Driving Inclusiveness

Misty Soper began her career at Citycare as a temporary labourer cleaning the streets of Christchurch. She joined the team on 23 February 2011, one day after the Canterbury earthquakes. Her previous experience had been working as a manager of the Treehouse karaoke bar in the heart of Christchurch city. With no work to go to the day after the earthquakes, Misty was pleased to have picked up a temporary job. She would be walking the streets of Christchurch cleaning and shovelling liquefaction. What Misty didn’t know then, was that temporary role would turn into a career and nine years later she would have the opportunity to speak at a Women in Leadership conference on driving inclusiveness.

“That first week was hard work. It was exhausting. It was long hours and physically demanding, over a few months I lost 32kg walking and shovelling. After two years I was moved into an office role due to a knee injury and three years ago I stepped into my first supervisor role. In 2017 I took over as Environmental Services Manager. I took on the role from the previous manager who retired after 40 years,” says Misty.

In Misty’s role as Environmental Services Manager, she works in the team that manages the maintenance contract for Christchurch City Council. The contract includes sweeping, sump cleaning and the emptying of 398 litter bins daily.

Misty’s team is made up of 17 operators/labourers in Christchurch.  Her team includes three women, seven men over the age of 35 years and four different nationalities. No one is higher or lower in Misty’s team. No matter the age or stage. They are on equal footing, all working towards the same goal.

“Many of my team have watched me sweat and know I work hard just like they do. Some of my older guys are in their 60s and they are still delivering a great day’s work. When I first started nine years ago, I was one of the only women on the roading team, and now we are seeing more women enter this industry. I like to create an inclusive environment where we grow each other regardless of our background or story. I am a big believer in the bottom to top style and giving everyone who is willing to work hard the opportunity to succeed. This was given to me and I want to pay it forward,” says Misty.

Misty was a guest on a speakers’ panel to discuss how to further drive inclusiveness in Infrastructure at the Liquid Learning Women in Leadership Conference in Auckland. Misty says joining the panel was a big step in her own personal development but that she felt compelled to share her journey to build greater awareness.

“In a typically male dominated working environment, being a young Maori woman has allowed me to bring a fresh different perspective on the business as usual approach.  My team and I have developed some new key learnings that have enabled my culturally diverse team to set higher goals for the group and personally.  I lead everyday by example and truly believe you only learn when you are working outside of your comfort zone.  I want to challenge the people I work with; I want them to be asking how do I advance my own career?  What’s my next step?  I also want to change the perception and showcase that labouring and construction are good career options.  You can start at the bottom and work your way up and there is a future in these types of roles and in our industry.  Citycare has provided me with many opportunities and really pushed me to keep growing.  All employers can learn something from this approach”.