Opportunities for Women in Construction

We’ve been working in the Construction Industry for a few years now, developing leaders and teams and helping women at all levels grow in confidence and gain skills to find their place in Construction – and to continue encouraging other women to do the same.

Part of my strategy is to talk to key players in the Industry, who have the expertise to explain what they see as key issues women face in Construction moving forward, and how to deal with them.
This interview is with Steve Schofield, Group Head of Human Resources and Industrial Relations, for the Downer Group.

‘Providing meaningful opportunities for women across our various business segments, in particular the Construction sector, is a key priority for the Downer and Spotless team. We will continue to enjoy improved business performance for all employees by relentlessly pursuing a greater balance of women and men in both leadership and technical specialist roles.’ Steve explained.

What will it take for Women to get to the top?

But what does it take for women in Construction to ‘make it?’ How do we really get to the top of our game in what is historically a strongly male-dominated Industry that has neither encouraged nor seen large numbers of women enter the Industry or thrive in it?

My interview with Steve gave me great insight into the opportunities that are open to women in this fast-changing Industry, with a focus on skill sets that can fast track them to the top.

I wanted to get an understanding of his perception of this issue and learn more about what he believes can be done about it, moving forward.

When I met Steve, a 30-year veteran in Transport and Construction, he didn’t disappoint.

What I found was a warm, engaging and inspiring executive who clearly loves what he does, truly cares for the people in his business and deeply values the contribution that both men and women make in Construction (or any Industry for that matter.)

Here are some excerpts from our discussion.

Attracting Women to the Construction Industry

Historically, the proportion of women entering the Construction Industry and pursuing leadership roles has been significantly less than men and for some time now, the Industry has worked hard to create a more balanced environment. To initiate greater motivation to attract more women to the sector, particularly into leadership roles where the numbers are lacking.

Steve believes these results can and will grow with Programs that work to improve the operating environment for both women and men.

Buildcorp is an industry leader in this space and a true role model that others may follow. The Organisation demonstrates genuine improvement and market leading results in creating a better balance of men and women in Construction overall.

‘At Downer, we have adopted similar approaches to Buildcorp and we continue to work together to improve opportunities for women in the Construction Industry overall.

Flexible working arrangements, skills transferability from other and like industries and a legitimate investment in the entry-level opportunities make good business sense and have delivered very positive results for Buildcorp.’

A changing Industry

‘The Construction Industry is fast-changing and developing new methods and techniques for meeting client expectations are our primary focus. Ensuring diverse thought contributions at our leadership level is essential in keeping pace with this fast change which ultimately enables us to deliver more effectively.’

A more equal representation of women and men makes good business sense

‘Promoting an appropriate balance of leadership styles and focusing on diversity in Construction makes good business sense. Providing greater opportunities for women across the business, in leadership and technical specialists’ roles, assists us to work through all forms of problem solving effectively and enhance our business at all levels,’ explains Steve.

Getting the mix right

‘Downer works to build effective teams that operate in environments that offer flexibility, diversity of views and the opportunity to make sound decisions and own the outcomes. We constantly acknowledge effort and commitment and we always work to reward positive results.

Our approach is about getting the team-mix right. Our core message of great relationships creating success applies equally to our people as it does to our customers and other stake-holders.
Like other businesses, we review our project results against planned outcomes, both from a financial perspective and from a team delivery approach. Our project management processes are industry leading and we work hard to ensure we assemble the right team balance and dynamics when we launch a new initiative.

The team dynamic is an equal priority to setting the budget and the project plan!

We focus on our known capabilities and are selective in the business we chase and like others, we focus on ensuring a safe working environment for everybody and delivering a quality product or service – on time every time.’

What do you think will really make Women thrive in Construction moving forward?

‘I am convinced that a solid grounding in Industrial Relations (IR) and financial and business principles will assist all aspiring leaders to be more effective in delivering business results and this applies equally to both women and men.

Specifically, when business is viewed through an IR lens, we add a perspective that truly enhances the operational effectiveness of the Organisation. I think this is a great strategy for women entering the Industry and who want to have fast tracked careers and do well.’

Steve’s final words resonated with me, because perhaps it’s not about being a woman or man.

He explains:

‘For us it’s not about gender. It’s about our people pursuing opportunities in a thoughtful and team focused way that allows us to be the best in everything we do,’

My interview concluded, I have thought a great deal about Steve’s words regarding women in Construction and believe that his insight and perspectives add great weight to creating safe and enjoyable Construction environments for all to enjoy, regardless of gender.

We have a long way to go though, as at time of writing, less than 10 percent of people in this tough Industry are women. And we need more. Many many more.

Caryn Walsh