Updated: Jan 2, 2019
We recently ran a series of Women in Construction lunches in several capital cities around the country. It was such a fabulous experience to share a few hours with a group of such wonderful people, so dedicated to the industry, and committed to increasing the role women play in it. We even had some men in attendance!
We asked attendees what they saw as the critical challenges for the industry in raising levels of female participation, and several key themes stood out across the groups:
Attracting women to the industry
Retaining women in the industry through all phases of life
Availability of flexible working arrangements
Addressing gender bias
These challenges are more complex than they may initially seem. Women represent only 11% of the total workforce in the construction industry. This figure has in fact eroded over the last 5 years. It is clear something in the way this issue is being addressed is fundamentally not working.
Having seen the SBS program this week ‘Is Australia Sexist’ I am reminded of the need to not describe these issues in simple black and white terms. The show went through several scenarios where sexism would be evidenced – such as in online dating scenarios. It also looked at how people would react to witnessing sexual harassment in a workplace. Without diminishing the very real issues which were highlighted, I think the much more insidious problems are the ones which occur in the grey area. The sexual harassment which is not so overt, the biases in recruitment and promotion and the structural issues in our workplaces and employment law which make it difficult for true compromise to be found. I think when we over-simplify the issue we are destined to continue to try to implement naïve solutions which frankly do not work.
I have been advocating for women in industry for more than a decade, and I was delighted to see a program currently being run in the State Emergency Services to introduce girls to the industry and breakdown the stereotypes around the roles available. A really heartfelt congratulations to the organisation for their courage! The item which I think will be critical to the success of that program is that the program is run by a woman in a senior role in the industry. It is so important to evidence that there are options for career advancement if we want young women to gravitate towards these traditionally male dominated industries.
I am so excited to announce several projects we are launching over the next few months which I believe will make a real difference, and provide a platform for change..
Women in Construction 2019 Cohort
We are launching a 2019 cohort of our women in leadership program specifically tailored for women in construction. We have partnered with construction company Gartner Rose to ensure that the content is relevant and really targeted to the challenges within the industry. This program will run over a 12-month period and provide meaningful support and training to participants to take their careers to the next level.