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Women in construction

Unsung construction heroes: A woman’s place is in construction (or at least it should be)

We’re a global leader when it comes to women’s rights, since 1893 when we became the first country to give women the right to vote. And yet, despite making up more than half of New Zealand’s population, women currently comprise just 17 percent of the nation’s construction industry.

Women in construction

Registered Master Builders Association (MBA) Chief Executive David Kelly describes women as the ‘unsung heroes’ of the construction industry. “Women form the backbone of the building industry,” he says.
“Women are heavily involved in many of our member’s businesses. Often a woman runs the business so her partner can focus on the tools and this role is just as important as the physical construction side. Many successful building businesses are based on this partnership model.”
The RMBA has had a number of female regional Presidents, including two currently who were elected by their peers within the industry to represent them.
RMBA West Coast President Linda Caldana runs a family construction business alongside her husband Robert. A qualified draftsperson and learning assessor, she oversees her team’s recruitment and training, and says that although a lot has changed for women during her 35 years in the industry, women are still not getting the recognition they deserve.
“It’s about getting the best person for the job and women have a significant role to play,” she says.
“Clients still ring and want to talk to my husband on a daily basis, when, in fact they need to talk to me.”
RMBA Ashburton President Andrea Lee says it is important there is mutual respect for the roles women and men play. “Women bring huge strength and a whole different process to the industry. On the business side, it is the behind-the-scenes efforts of women who makes businesses thrive,” she says.
“Women are often amazing project managers and designers. They are excellent at client management, financial management, and considering how a home will function best for a family – they make a house a home.”
More than 65,000 construction workers are needed over the next five years to keep up with demand and women are increasingly picking up the tools. Blenheim-based builder Olivia Ward encourages other women to consider stepping out of the office.
“There’s a huge shortage of builders and especially women builders and I’d like to encourage other women to get into the trades,” she says.
“Women can do just as good a job as men – if not better!”
Dennis Taylor, Head of Department for Trades at Ara wants to see New Zealand industries continue to encourage women to study and work in the trades, by ensuring they know they are valued workers.
“We have seen the range of industries that we engage with actively breaking down the historical barriers to women working in their sector and those industries recognise the benefits associated with the skills, knowledge and diversity that women bring to the workplace,” Dennis says.

Metropol Editor Melinda Collins

Editor’s Perspective: On feminism and changing perceptions

“The higher you go, the fewer women there are,” – Wangari Maathai.

Metropol Editor Melinda Collins
Metropol Editor Melinda Collins

A university lecturer once asked me and a group of my female peers how many of us were feminists. One hand of the 12 present went up. That was just seven years ago; 118 years after women got the vote, 92 years after women were allowed to stand for parliament and 78 years after the first woman was elected into parliament.
Somewhere between the brave and radical women’s rights campaigners of the late 1800s and post 1980s, it seems to have become uncool to be a feminist.
Feminism by definition is simply the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.
Yet, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Gender Gap Report, gender parity is still more than 200 years away.
Men and women are different. We have different biological abilities, different hormones and we look – for the most part – different. There are slightly more women in the world than men – 52 percent of the population are women. And yet, most of the positions of power are occupied by men. In quite a literal sense, men rule the world.
This made sense 1000 years ago when physical strength was one of the key determinants of survival. But we live in a very different world now, one where creativity, intelligence and innovation are equal determinants of success.
Earlier this month we celebrated International Women’s Day. It’s one day a year where we reflect on the economic, political and social achievements of women. And, while it may not be ‘cool’ to identify as a feminist, as my university lecturer pointed out that day, why wouldn’t you?