as a guide,” she said.

“When I was in the early stages of my career, I didn’t really have a mentor. I didn’t’ really look for one. However, I feel that I would have done a lot better in terms of building up resilience faster if I had a mentor to give me that career guidance early on.”

Lam sees her role as a mentor as a way of giving back to the profession.

“If we want to see more females retained in STEM, and if we want to see more men support them, mid-career or late-career engineers need to be contributing back to the industry through guidance and mentorship,” she said.

“If an inclusive industry is the change that we want to see, we need to help make it happen.”


Amanda Quan

Adviser, Women in Oil and Gas; Committee Member, Engineers Without Borders


Renee Noble

Executive Director, Girls Programming Network

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