Dominique Gill and her girls.

After years of investing in diversity programs to increase the number of women on site, just 12 per cent of Australia’s one-million strong construction workforce is female. But rather than pour more money into diversity programs, Dominique Gill, winner of the National Association of Women in Construction Crystal Vision Award, has a radical idea.

The rewards of a career in construction are the world’s best kept secret. No other industry translates dreams into reality like the construction industry. It teaches some of the most valuable life skills – like teamwork, innovation and negotiation – while also being one of the most profitable careers. It’s a buoyant industry that generates nine per cent of Australia’s GDP and it is innovating at speed.

The construction industry does so many things well. But there are two things it doesn’t do well: sustainability and diversity. And we can make inroads into both by thinking differently.

Without gender diversity, construction – an industry that is Australia’s third largest employer – is missing out on the talent pool of half the population and, potentially, risking profitability.

The reasons why women aren’t choosing careers in construction are well documented and range from a lack of flexibility to poor parental leave to recruitment practices. One study undertaken by Dr Phillippa Carnemolla from the University of Technology Sydney found the parents of talented female high school students discourage them from careers in construction because of its perceived gender imbalance.

Another study by Dr Natalie Galea at the University of New South Wales found men’s informal networks helped them secure promotions and progress their careers with far greater success than their female counterparts.

But as a woman who has spent her career on construction sites, I know the biggest barrier to women is cultural. This is why it is not enough to simply boost the number of women through quotas or diversity targets. Nor is it enough to host networking events and roll out mentoring programs. We need to change the culture of our entire industry.

Meanwhile, Australia’s construction sector is responsible for a supersised carbon footprint, generating around 18 per cent of our nation’s emissions, not to mention about 40 per cent of our waste.

Both diversity and sustainability are huge obstacles on our industry’s horizon, but both are opportunities if we put them together.

Research from the mid-90s onwards has suggested women tend to be more altruistic, empathetic and future-focused, and this attracts them to jobs in sustainability.

More recent research has found three quarters of women consider their environmental impact when making product choices, compared with 64 per cent of men. Women are twice as likely to consider environmental, social and governance investment factors than their male counterparts too.

Women are more likely to commit to reduce global warming than men, but they also face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change, according to the United Nations.

There are positive signs that the shift to green skills is underway. LinkedIn’s recent research, which analysed job roles across the nearly 800 million users who use its platform, found the share of green jobs increased from 9.6 per cent in 2015 to 13.3 per cent in 2021 – a growth rate of 38.5 per cent.

But here’s the downside: there is a growing green gender gap. According to LinkedIn, 62 women were considered “green talent” for every 100 men.

Spinifex is an opinion column open to all our readers. We require 700+ words on issues related to sustainability especially in the built environment and in business. Contact us to submit your column or for a more detailed brief.

Creating roles in sustainability – and looking to fill as many as you can with women – can solve two problems at once. Women can hit the ground running.

And hit the ground running we must – because the stakes are so high.

Tackling climate change will take diversity of thought and a determination to challenge entrenched perspectives and ways of working. But women can be powerful change makers. Given the opportunity, women can help the construction industry to build an inclusive culture and a stronger, more resilient future.

Dominique Gill’s company this year appointed a female sustainability leader, Ashleigh Kopac. “She liaises with project managers to ensure we achieve our objectives on site management, recycling waste and energy use, and everything from lighting in our offices to our CSR partners is under her purview. She had a phenomenal skillset that was underutilised by her previous employers. This meant she hit the ground running,” Ms Gill says.

Dominique Gill

Dominique Gill is the founder and managing director of Urban Core and was presented with the Lendlease Crystal Vision Award 2021 at the NAWIC Awards for her work to grow female representation in the construction industry. More by Dominique Gill

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.