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The Leaky Pipeline podcast series sparks industry transformation

The Leaky Pipeline podcast series sparks industry transformation

This month, the National Association of Women in Construction highlights its new podcast series, The Leaky Pipeline, sharing inspiring stories that celebrate women in construction.

By the National Association of Women in Construction.

At the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), we adopt a strategic approach that spans the entire career lifecycle of our members. This journey begins with their high school education and exposure to a construction career and extends to accessing growth opportunities such as senior management, business scaling and sale, as well as participation at the board level.

To increase female participation in construction, together we must stem the leaks across each stage of our pipeline. The pipeline, representing the various stages in a woman’s career in construction, requires proactive measures to attract, retain and grow women, enabling them to enjoy the safety, economic security and career fulfillment the industry has to offer.

A NAWIC Changemaker podcast series

Alchemy Construct captured the true essence of diversity in the Australian construction industry. (Image: Alchemy Construct)
Alchemy Construct captured the true essence of diversity. (Image: Alchemy Construct)

Women make up only 13 per cent of workers in the construction industry, but at NAWIC, we have a goal to make it 25 per cent by 2025. To achieve this, it’s not just about recruiting more women; it’s also about creating a culture that helps retain them.

Join Lauren Fahey, the host of The Leaky Pipeline podcast series and general manager of NAWIC Australia, as she discusses the challenges, opportunities and what it means to be a changemaker.

In The Leaky Pipeline series, you’ll hear from women with a range of experiences in the construction industry. They will discuss the challenges, address assumptions and share their thoughts on how to make the construction sector more diverse and inclusive – and why that’s a good thing for everyone.

Episode 1: Professor Paula Gerber – NAWIC Australia founder
Creating your tribe and why NAWIC remains an inclusive and truly representative membership organisation in construction.

When Paula Gerber graduated from university, like many Australians, she purchased a backpack and a one-way ticket out. She found herself doing a construction law apprenticeship in California and later in the UK, where she often found herself as the only woman in her workplace.

Once mistaken onsite for an adult entertainer, Paula is now a highly respected professor at Monash University and a sought-after spokesperson. Upon her return to Australia, Paula set out to establish a local chapter of NAWIC to build her tribe; 28 years later, we now boast over 10,000 members.

One of the things that struck Paula at the start of forming NAWIC was that many men were keen to join. Why? Because it stands out as one of the few associations spanning the whole of industry in Australia. Paula coined the term ‘cognitive diversity’ to articulate the antidote to groupthink. It yields a more holistic approach to problem-solving, and that’s one of the key reasons we need to encourage more women and greater diversity in the construction industry, Paula says.

Episode 2: Christina Yiakkoupis – chair of NAWIC Australia
Let’s get loud. Speaking up and insisting industry and government do better.

Christina Yiakkoupis had her heart set on becoming an architect. When a university careers counsellor noticed she was undertaking physics and maths subjects, she was offered a scholarship for engineering that was too compelling to refuse. She now loves the diversity of her career and reflects on the significant improvements she has observed in the construction industry.

When it comes to creating a cultural shift in construction, change happens from the top. Boldly calling upon government to implement targets and quotas, Christina says this is important because it starts a conversation. It’s a catalyst for businesses to do better, to not only attract but also retain women.

Let’s be very clear, Christina says, about bullying and gender bias: it’s not okay, never was okay, never will be okay.

Episode 3: Kerry Neil – general manager for South Australia at GHD
Let’s talk about technical capability, not physical ability: why heat is often excused for hormones.

Kerry Neil started her career as a marine biologist working in the ports and shipping industry. Today, she is GHD’s general manager for South Australia and the NAWIC National Award winner for 2022.

Busting common myths, Kerry dives into the subjects of menstruation and childbearing, emphasising that these factors do not denigrate women’s capability to do their jobs. Physical ability needs to go into the backroom, Kerry shares. People are now being seen for their technical capability and working with their heads. “Don’t discriminate our opportunity, instead let’s have a conversation and fix the environment,” Kerry urges. Similarly, Kerry says don’t mistake ‘heat in a conversation’ for a hormonal issue, rather let’s consider why someone is passionate.

Episode 4: Emma Sckrabei – director of The Umbrella Collective
“Can we start at 7.30am?” Challenging industry and government to address the skill shortage by ditching the traditional.

Emma Sckrabei has spent her previous chapter as head of community for Gininderry – an exemplar project, a joint government and industry initiative to attract and retain women in construction. As she launches into her own business, ‘The Umbrella Collective’, Emma reflects that industry associations have a real role to play. Her own experience in the ACT stems from building a pipeline for women in construction, to recruit and retain new talent in the industry.

The question

What if we could develop a curriculum-based model to develop the pipeline for women in construction, targeted at years 7 to 10? NAWIC and the Office for Women obtained grant funding to develop resources in curriculum, to foster school-based apprenticeships. The program included learning about construction, diving into gender equality, focusing on the industry and exploring a wide range of roles including ‘Try a Trade’ experiences, work experience and mentoring. A total of 110 young women, in years 9 and 10, related to people in the industry and participated in this program, which is providing exposure and creating change.

This is a proud collaboration with Broad Radio, a media outlet by women, for women. You can find The Leaky Pipeline podcast on all the usual platforms.

Related stories:

NAWIC Journal Photo Competition

Each year, NAWIC invites its members to submit photos capturing the essence of women in construction. The winning entry for 2023, awarded to Alchemy Construct, graces the front cover of this year’s NAWIC Journal.

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