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Digitalisation addresses lack of diversity in construction sector

Digitalisation addresses lack of diversity in construction sector

Despite significant improvements in recent years the construction industry continues to face diversity issues, with women making up just 12 per cent of the workforce, according to the Australian Constructors Association. Low numbers of female participation are resulting in reduced progress for the sector – however, technology is helping to bridge this gap to create positive change, and some organisations are stepping up to be the change the industry needs.

Ljubica Radoicic, director customer success at Autodesk APAC, said many construction organisations are investing in new technologies that provide opportunities for change.

“Technological developments have been a catalyst for bringing more females into construction, providing new opportunities and ways of working,” said Radoicic.

In the post-pandemic landscape, the construction sector is still grappling with skilled labour shortages and is missing out on the talent pool of half the population by not addressing gender diversity. Autodesk’s Constructing tomorrow: building a dynamic workforce for the future eBook discusses how a diverse workforce increases well-being and talent retention and can also lead to tangible economic benefits.

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“Research shows that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21 per cent more likely to outperform on profitability and 27 per cent more likely to have superior value creation,” said Radoicic.

“Additionally, women in leadership roles do more to support employee well-being and foster diversity, equity and inclusion, which in turn improves retention and employee satisfaction.”

However, companies are struggling to address the barriers that make achieving gender equality in their organisations possible. Lack of female representation and negative perceptions about the diversity of roles, training and workplace conditions, and career progression opportunities are some of the main barriers preventing women from entering the workforce.

Retention is also an issue, with women leaving the sector for a range of reasons, from a lack of flexibility and progression to poor parental leave practices and legacy workplace cultures that tend to be male dominated, according to the eBook.

Digitalisation helps Hansen Yuncken attract and retain a diversity of talent

Although these challenges persist, there is a sense of optimism, with organisations like Hansen Yuncken stepping up to be the change the industry needs.

Rexine Jones, chief financial and information officer at Hansen Yuncken, said: “Diversity in construction is not just about equality; it’s a strategic imperative that fuels innovation, enriches perspectives and ultimately drives the success of our industry. Embracing diverse voices empowers us to build not only complex structures, but a more inclusive and resilient future.”

Hansen Yuncken is actively striving to expand its female workforce strength across its national business operations with the Hansen Yuncken Women in Construction (HYWIC) initiative. The national program aims to enable retention of talent and gender equality and is led by Eliza Khamis, national marketing and communications advisor at Hansen Yuncken. Khamis is a finalist in multiple awards programs for her work including the National Association for Women in Construction (NAWIC) Excellence Awards Program, Lendlease Crystal Vision Award and the Property Council of Australia ‘People in Property’ Rising Star Award.

With board member Louise Hansen, four female members of the executive management team and a growing number of young women joining the company, Hansen Yuncken is fast becoming a first point of call for females looking to take their place at the table.

Over the past decade, Hansen Yuncken has worked with Autodesk Construction Cloud, using the software to manage projects digitally across the business, ultimately making the firm more accessible and inclusive. Autodesk’s Construction Cloud product, BIM 360, is helping to address labour shortages through its digital project management capabilities, remote collaboration features, and commitment to safety and training. This creates more career opportunities – particularly for women who can now work from anywhere and connect with teams remotely, as well as manage projects digitally.

Reana Maglis, building information modelling (BIM) and virtual design and construction (VDC) manager at Hansen Yuncken, said the introduction of these digital platforms makes everything more accessible, especially in relation to remote working. “Women who might be in caretaking or caregiving roles now have access to the site in a virtual sense,” said Maglis.

For the past five years, Maglis has also tutored at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and said that each year she sees a greater influx of female participation and enrolment into construction management.

“When I was studying, I’d probably say roughly about five to ten per cent of the cohort was female, but now we’re looking at ten to 15 per cent or more than that,” said Maglis.

The use of technology goes beyond enabling flexible working and introduces completely new job opportunities. As the construction industry continues to evolve, there will be greater need for digital skills in the workforce. This presents a huge opportunity to increase gender diversity and open new pathways for women.

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