Why aren’t girls being encouraged at school to do a trade in plumbing, electrical, carpentry, or painting? Isn’t it time for schools, career counsellors, and parents to suggest to the women of the next generation, that there is an exciting career opportunity in the construction industry?
In 2018, women made up 12% of the construction industry in Australia, down from 13.8% in 1998, yet they made up 51% of the workforce. Although, that 12% is predominantly made up of office or architectural staff, not carpenters, plumbers, tilers, painters, and electricians. You’ll find 0.7% are carpenters and joiners, 1.5% are electricians and 7.4% are construction managers.
Going through 2020, where work was restricted due to COVID-19, the building industry was one of the very few industries that continued. Why? Because of the necessity for shelter and infrastructure. Many women lost their jobs or went on Jobkeeper because they made up a large percentage of the retail, tourism, and hospitality industries that were predominantly closed for business, while those who continued to work were in education and the health sectors.
However, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, an Australian Government initiative, suggests that women who work in a male-dominated organisation are more likely to get a higher salary than those in a female-dominated organisation, and are more likely to earn a similar pay to their male colleagues. While women are encouraged to work in the flexible-hour type jobs of health-care, hospitality, and retail, there is a huge incentive for women to take hold of the construction industry and create a genuine career path that can offer flexibility in hours, yet they aren’t encouraged.
Construction employers find that a lot of women actually have a sense of pride in their work and work harder to make up for the reduced physical strength that isn’t part of their natural anatomy. Not all work in the construction industry needs brawn, and employers find it extremely appealing to use women for their eye for detail, their steady hands, and their desire to strive for the best. Women are recognised as amazing multi-taskers, are able to handle several jobs at once, and somehow make time to juggle work, home, and family without a fuss. They bring those skills to the workforce, injecting new concepts, and apply themselves to be more productive for their employers.
Hence the reason why the Queensland Government took the initiative to create QBuild, to raise the playing field in the construction industry. They want more women with hard hats. Currently, 2.4% of the building and construction industry are women in Queensland, with electricians, joiners, and earthmoving plant operators the least represented, and civil engineering, fencers, and plasterers having a higher participation. 15% of the apprentices in QBuild are female and the percentage is going up. As the government puts more money into infrastructure, workers are confident in getting paid, confident in having work, and confident in being promoted with highly rewarding career paths. “We know that a diverse workforce allows the best talent to rise to the top, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, cultural backgrounds, or beliefs.” Minister for Women, Di Farmer said.
The government recognises that to keep women in the building and construction industry, they need to make workplaces more accessible by making employers understand that they need a flexible approach to working conditions, which allows for better efficiencies and profitable solutions. The employers who do end up bringing on women onto their teams find that women assist in the productivity of their worksites, and in turn, give them the profit dividends they want to see. Employing women in the construction industry is a win-win for all.