Why do you think it is a challenge to get women to work / remain in the construction industry?
At primary and high school level, it’s really a lack of awareness around construction being an option for girls and young women to consider. Most women you speak to in the industry have fallen into their roles by chance, or they have been influenced by someone such as a family member, who might work in construction.
For me, I was looking at becoming a Police Officer and obtained an administration role at BADGE to get some life experience before joining the force. After only a few months my eyes were opened to the multiple roles and opportunities the industry can offer. 14 years later, I’m now a Project Manager with Walker Corporation and President of NAWIC SA – something my year 10 self never would have considered!
Once a woman enters the industry, they are still faced with challenge meaning they end up leaving and choosing a different career path. These situations vary obviously, but common reasons we hear include the gender pay gap, being overlooked for role opportunities and inability for the industry and the companies within it to innovate work practices to support the modern-day family unit.
Interestingly, within our NAWIC community, we believe wholly that every single challenge faced by women in construction is able to be fixed through education, workplace and industry culture shifts, and increased efforts towards solid diversity and inclusion practices.
What more can be done when it comes to education around the topic?
At NAWIC we focus on all levels of education – individuals, companies and the industry as a whole.
We support initiatives and programmes within primary schools to create future construction leaders and work with female high school students about to make their career decisions. Just last year we worked with our other industry allies at Master Builders SA and Property Council SA to help roll out these schools-based education sessions.
Through our events and sponsor network, we are educating companies to help them make informed decisions to attract and retain both women, and other under-represented groups. This year we are launching diversity and inclusion audits as a more formal method, but many of the events in our calendar are opportunities for stories to be shared and as such, allow both senior leaders and companies, to really listen.
We educate and empower our industry to make informed decisions and drive changes that will aid in the increased recruitment, retention and further vocational development within all facets of the construction industry. Both locally and nationally, we are working with governments and organisations to ensure that these programs and grants come to life and are easily accessible.
What can we still do better?
This year’s IWD them is #breakthebias.
NAWIC is not exclusive to one gender – we need true male allies to join us at our events and in our programmes, because the future of female inclusion and leadership still sits in male hands. NAWIC and a number of women in the industry already have some fantastic male allies – but we need more! Their support and engagement is just as important as the women who engage with us. The allies are those that hear, see and listen to female experience and have a desire to ‘break the bias’ by calling it out, or working to make genuine change - it could be through using their authority to create corporate policy, or ensuring company policies are un-gendered.It could be joining a programme to mentor a female professional.Or it could be making a plan on how your business will develop its women in to senior roles.
If you believe in interrupting the norm and making change, then you simply must actively call out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping each time you see it.