Who says building and construction is only for the boys?
Exciting, changeable, lucrative: it’s a career that offers women a treasure-trove of opportunity. And lately, it seems that more and more ladies are catching onto this idea, popping on a hardhat and working onsite.
So, if you’re looking for a career that can keep you interested, pay you well and give you plenty of scope to rise in the ranks, then building and construction may be perfect for you.
To give you an insight into what this career is like for a woman, we spoke to Crystal, a Project Manager with over a decade of experience in the industry.
Did you always want to work in building and construction?
I initially wanted to be an architect. I went to uni and did a double degree with architecture and construction. I got halfway through the degree and realised that construction was what I enjoyed and the direction I wanted to head in.
How did you get into the industry?
When I was studying, I was given an assignment which required me to make contact and meet regularly with a builder. After I had finished the assignment, the builder offered me a part time position with the company.
I moved into a full time role with the same company once I had finished studying.
Would you recommend people get work before they finish their course?
Yes. You are able to get an insight into the industry and then apply that to your studies, as well as apply what you are studying to your work.
It also helps you to get a foot in the door of a job before you finish your course.
Have you encountered any obstacles in the industry because you were a woman?
You do get some people who are not used to seeing or working with women in the industry, but that is definitely changing. It hasn’t been a massive hurdle for me.
If you’re capable and you want to do it, then get out and do it. Who’s to say no?
Do you have strategies that you use to deal with issues if you come up against them?
You definitely have to be resilient, but if you are having issues, your managers are there to support you.
When dealing with the guys on site, as soon as you can show them that you actually know what you’re talking about, you definitely get a different respect from them.
You do have to prove yourself. You need to be confident in what you’re saying, you can’t second guess yourself, and you have to be sure that whatever you’re saying, you’ll back yourself 100% on it.
Having said that, I really do think that the industry is changing overall. So it’s not as much of a concern now as what it was 15-20 years ago.
Can you talk me through some of the changes that you’re seeing?
There are more women in the industry now, which is great. Just recently, we had a site team of four, and three of us were girls.
Do you think that the industry offers women a chance to travel?
Definitely. I started in Melbourne then spent four years in China, and now I’m in Western Australia.
The company I work for has its headquarters in Melbourne as well as offices across Australia and internationally, so I’m fortunate in that I can put my hand up and say I’m keen to go to a certain place, and if the opportunity arises, it’s mine for the taking.
It’s definitely a career that can take you internationally because the (building and construction) processes don’t change much from country to country. Yes, there are slight differences in approach between companies and countries, but in general the principals are the same: concrete is concrete.
Are there associations that support women in the industry?
There are organisations dedicated to encouraging and protecting women in building and construction, including the National Association of Women in Construction, and there’s a similar equivalent in the mining sector.
As well as being places to get advice and support, joining these associations is a great way to get out there and network.
Companies also have their own support structures. The company I work for is a big advocate of women in construction and sustaining them throughout their careers.
What do you think this career can offer women?
No day is ever the same. I like that about the industry, and that fact that you’re constantly learning. Every day I learn something new.
There’s also the fact that it’s a portable career that can take you to different states and countries. And there’s definitely the opportunity for career growth if you show potential and have a desire to learn.
What type of work environment can a woman expect working in building and construction?
Every project and site is different. The site I’m working on at the moment, there’s seven of us in the team, and I’ve got 45 people on site. The site itself is a laboratory refurbishment and the facilities have to remain operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
On another recent project for a pharmaceutical company there were 450 people on site, which goes to show that there’s a huge variation in work environments from project to project. But that’s just another aspect of the industry that I like.
The environment is what you make it. You’re always going to have personality clashes and challenges but this happens in every industry. You just have to ride with it, know what you’re doing and have confidence to back yourself and your decisions.
What advice would you give women looking to get into building and construction as a career?
Don’t give up. Work your butt off and learn from those around you. The world is your oyster.
What advice would you give to a woman looking to climb the career ladder in building and construction?
Set your sights high but be humble. Keep the big picture in mind. Listen to people, take advice on-board, be informed and make decisions confidently.
What are the best qualities a woman in this industry can have?
Resilience, determination, ambition and definitely confidence.
Interested in building and construction as a career?
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