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Women Building Industry Profile

Filed under Press Releases.

Auckland Build Expo provided an exclusive platform for Women in Construction last week, holding an event that brought together and celebrated women and their achievements within the built environment industries. The session kicked off with a networking morning tea, followed by a panel discussion that featured Amy Barrett (National Business Development Manager, Hawkins & Downer and an Advisory Board Member of Infrastructure New Zealand's Women in Infrastructure Network).

Other panellists included:

  • Jenny Parker (Auckland Chair, NAWIC)

  • Gina McKenzie (Communications Manager, NAWIC)

  • Aurelie Le Gall (Business Director, Hays)

  • Miranda Burdon (CEO, Global Women)

  • Leah Singer (Owner, Entwine Ltd) 

The panellists met with a huge crowd, diverse and challenging questions and comments, and discussed many innovative ideas on how to tackle some of the key issues surrounding women's continued success in New Zealand's construction industry.

Amy said, "I was so excited to see how many people attended this event. Often I feel that women in this industry are too invisible and I am really passionate about getting them to speak up and make our impact and influence be known. Often, we feel that construction is a men's industry, but it's women's too!." 

Construction and carpentry have traditionally been viewed as male-dominated roles, and even today they are some of the most gender-segregated professions in the world. Over the last few years though, there has been a significant increase in the number of women choosing careers in male-dominated fields. 

The key challenges faced by women working in the industry were identified as:

  • The unconscious bias

  • Flexibility issues, especially for those in on-site roles

  • Lack of senior role models & women making decisions which has a trickle-down effect

  • Pay equality/pay parity 

  • Discrimination, unfair interview questions, and comments about 'part-time' work hours for mothers

  • Inappropriate behaviour 

  • PPE not appropriate or comfortable.

  • Company culture doesn't adequately support women

  • Disrespect, i.e. not being taken seriously, being spoken over, being asked to make coffee etc.

Key suggestions for how to attract more women to the industry were:

  • Getting more women into STEM subjects at an early age (as early as pre-school)

  • Bringing talent from offshore where necessary

  • Getting more women into key decision

    making / leadership

    roles to help sway company culture, recruitment, and to become mentors

  • Companies should be building up a female talent pipeline - profiling and engaging with top women in the industry

  • Ensuring that all company media and advertising features an even split of men and women

  • Holding more industry networking events & mentoring meet-ups for women

  • Getting women from the industry into schools to promote construction careers (NAWIC is currently ramping up their efforts in this regard).

Key things to take away:

  • Retaining female staff is just as important as recruiting new ones

  • Ensuring that women don't feel that they are a 'lone voice', they should know to seek out support, especially from other women who may feel the same way

  • In order to improve company culture, women must call out poor

    behaviour

    , and make their expectations regarding respect and treatment clear

  • Confirmation bias is a thing – if you expect poor treatment, you start to see it everywhere... try to see and expect the best in everyone and try to point out inappropriate comments to people (who might not

    realise

     they are doing it) in a humorous way

  • If that doesn't work, try to go to senior people with proposed solutions, not just problems

  • Men are part of the solution. A lot of men are struggling too... there is strength in numbers 

  • Women shouldn't be so hard on themselves. They need to have more self-belief and push themselves forward more!

  • Doing something you love and knowing why you are doing it, helps with the bumps in the roads  

  • As the numbers of women in the industry grow, they will grow exponentially

  • Join mentoring groups like Professionelle , and networks such as NAWIC or Women in Infrastructure, where you can make connections within the industry and obtain support and advice

  • More men need to take on responsibilities at home so that things like school drop-offs and staying home to look after sick children do not automatically fall to women every time. With work at home divided 50-50, women are freed up to have the same level of participation at senior levels as their male colleagues and are in a better position to get ahead in their careers

  • Women need to look out for other women – they are not the competition!.

NAWIC's key principles – 'Include, respect, and inspire'. 

For further reading, Nano Girl, and Frances Valentine and her MindLab,  were recommended. They are currently leading an anti-qualifications based movement to get greater numbers of women into the industry. This closely aligns with Hawkins focus on employing people based on their behaviours, and not just on skills. 

Ultimately, it was agreed that the issues discussed by the panellists and crowd are not gendered; rather, they industry-wide problems, and their solutions will help both men and women and improve business performance. 

More and more women are seeking a rewarding and challenging career and are finding one in construction. With the industry being at the forefront of NZ's skills shortage, this paves further opportunities, which were discussed during the show. Flexibility is also on the improve, with companies like AECOM are now offering permanent roles with school holidays off and there is a move towards this across the industry. 

Leah Singer summed up the morning's events up nicely, "I absolutely love working in an industry that is all about problem-solving and people, and the pros of being a female in the built-environment far outweigh the cons."
 

Due to the success of the event, Build Auckland is now looking to grow the Women in Construction section of its 2018 expo substantially, with more speakers, full presentations, and coaching sessions.