Celebrating Women in Construction on International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day holds space for us to honour the trailblazers of yesterday, champion the game-changers of today and to empower the next generation to continue with gusto. However, of all the frontiers we have crossed, construction still remains a largely male-dominant industry. Today, we celebrate the Women in Construction who are trying to change that.
For light background reading, Phillippa Carnemolla recently authored and published a whitepaper for this year’s IWD that took a deep dive into why girls don’t explore a career path in construction. Here at ModularWalls, we were lucky enough to speak with three construction professionals who are showing Australia that there’s an equal workforce on the horizon.
Penny Petridis, Founder of Female Tradie
Q. So how does Female Tradie empower women in construction?
Female Tradie is all about showing the future generations of girls that they can do what they want; no trade or job is unachievable. It’s also about opening the doors and using industry contacts to make the pathway into an apprenticeship easy; basically, we’re there to support them in any way we can.
Q. What’s your proudest achievement?
There’s nothing better than a client loving the results of their renovations and standing back together and enjoying that moment.
We also occasionally run workshops for women to enhance their skills and to become more confident in using both hand and power tools. I love how grateful and excited they all get when they learn how to do something practical. Some women have dreamt of being tradies all their lives and unfortunately didn’t know where to begin. It’s really all about awareness and I’ll continue to make this my mission.
Q. What would you say to women currently in construction, or those trying to get into the industry?
To follow their passion! If they come up against a challenge, dig deep and use the resilience that women have to find another way to get to where they want to be. And I would encourage them to seek out other women in their industry to communicate with and support each other.
Liz Fell, Project Engineer at ModularWalls
Q. What drew you to work in construction?
Liz: I like understanding how things work, and why they work. Construction is the ultimate puzzle – how do I deliver a solution to a problem, in the fastest, most appropriate and cost-effective way? Every day is different, and there are always challenges to navigate. But it’s incredibly satisfying when you see the finished product!
Q. Are there barriers facing women in construction today?
Liz: There are some – like not having the type of uniform you require in women’s sizing, yet. And you do still get some people who won’t take you seriously, but it’s the minority; most people don’t take a second glance.
However, I think more females just need to be told at an earlier age that they can do anything and have a fulfilling career in construction. The image of the industry is that it’s full of ‘blokey-blokes’ and sexism – it isn’t! Plus, it can be a lot of fun seeing a design come to fruition and building something long-lasting and meaningful.
Q. And do you have any advice for women struggling to ‘fit in’ or feel welcome in the industry?
Liz: Just be yourself – at the end of the day, people are people. You can only be judged on what you do, not other people.
Melanie Rollings, The Tradie Lady Sustainable Designs
Q. How did The Tradie Lady come about?
It all started about 3 and a half years ago – we were actually in the childcare industry, and we had a lot of friends in childcare too. A lot of us needed our playgrounds redone, but the landscapers were quoting an absolute mint. Myself and my now business partner thought, it can’t be that hard. We started off with our childcare centre to knock some of the cost out, and thought we did a pretty good job! We made a Facebook page and got a bunch of likes and followers, and after that we booked in to study, got qualified and just started from there.
Q. How does The Tradie Lady empower women in construction?
I think with our business, the young kids in preschools and especially the young girls see have exposure to women that are giving it a go, and it raises all the right questions. We also do woodwork lessons with our kids at after-school care. We’ve noticed that the boys will move on after half an hour or so, and girls will do it all day — they’re really enthralled with having that opportunity. We’re giving them tools and teaching them how to use them, and undoing any gender conditioning early. We want them to think, and know, “I’ve got the same hands and the same tools as the boys — so why cant I?” We’re empowering young girls to really believe this for when they grow up.
Q. What would you say is the biggest challenge, and biggest reward, for women in construction?
The biggest challenge is still the way people think. A lot of random guys will see you in the hardware store, with a trolley full of materials and tools, and come over and ask “what are you and your husband building?”. Or think it’s really ‘cute’ that we’re in the hardware section looking at drills, instead of sticking to the plants or paint aisles. So a lot of it is still hearing that and holding it together.
The biggest reward for me personally is watching our designs come from a piece of paper, and watching my hands make it into a reality.
Written by Evelyn Kandris
ModularWalls prides itself on its dedicated in-house team of professionals, and its vibrant, national Trade Partner Network of over 1,500 across Australia. It also invests in the industry’s workforce through cadetships, specialist training, professional development opportunities and development strategies designed to bring employee aspirations to fruition.
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