Building an Industry that Supports Women

by Anthea Ramsay

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Housing Industry Association (HIA) Building Women luncheon in Melbourne. It was my first time ever attending such an event, and it was so great to be in a room full of like-minded women working in an industry that is the most male-dominated business sector in Australia. Did you know, women make up only 11% of the industry’s total workforce, and only 1% of tradespeople?

women in construction

I’ve been working in the construction industry for over twenty years, and only recently have these kinds of networking events been introduced. I believe that they are a much-needed step in the right direction, allowing women to come together and support one another. They also provide space for women’s achievements in construction to be highlighted and celebrated. 

My time at the women’s luncheon got me thinking about my own experience as a woman in the building world, and the many ways I believe the industry could better support women. 

There are a growing number of women entering the building industry in various roles, both in small and corporate companies. This is great to see, but I think the sector could be doing more to support these women, through more development, networking and mentorship programs. 

I believe that attitudes are slowly changing around how we see women’s roles in the industry, but we could do better. For instance, I think the sector should push for further acceptance of women in positions that are characterised as male jobs, such as estimators, tradespeople and project managers. Women in the industry aren’t just builder’s wives tending to the accounts.

I would also be great to see more networking events that make visible the crucial work women do in the sector. I think they are a great way for women to share skills and find community support, particularly when their businesses are predominately male run.

I’ve attended many industry-run workshops and events as the only women in the room. At these events, my expertise wasn’t respected, and I was often treated as the ‘builder’s wife’. My opinions were routinely dismissed and brushed off, as if I didn’t know what I was talking about. These experiences were disheartening and eventually I stopped attending these kinds of events and workshops. For some women, I’m sure experiences like this see them leave the industry entirely. 

Attitudes are certainly changing, with more women than ever before being supported in the industry. I’m encouraged by initiatives such as Women Building Australia (via Master Builders Australia) , the HIA providing more events to engage in and platform The Lady Tradies, just to name a few. But there is certainly more work to be done.

It only makes sense that the building sector better invest in women’s careers.

Building and construction shape domestic and public space, places where women play a vital role. As such, women’s input and expertise is invaluable to every facet of design and construction.

PLEASE NOTE: This post is only based on my own experiences and my opinion.

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