There are many fantastic opportunities for you in building and construction. A great job, a rewarding career, a chance to build your own business.
Our Women Building Australia Ambassadors are industry leaders who are passionate about changing the industry for the better by getting more women into careers in building and construction. Their personal stories and experience show that they lead by example.
Managing Director, Fasham
Managing Director of Melbourne residential building company Fasham, Melanie is also President of Master Builders Victoria, the first woman to ever hold that position.
As a business and industry leader, Melanie wants to give more women the opportunity to choose a career in building and construction where she sees benefits for women who want to lead and achieve and for the employers who gain from new and different skills and attitudes in their businesses.
Melanie wants to see young women informed about the range of jobs they can find in the industry and encouragement to explore making that career choice.
Taking on the day to day management of Fasham, a family company established by her father more than 40 years ago, Melanie is one of an inspiring number of pioneering women relishing roles that would have traditionally been taken on my a male member of the family.
While her career choice has had its challenges, Melanie says she's had huge support and wants other women to also have the information and support to choose a career in building and construction.
When reflecting upon her education choices as a young student, Melanie notes that pursuing a career in building and construction was never discussed at school, nor was it really even clear what options were available had she been interested. With the benefit of hindsight, she says it would have been great to have had a better understanding of the jobs available in the industry and the pathways to get there.
As a business leader, Melanie also knows the benefits that follow getting more women on board. As she says,
Women learn and think differently and bringing those different skills and approaches into the industry will only boost business success.
Managing Director, Geraldton Homes
Serena is the first ever woman Young Builder of the Year in 2014.
Serena wants young women to give building and construction a go and for the industry to reciprocate with more information about the fantastic range of job roles the industry has to offer women so they can build careers and businesses. This reflects Serena's own experience of starting in her family's building company when she found she wasn't enjoying university. Starting with estimating scheduling, she learnt every facet of the business and now she is Managing Director.
Serena has always done it her way. Like so many others, she found her career through trial and error. First she tried university, studying computer systems engineering but, not enjoying herself, she wasn't doing well.
So Serena pulled her next move which, and with the support of her Dad, went to work with him in the family building and construction company. She struck gold.
Dad saw that I wasn't enjoying the academic career path that I had chosen and that I didn't really know what I wanted to do. So he gave me the opportunity to try working in building and I loved it. I started out learning estimating scheduling and progressed my way through facet of the business and here I am today as Managing Director.
Director, Systems Manager, Mead Con, TAS
Meadcon is a Tasmanian commercial and residential builder that employs more than 50 people.
Meadcon has a strong focus on training and employing apprentices, including young women, and says completing an apprenticeship in a building trade is one the best pathways to gaining full time employment.
A big supporter of women apprentices, Vonette says women need more information about the many occupations they can choose from in the industry because many are not aware of the fantastic opportunities to apply their talent and passion.
Vonette feels that the current low numbers of women in the construction industry in Tasmania can be addressed by providing better information on what a career in the industry offers.
Mead Con also participates in a pro-gram that helps high school students become “work ready” by teaching them about how to write resumes and improving other core competencies and skills, including effective interview techniques. The company’s program is not limited to finding work in the construction industry but is designed to assist all students at local schools.
“Young People need to identify what they are interested in,” she said, referencing that many high school students, particularly women, are not aware of how they could apply their passions and talents to the construction sector.
Additionally, she said that more females on work sites would create a new culture that changes the mindset of male workers – particularly older ones – toward women in construction. Such a cultural shift would make it easier for more women to enter the industry.
Vonette lists the opportunities to be creative, to be hands on, physically active and to work in the outdoors as the best things about working in construction. Despite the current low numbers of women in the industry, Vonette believes the future is bright for women in construction. She said,
there are many opportunities for capable and motivated female apprentices. Pathways beyond apprenticeships are diverse – they can go any-where – it’s an exciting career.
Chief Executive Officer - Fairbrother, TAS
Craig is Managing Director of construction contractor Fairbrother, one of Tasmania's largest construction companies.
Craig sees firsthand to benefits to employer's businesses that getting more women on board brings. "Not only does employing women all of a sudden give you access to a whole raft of potential new employees, but they also bring some unique skills to the industry and a new perspective on approaching issues," he says.
Like other Ambassadors, Craig wants to change the perception by young women, and often their parents, that that the building and construction industry is not an attractive place for women to build their careers.
I don't think young people really understand what amazing career opportunities there are after completing an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is just the beginning, a steppingstone, for multiple pathways in the industry, many of which pay well and above what most traditional university pathways offer.
Apprentice Painter, WA
21-year-old Tameka Kenny is a fourth year painting apprentice working in Western Australia. In 2016 she received the WA Female Apprentice of the Year award.
