What does equity mean for WA’s construction industry? Today, on International Women’s Day, we’re lifting the lid on what it’s like being a woman in the sector in 2023.
It’s International Women’s Day! Today we’re celebrating women’s achievements and promoting equality. But we’re also embracing equity.
What does this mean for WA construction?
And what is it like as a woman in the sector in 2023?
We spoke with Daisy, Monique and Laura – three women working in construction – for their take on it. Here’s what they had to say…
Laura:I think it’s great there are incentives to get more women and mature-age people into construction. It makes it a more even playing field
Daisy, apprentice carpenter
After ten years in the disability sector, Daisy wanted a career change.
She knew construction was for her, having laboured on building sites with her father and enjoyed the physical challenge.
But she was uncertain about how she’d be received as a woman.
“I was a bit nervous. Not about the work, but about not having the opportunity to try, or not being able to keep up.”
Turns out, it was the best thing she did.
“I lucked out! Everyone I have come across has been lovely. So helpful and supportive and always happy to give me a go, even if I struggle at first.”
After completing a pre-apprenticeship, Daisy is now a second-year carpentry apprentice and thriving.
“I chose carpentry because I felt it was the most encompassing – such a wide range of jobs available. I currently work with modular buildings. It’s so rewarding seeing it built from the base to when it leaves on the truck.”
But it’s not just the work that she enjoys. The sense of fun and camaraderie is very much alive. There’s a stocked fridge on Friday afternoons and a team golf day is coming up soon.
So what does ‘embrace equity’ mean to her?
“It’s about being given a go…that you get given the opportunity, the chance to try something,” she explains.
Women currently make up 13 per cent of the building and construction industry's workforce and, of those, 2 per cent are in trades. The other 11 per cent work in administration and support roles. While construction is still one of the most male-dominated industries in Australia, change is happening.
When she started, Daisy was the only female tradesperson at her workplace. Now she is one of five.
“We outnumber the male tradies at this yard!” she explains.
It’s clear that the sector is evolving and by ensuring fair opportunities for women, we can sustainably drive our industry forward.
From hairdressing to bricklaying, Monique has had a varied career.
Signing up for a hairdressing apprenticeship at 15 years old, she loved the hands-on work. But as it turned out, hairdressing wasn’t for her.
“I wasn’t enjoying it so I thought about going into the police force or firefighting. But then I started looking at trades online and bricklaying stood out.”
Monique did a trial for a couple of weeks to see if she liked it. She loved it.
She dived into a pre-apprenticeship, then an apprenticeship with a residential builder. Today, she has her own business.
“Thinking back now, I was scared to get into bricklaying as it is a male-dominated trade.
“I’ve always been independent and a bit stubborn, so I gave it a go. I stepped out of my comfort zone and doubted myself at first. But I loved the physical work and creating something lasting, and people could see that.”
At the time, Monique was the only female in her pre-apprenticeship cohort.
Now, there are more opportunities for women to enter the construction industry than ever. And it shows. There has been a palpable shift in attitude towards women in the sector over the last decade.
“If you’re a woman, everyone is going to give you a go now”, Monique says.
“To me, ‘embrace equity’ is about being inclusive, but also about looking past gender.
“It comes down to the person,” she continues. “Do what you’re passionate about and put in 100%. If you’re willing to give it a go and put in the effort, the opportunities are there for you.”
Laura, apprentice carpenter
“I helped the builder working on my mum’s home renovation about seven years ago. I laboured for six months. It was a mixture of laying paving, doing studded walls, clean-ups; all sorts of stuff. I really enjoyed seeing a project from start to finish. That's when I knew I'd love a construction career.”
But it wasn’t until 2021 that Laura quit her job in the disability sector and made a career change.
“The hardest thing was being unsure if employers would want to take on a woman, especially mature age."
But her previous experience gave her the confidence to pursue it. She reached out to the same builder for more experience.
“That cemented it for me. I realised that I loved this kind of work. I felt comfortable asking him to show me things. I learnt so much.”
Laura undertook work trials with other businesses and then secured a carpentry apprenticeship with a residential builder.
“Before I started, I asked some of the guys their thoughts on having a female apprentice onsite. They said it would be a great dynamic which was so encouraging.”
Now a year into her apprenticeship, she is loving the variety that comes with the trade. From roof carpentry to fixing carpentry and more, she is developing a broad skill set.
“I’m really lucky and enjoy the challenge. Plus I’m about to see the second house I’ve worked on about to be finished – that’s cool.”
Aside from work, the social aspect is fun too. A Friday afternoon beer or the occasional barbecue is a welcome end to the week.
“I have a great relationship with people at work. It’s funny, I don’t see gender anymore and often don’t realise that I’m the only tradeswoman onsite. I’m comfortable where I am and everyone is pretty respectful.”
So what is Laura’s take on ‘embrace equity’?
Ensuring everyone has access to the support they need to get to where they want to be.
“I think it’s great there are incentives to get more women and mature-age people into construction. It makes it a more even playing field.
“Hopefully women in construction becomes more mainstream. Maybe they want a career change with a creative job and good prospects. That’s what carpentry has given me.”
When it comes to equity in construction, we’re consciously working with industry to support those who have unequal access to opportunities or resources.
One way we’re doing this is through our apprenticeship and traineeship grant for employers where additional incentives are available to employers who hire female apprentices. We also have an upskilling and short course funding program which provides subsidies for approved short training courses and is available to everyone in the construction industry.
By valuing difference and challenging gender stereotypes – like Daisy, Monique and Laura are –we can all drive positive change for our industry.
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