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Gender bias in construction and its real effects

Gender bias in construction and its real effects

The National Association of Women in Construction is actively working to dismantle gender bias in the workplace, fostering crucial conversations that not only aim to help understand but also to drive positive change.

By the National Association of Women in Construction.

At the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), we strive to share our stories, amplify our voices and support each other on our journey to achieving great work. Through our social media platforms, events and often in our award nominations, we hear about experiences where NAWIC members – both cisgender and transgender, who identify as female – face greater challenges in the workplace solely due to their gender.

In our fortnightly instalments of Construction Convo’s, we aim to break down gender bias in the workplace and create opportunities to understand and create change. By sharing the lived experiences of our members, volunteers and partners, we open up conversations on how to take action and shift the culture.

“I wouldn’t have to hide that I was trying to start a family.”

This is something women often feel the need to conceal. So how do we fix this?

Creating a supportive work environment is essential to ensure that women feel comfortable when discussing their plans of starting a family. Here are some key strategies that can help achieve this objective:

  • Implementing family friendly policies;
  • Encouraging open communication;
  • Demonstrating supportive leadership;
  • Providing parenting support programs;
  • Organising training sessions that focus on diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias; and
  • Acknowledging and celebrating family milestones within the workplace.

By following these steps, we can cultivate a supportive workplace where everyone feels valued and supported.

“I wouldn’t constantly question myself and I would make sure everyone in the room had a chance to speak.”

Let’s break down this statement into two sections. The first – self-doubt. Women in the workplace often face feelings of insecurity that can stem from factors within the work environment and a lack of self-confidence. One of the contributors is the presence of gender bias and stereotypes, which can lead women to doubt their abilities and constantly feel the need to prove themselves. Additionally, the unequal opportunities and underrepresentation of women in leadership positions can give rise to imposter syndrome, where women question their skills and their value. The challenges of balancing work and family responsibilities can add a layer of pressure as societal expectations tend to burden women. All these factors combined create an environment where women may struggle with feelings of insecurity and self-doubt, ultimately impeding their professional development.

The second part to this statement is allowing everyone to feel heard. This is a struggle for most women in meetings. In order to foster an inclusive work environment, it’s crucial to ensure that everyone in the meeting has the opportunity to speak up and feel like their voice is heard. The key is to create a supportive space that welcomes perspectives. It’s important to value and acknowledge contributions from all participants to reinforce their sense of worth.

“I would have got the board position because of my skills, not to improve the diversity lens on the board.”

At NAWIC, we have delved into the concept of the ‘tick box’ extensively. The term ‘tick box’ alludes to the practice of placing a female, in this instance, on a board or in a position without creating real action for change, but to simply appear ‘diverse’.

In 2011, Australia’s Reibey Institute found that over three and five-year periods, ASX500-listed companies with women directors delivered significantly higher return on investment than those without any women on their boards, showing a 6.7 per cent and 8.7 per cent increase respectively. In our recent Construction Convo’s post, we discussed self-doubt among women in the workplace, who often face feelings of insecurity due to the presence of gender bias and stereotypes. These factors can lead to doubts about their abilities.

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Whether you feel you don’t have the skill set to sit on a board or believe you may have been considered a ‘tick box’, this is where real change can begin. Being a woman on a board has been statistically shown to benefit companies and organisations and shift the culture. You can create impact by supporting the introduction of more women to your board; being a role model or mentor to women; introducing human resources policies to support women; and highlighting gender pay gaps within your organisation and advocating for change.

You can join the conversation on our socials @nawicau and keep up with our advocacy, events and opportunities at www.nawic.com.au

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