Call for government to prioritise gender issues

A ‘state of the industry’ survey on the role of women in construction has shown that three-quarters of respondents had experienced gender-based adversity within their career.

While the role of women in the sector is slowly changing for the better, there is still a long way to go, according to the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). The Institute of Architects has backed this up, calling on the incoming Australian Government to prioritise gender diversity and inequality in the building industry and specific inclusion targets.

The NAWIC survey was sent to all members to gather data about jobs, salaries, working hours, gender-based adversity, workplace experiences and industry sentiment. Alongside 75% of respondents who had experienced gender-based adversity within their construction careers, 50% agreed or strongly agreed they had received inappropriate or unwanted attention from colleagues.

Forty-three percent disagreed that in the industry all genders have the same opportunities and career advancements, with comments such as:

  • “Discovering male counter parts with less skills were on higher salary than me.”
  • “The usual unwanted advances, assumed I would take minutes/make coffee/clean up simply because I’m female.”
  • “Unconscious bias is absolutely pervasive in the industry, from small micro aggressions to overt sexist behaviour.”
  • “Being told you’re there as a token woman, and as the only woman in the room being asked to take notes in meetings and get coffees, being left out of activities like golf days and more recently, not having support for flexible working arrangements or breastfeeding facilities.”
  • “Though the tide has changed somewhat, it is still very much a boys’ club. I had been told previously that I should just focus on the role I was doing and aim to be the best at that, not aim for management.”

NAWIC National Chair, Christina Yiakkoupis said despite the results, things were improving as 83% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the role of women within the industry is changing for the better.

“The number of women joining the construction industry is on the rise and the majority of our NAWIC members are seeing changes that show we are heading in the right direction,” Ms Yiakkoupis said.

“To achieve an equitable construction industry where women fully participate, NAWIC’s goal is to drive changes that will aid in the increased recruitment, retention and further vocational development of women within all facets of the construction industry.”

About the author

Desi Corbett

Desi is the Editor of Concrete in Australia and at the helm of our magazine for 8 years. She was behind the Institute's weekly news bulletins from 2016-2021 and is now writing our focused news items. Desi has been an engineering news and features journalist/editor across all disciplines since 2013 - part of a 30-year career writing for a wide range of industries.