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International Women's Day

  • Friday 8th March 2019

This International Women's Day we have decided to celebrate our amazing female staff who make up 63% of our workplace! 

Meet some of the diverse faces from behind the scenes that make our aquarium function! We sat down to find out who they are, why they are passionate about working at SEA LIFE Melbourne, and what being a women means to them.


Meet Jess - Shark Dive Xtreme Guide 

(Above: Jess in the Herald Sun for PADI Women Dive Day) 

Jess works as a Shark Dive Guide at SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium.

How did you end up in your role?

I had a lot of trouble getting a job straight out of university, so I followed another passion of mine. Scuba diving. I worked my way up to the professional level and ended up becoming a Scuba Diving Instructor. 

A friend of mine that worked at the aquarium told me about the opportunity, I applied online and it wasn’t long before I found myself in the Shark tank! 

In your opinion, why is it important that more women get into roles like yours?

There certainly are a lot more male Dive Instructors out there than there are female Dive Instructors, but our numbers are climbing! Especially with the Girls That Scuba group out there where women are supporting and helping other women in the diving world. 

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting their career or more specifically a career like yours? 

Practice the skills you don’t love, until you love them! Practice, practice, practice! But most of all, get out there and have some fun too! There is so much to see and explore out there, and some amazing people to explore it with.  


Meet Sarah-Jane - General Manager of SEA LIFE Melbourne 

Who is Sarah-Jane, how did you become the 'big boss' of an aquarium?

I am the General Manager of SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium - I am not an expert in aquaria or an honour student with any type of degree - I am a street kid from just outside Slough in England with a slight cockney accent and a face that portrays my every emotion whether I like it or not. My mum left when I was 6 years old and my dad worked two jobs to support me, my brother and sister. Relevance you may ask - well this makes me an independent, self-motivated , determined individual who has a clear vision of future change with a knack for making massive changes with very little investment. I am now a proud Aussie citizen and an even prouder Melbournian, a Brit by birth an Aussie by choice although I still can’t do Vegemite. Anyway enough about me what about the job ahead.

Who is your biggest influences and/or icon?

My wife – her determination to help those that are struggling every single day and still manage to be a warm and beautiful human being is inspirational to me. Oh and Adele as she’s a bit of a done good street kid who writes well beyond her years.

In your opinion, why is it important that more women get into roles like yours?

For true equality we must have more women in senior leadership roles in Australia.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting their career or more specifically a career like yours?

Be yourself & surround yourself with people you trust. 

Do you think there’s a stereotype attached to female leaders?

Yes, we are believed to be masculine (which I am a little bit ) and aggressive (which I am definitely not) we are perceived to be emotional (all humans should be) and we are perceived to be weak - try me :). 

What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?
Look I’ve certainly had to work hard but so have the successful men in the businesses I’ve worked for. As a women there will be a certain number of people that find it difficult either culturally or socially to report into a woman and some of them make this very clear. However - you know what I am incredibly good at what I do and I think I am fair and honest & have a bit of fun along the way so as long as I stay true to myself and what I believe then I have nothing to prove. I start with a very clear vision of the future and the best possible outcome for the business and I realise that vision with ferocious dedication. Those that believe in the best for the business and the customer come along with me and enjoy the ride..


Meet Tanith - Bird Manager 

Who are you and how did you become in charge of one of the 'cool-est' departments? 

My role is to look after all of the King and Gentoo Penguins and the fantastic team that I work with every day. My job is very physical and entails a lot of cleaning, shoveling, food preparation, and feeding the penguins. I am also responsible for the life support systems that control our water circulation and filtering which is very important for marine animals.

How did you end up in your role?

I studied Zoology at uni and volunteered until I was able to obtain a paid position in the animal industry. I worked my butt off and did not give up.

I started at the aquarium almost 9 years ago as a casual, and I am now in a management position but I still get to work with these amazing animals every day.

What do you think is the biggest issue today facing women in roles like yours?

Women in senior management positions are becoming less of a rarity in the workforce which is fantastic. There is also still a definitive pay gap between genders in some industries, and we are slowly but surely closing the gap.

What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?

I believe the main barrier I have faced is being underestimated. I don’t believe there are certain tasks that women cannot do because it’s a “man’s job,” or that men cannot do because it’s a “woman’s job.” It is important to treat everyone equally regardless of gender or anything else, and also to allow people to have the opportunities to try everything that their job/position/hobby involves!


Meet Jaslyn - Operations Executive 

Who are you and what is a day in your job like? 

Hello :). The scope of this role spans across six departments as well as the building in general. No day is the same for me! One day I could be running an emergency drill, the next creating digital logs, processing hundreds of invoices, installing new signage or creating rosters.

What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?

For years people just saw me as ‘that girl from the café’ and would be surprised when I told them of my achievements outside of work. One of my previous managers saw my eagerness to learn as a threat and almost pushed me out of my job, despite giving my similarly eager male colleague more responsibility. The men in management wouldn’t take me seriously and the women would see me as a threat instead of taking me under their wing. I overcame these barriers by just not giving up! I continued to ask for more work, projects and responsibility and sat on every committee I could (and still do).

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting their career or more specifically a career like yours?

