One of my early jobs was as a Brickies Labourer in the early 2000′s. This job was given to me by a friend. I could start immediately – thanks to my early mosh pit days I already had steel cap boots! I found the site and crew to be very nice and very funny, there was lots of banter, however, I gave as good as I got.
Whilst it was often risqué, I viewed this as non-sexual banter. My personal favourite was being asked for 3 meters of fallopian tube to which I replied, “you’re a brickie not a plumber”. Banter on site is inevitable. The line however can get blurred and some women aren’t as lucky as I was. Winslow Constructions, for example, have just lost a court case where a woman was harassed on site. I applaud Kate for standing up for herself. You can read more here.
Let me introduce you to a pioneer, Lillian Gilbreth. She paved the way for many to come after her. She became the first female member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1926. She made her mark in the Industry and is still remembered today for her amazing achievements in a time where “jobs” were typically being a “lady” and a wife.
In 1944 – during WW II the Waterloo Bridge had over 25,000 women working in the construction industry. They were either labourers, brick layers or joiners. Sadly, women were paid 25% of the male wage AND they had to give their jobs back to the male workers when they came back from the war, but that’s another blog…. Fast forward 4 decades.
In speaking to my father – who runs his own Engineering business, he said in the 80′s he never saw a woman on site. He explained that sites simply didn’t cater for women. There were no female toilets for example. He told me he certainly wouldn’t want his daughter going into the toilets to see what was on the walls! Where women were employed however, such as in the office as drafts people, they brought different ideas and solutions to the team and he highly enjoyed working with them. My dad, now offers a diverse workplace of gender, ages and races. He has LGBTI staff and provides a safe workplace for all without exclusion. Good ‘onya Dad! He is one of the Good Guys.
Suzi from Rural Construction and Maintenance has this to say of being a female apprentice: “I guess I was a bit nervous not knowing how I would be treated and whether I would be classed equal along side working with men. I found that most of the men respected me and were very encouraging and helpful . As I also was to them. The company I did my apprenticeship with encouraged us all to work as a team and have respect for one another which was great! There was only one incident where I had to really stand my ground in a group of 5 men as they weren’t letting me have a say in the project we were doing and were all thinking they knew it all. Once I stood my ground and spoke up they respected me even more and were most supportive of me.
I feel proud of my achievement and would encourage more women to pursue a career in construction, we are multi skilled and bring great balance to the work site. Change has been happening for a while. It’s up to all of us to stand up and support and encourage each other. I went to a ‘women in renewables’ lunch hosted by the Clean Energy Council – construction of Solar and Wind farms. Some of the ladies were talking about how they were supported by management and encouraged to be the best they could be. However, the message was different for others, they spoke of – Fear. Whilst they are being encouraged to speak up and bring their opinions to the table, they are fearful of being negatively labelled. They are fearful of being ‘a bitch’, ‘ a know it all’. The conversation moved positively on however for those who moved through the fear and that once they spoke up – it was generally well received and they gained more respect and trust from their colleagues. In turn their work was much more enjoyable.
Other women I spoke to wished they had spoken up when they hadn’t. Some were immobilised by their fear of what others might think of them or the reaction they felt they may face. I’m encouraging all of you to speak your mind and voice your opinions – you might have a better way, if not you may learn something! Many of the biggest learnings in life come when we do something that really challenges us. That’s how we grow and develop. The message is clear – The time is now (thanks Oprah!)
Women, we need to hold strong in our opinions, speak up and seek organisations that support us in the workplace and have solid diversity programs in place. Top tier firms such as Downer and John Holland strive for diversity and inclusion. Firms now have gender equality and support associations such as National Association of Women in Construction – More information can be found on their website.
At Selection Partners we are really clear that equality is part of our DNA. We choose to work with companies that support equality and inclusion on all fronts. If you need any assistance bringing about inclusion in your firm, undergo a diversity audit to understand where you sit and then implement positive change – our HR consulting team would be very happy to assist. Me, personally, I am happy to find great people for you, including fabulous women. The time is now ladies and I’d like to thank all the ‘good guys’ out there that support and encourage their female staff.