FDH Infrastructure Services

Interview with HR Director Nuala Cullinane Posted on Mar 8, 2021

Nuala CullinaneNuala (pronounced “NOO-luh”) Cullinane recently celebrated her one-year anniversary at FDH as human resources director. When she first arrived at FDH, she was immediately struck by the high level of diversity within the organization, including the number of accomplished women in engineering. For International Women’s Day, Nuala took a moment to reflect on the inspiring women who have influenced her own career path and on the work still to be accomplished to achieve gender equality in the workplace.

What women inspired you in your career path?

My sister and mother. My sister, Bernadette Cullinane, was among the first female chemical engineers to graduate from the University of Delaware. She went on to get her master’s in chemical engineering and an MBA from Columbia University. Her amazing career spans the globe, and she is currently in Perth, Australia, with Deloitte as partner and leader for Australian oil, gas, and chemicals. She taught me the power of hard work and is my mentor in life.

My mother, Eily Cullinane, grew up in Ireland in a family with nine siblings and immigrated to the United States. She was a midwife and nurse, who survived working in London during the blitz. Later, she lived in Africa, working with the Royal Nursing Corps for seven years, specializing in infectious diseases medicine. In the 1950s, she was featured in the Cork Examiner as “the amazing woman from Cork who traveled the world solo.”

My mother taught me to respect all nationalities and be adventurous. Once when I was deciding on my career, she advised me to either go to “Uni,” become a plumber, or join the military! I chose to study psychology at the University of Delaware and later received a Master of Science in industrial and organizational psychology from Steven’s Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

Both my sister and mum worked in male-dominated industries and have broken some glass ceilings. They are my inspiration to keep striving for the next challenge and adventure.

How does FDH attract and retain talented women?

FDH does a great job recognizing and appreciating the accomplishments of our female talent! With help from our creative marketing team, we regularly feature the achievements of our talented female staff on social media. We actively engage in diversity, equity, and inclusion practices to ensure fair treatment in recruitment, promotions, training, and compensation.

We use affirmative outreach to recruit women from female-oriented agencies and organizations. We emphasize the importance of internal communications, such as stay interviews and one-on-ones, to ensure not only our female talent, but all employees are engaged, have meaningful career development discussions, and find ways to pursue enriching learning opportunities. We recently launched a companywide engagement survey, and I am working on many strategic initiatives to further advance career and leadership development at FDH.

What mindsets still need to be challenged to achieve gender equality in the workplace?

I have worked in male-dominated industries my whole life, from a shipyard to aerospace. I have seen positive change, but there are still inequities when it comes to the perceptions and equal treatment of women at work. The most recent figures place the average woman’s earnings at around 80 percent of the average man’s, although this varies significantly between occupations. While women hold over 50 percent of all management- and professional-level jobs, American women lag substantially behind men in terms of their representation in leadership positions. Being aware of the inequities is not enough to bridge the gap. We also need to consider equality in all actions we take, as leaders in our respective organizations.

I am proud to say that, including myself, three out of nine on FDH’s senior leadership team are women – Debbie Wood, our CFO, and Krystyn Perez, our vice president of engineering, all of whom report directly to the CEO. That’s pretty solid representation!

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