10 March 2023

Women in construction push exceeds expectations as part of gender equity plan

| Claire Fenwicke
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women in construction

The ACT Government wants to help more women realise there’s a future for them in the construction industry. Photo: Ian Roach, Australian War Memorial.

We could soon see even more women in hardhats and steel-capped boots on construction sites in the ACT, according to a new report.

An update on the third year of the Equity Together: Second Action Plan 2020-2022 has been released, highlighting its latest achievements in progressing women’s equality in the Territory – just in time for International Women’s Day.

Minister for Women Yvette Berry said it showed Canberra continued to be a leader in creating a gender-equal future.

“One of the key achievements highlighted by the report is the high level of interest in the Women in Construction elective for women in Years 9 and 10 as part of the Understanding Building and Construction Pilot Program,” she said.

“More than 100 female and gender-diverse students participated, exceeding the expected 60 students for the program in the 2022 school year.”

About 1000 students in Years 7 and 8 took part in the pilot program, with the report stating “feedback from students and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive”.

women in construction

Apprentice electrician Hayley Delmenico, Kane Constructions project manager Phillipa Seldon and AWM Southern Entrance project manager Rebecca Conway on site at the Australian War Memorial construction site. Photo: Ian Roach, Australian War Memorial.

While female students are getting a taste of construction, some sites in Canberra are already boasting high numbers of women on their projects.

This includes the new development at the Australian War Memorial, where 74 per cent of staff within the gallery development team are female.

Southern Entrance project manager Rebecca Conway is one of them, who said being part of the building’s next chapter was a “job made for me”.

“It’s important to see the range of opportunities you can get out of a career in construction,” she said.

“Four out of five project managers working on the development are female, which is a great statistic.”

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Encouraging more women into construction is just one part of the Second Action Plan, with the report highlighting 23 of its 29 actions have been completed (as of December 2022).

Actions still underway include the Women in Construction Procurement Policy Discussion Paper, with public consultation expected soon.

It aims to set a 10 per cent target for the proportion of women in the industry in the ACT.

The Gender Diversity in Construction Policy and Plan is also still under development, while a Gender Equality e-learning module is expected to be released across the ACT Government by May.

COVID-19 impacted the goal to have all teachers complete face-to-face Family Violence Training, but the Education Directorate has committed to formally rolling out online Domestic and Family Violence training modules, with a proposed deadline for completion of 30 June.

Still underway is the development of Canberra’s first Gender Sensitive Urban Design Guidelines, which is expected to be released late this year.

The government is still trying to figure out how to improve the consistency of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation data collection and use across government. It’s expected this will be finalised this year.

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Work continues to implement the recommendations from the We Don’t Shoot Our Wounded report from 2009, particularly recommendation four to establish a specific service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women where legal, advocacy, practical and healing activities can be delivered.

Having a majority of actions completed, and many expected to be ticked off this year, has been hailed a great achievement by the government.

“These successes build on the ACT Government’s commitment to remove barriers to enable women, girls and gender-diverse people to reach their potential, contribute to innovation and ideas, and to take up leadership positions,” Ms Berry said.

The work’s not done, with implementation of the Third Action Plan slated to begin in July.

“I am excited about the progress that lies ahead as we continue our extensive engagement with community members, the community sector, industry and across government to ensure our whole government is actively working towards true equality for women and girls,” Ms Berry said.

It’s all part of the ACT Women’s Plan 2016-2026.

An annual statement on the status of women and girls in the ACT will be delivered in the Legislative Assembly on 20 March.

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I’d love to see teams of female gardeners properly looking after the gardens in apartment complexes, rather than bunches of blokes just blowing leaves around and cutting things. So tired of gardeners who don’t know how to look after the plants, just how to hack at them and poison them.

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