Know what you’re good at and what you need to work on. Be confident in your skills and be persistent. Prove that you need to be taken seriously!


Meet Nicola - Penguin Keeper

How did you get here what's it like to be a Penguin Keeper? 

I started off my career by completing a Bachelor of Science with a major in Animal Health and Disease from The University of Melbourne. Since then, I’ve spent three years working as a keeper at Halls Gap Zoo in the Grampians and two years working at Monkey World and Ape Rescue Centre in the U.K. Today, I am part of the Penguin team at Sea Life, where I have been for about a year.

The zookeeping industry has progressed a lot over the years. It was once a mostly male dominated industry due to the dirty, rough and labour intense nature of the job. Today more and more females are getting into the profession, which is awesome! Being a zookeeper is tough! Its competitive, it’s all consuming and can be completely ruthless at times. But if you have an undeniable passion for what you do, and a big fire in your belly you can get there!

I am so proud to be a part of the penguin team at Sea Life working alongside so many fabulous and strong women. Our team is predominantly female, including both our Bird Manager and Lead Keeper. These women inspire me every day to face life fearlessly and to work extremely hard. They approach every day with strength, confidence and a love for what they do, and I do too!


Megan - Guest Experience Officer 

We asked our Instagram followers what they wanted to know about our female staff and a large percentage of people asked "How did you get a job at the Aquarium"?

Megan, tell us about your journey so far and how you got here? 

In 2011 after graduating high school I had the year off, worked at an accounting firm and realised office jobs were not for me! I got my open water scuba diving certificate and started diving. At the end of the year went travelling for a month through Thailand, diving where I could.

I enrolled in University and got into a Bachelor of Environmental Science degree majoring in Marine Biology at Deakin University in Warrnambool.

In 2012 I made the move to Warrnambool to study where I met some amazing like-minded people in my course. I spent every spare moment at the beach, in the surf, scuba diving, snorkeling and whale watching through winter. I loved my course, it was very hands on with lots of time by the water and in the lab. I tried to do a few different volunteer opportunities to get some experience and meet some people who work in my field. I had the opportunity to go to the Maldives for a few weeks and volunteered on a small local island doing some marine conservation work. My time there mostly involved Sea Turtle rehabilitation, some fish identification and coral reef mapping. It was an incredible trip and really amazing experience in the most breath taking place and certainly made me realise marine biology was the right choice for me!

I also volunteered for FishCare taking groups of kids and adults fishing, teaching them how to fish and how to do it sustainably which showed me more of the education roles I could do which I really loved!

In 2014 I finished my degree, graduating at the end of the year with a distinction average and in 2015 I moved back to Melbourne to figure out my next move.

It was weird moving back away from the beach but made the most of time around family and friends and kept up some volunteer work. I volunteered for a bit with an honours student working with fairy/little penguins in phillip island. We would tag penguins and monitor different nests, weighing adults to see how long they were taking to moult. I worked a few different random jobs, swim teaching and retail work just keen to make a bit of money. I had plans to go to Europe but randomly applied for a job in Queensland and got it so thought I'd be silly not to take it!

So in 2016 I moved to Queensland to work on a remote island eco-resort called Lady Elliot Island. It was such a fun job and really amazing experience! I worked with the activities team taking guests out over the reef on the glass bottom boat or snorkeling. The team there were amazing and I made some incredible connections. I worked with some leading turtle experts, manta ray researches and coral data collectors. The whole resort was so eco-friendly and I learnt a lot of my colleagues and people I met. As I had always been doing I kept up my scuba diving and obtained my rescue diving certification. I was able to do a lot of diving and snorkeling while living there and had some of the best marine experiences ever. I swam with turtles, mantas, sharks and whales. It was certainly an amazing year!
In 2017 though I thought it was time to scratch my travel itch and took of to America and Central America for about 8 months. Diving down the coast of Mexico and surfing where I could.
Then I returned to Melbourne for Christmas of 2018 and have been here since! I love Melbourne and wanted to enjoy friends family and culture. I go the job here at Sealife about 8 months ago and have been loving it!

With all of my work experience, travel and volunteer work I have realized my favourite part of having my marine knowledge is sharing it with others. Inspiring people to make a change and do a little bit to help our environment. I think it’s incredibly important for all of us to work together and make positive changes within our lives. I love that at Sealife I get to do this all day. Not only teaching the kids that visit about cool sharks and fish but also adults who are often shocked by amazing facts and things they’d never really thought about.


Meet Chantal - Lead Penguin Keeper 

Who are you and what do you do? 

My job, whilst it does involve penguin love, includes a daily regime of scrubbing, shoveling, pulling, lifting, swimming, weighing, hosing, counting, singing, diving, catching, feeding, sometimes shivering and a lot of sweating. No role in the penguin team is easy and it takes strength and dedication to excel. Despite this our team of 9 has eight women. We’re not body builders or cross-fit athletes either; we’re just women who have a sincere passion for animals.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting their career or more specifically a career like yours?

When people say you can’t – prove them wrong. When they say men are stronger, show them otherwise. We do not want to be better, we want to be respected as equals. Women understand there are differences physically between the sexes but that doesn’t mean we can’t. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.