Tameka originally wanted to join the Australian Army but deferred her application to pursue a trade. She was choosing between becoming an electrician or a painter when she was offered a painting job first. Since then, she has done both commercial and residential work and has a passion for the more decorative side of commercial painting. In her current role she does a lot of high-end painting and skyscrapers. She said, “I have not really looked back. I love it.”
Tameka has big ambitions for her career. She plans to do an interior design course and once she finishes her apprenticeship, she would like to start her own business. She has already laid the groundwork by completing a Certificate III and a Certificate IV in Business while at high school.
Asked to say what the benefits of a career in construction, Tameka gives an honest answer. She says, “it definitely is rewarding; I would not say that it is as easy as people think - there is a lot of hard work involved in it. If you just wanted to kick back and think it’s going to be a cruise, then yeah it is definitely not for you.”
The best bit about the job she said, is the opportunity to make good friends.
Her experience with men in the construction industry has been positive and Tameka attributes this to her straightforward way of dealing with people.
I have not really looked back. I love it.
Director, Small Change Design & Construction, VIC
Sally Wills is the director of Small Change Design & Construction, a specialist building and construction company focused on delivering high-quality small housing that is both affordable and sustainable.
Unlike many people who get into the building industry, Sally did not start off as an apprentice. Instead, Sally began in office administration and then a sales role for a real estate company. She realised fairly quickly that she was more interested in the actual building than selling the building, so she teamed up with a local cabinetmaker who had a small renovation business in the city, which she loved.
Soon after, she started her own small renovation business, which focused on architecturally designed houses in Melbourne. She had the opportunity to work with a number of up-and-coming architects which was exciting and also technically very challenging. “I started in the admin support area, but the company grew quite rapidly, and we were doing a lot of work. I ended up doing a lot of the contract administration and dealing with the architects and clients and tradies myself.”
After a few years, Sally went back to university to study architecture. But before finishing she jetted off to Perth and worked for a number of companies in the booming mining towns of Port Hedland and Geraldton where she focused on housing. These jobs gave her the opportunity to start designing, something that she loved. She eventually started her own design business, which at the time didn’t require a building license. She also did a bit of interior design.
After a decade in Western Australia, Sally returned to Melbourne and worked towards becoming a registered builder. With assistance from Master Builders Australia, she ensured that all of her experience in the industry would be counted towards her registration. After getting her license, she also realised that she should finish her design studies so went back to study an advanced diploma in building design. It was then that she realised that she wanted to combine her building and design skills, a unique combination.
“I am a good example of someone who has become a builder without starting out with an apprenticeship, I started in administration support and worked my way up from there. If you want to learn how it works and are keen to get involved on site, you can become a builder.”
The most rewarding thing about being a builder is seeing something that has been an image on paper become a physical building. It is quite amazing and also very exciting. There isn’t any-thing quite like it.
Founder - Female Tradie
Penny Petridis is the founder of Female Tradie, a Sydney-based construction services firm. As the name implies, Female Tradie has an all-women workforce, something which allows the company to focus on traditional female strengths such as attention to detail and better cleanliness on site.
Penny is passionate about the building industry, her building business and training women so they can follow in her footsteps. She has focussed her business on the home renovation and maintenance markets where the different perspective and skills women bring to the industry produce outstanding results for her clients.
Penny wants women to have confidence in their ability to do jobs in building and construction well and to excel. She wants better information for women, so they know the huge range of job roles to choose from. As Penny says, they do not all involve manual labour.
Founder, MS FIX., NSW
Victoria Waring, founder of painting business Ms Fix, is a person who shows just how far hard work and ingenuity can take someone in the construction industry. She has not only run her own business for the last 15 years but is also the first woman to win awards at the Master Painters Awards of Excellence.
Starting in the industry at the relatively advanced age of 25, Victoria did not do an apprenticeship, instead study a painting and decorating course at TAFE.
Eventually, she was able to start her own business. While noting that conditions and opportunities for women in construction are much better than when she started in the 1990s, Victoria believes that continued improvement will come from having more female role models and general cultural change in the workplace.
She says construction is a great industry because the harder you work, the more you get out of it.
Pacific Formwork, ACT
Grace Ferreira is the President of the Australian Capital Territory branch of Master Builders Australia. She is the first female president of the organisation. She is also cofounder of Canberra-based Pacific Formwork a specialised construction firm that works across the eastern seaboard.
Grace has always enjoyed working on site, and loves the sense of achievement that comes with completing a project. She said, “In construction, you can leave some sort of a legacy behind for your kids and grandkids.” However, Grace did admit that when she first started, there were difficulties being a woman in the industry.
In particular, she believed that younger men found it hard to accept her because in her words, they had “something to prove.”.
Grace was keen to stress that acceptance of women in the workplace is not limited to the construction industry; and that it is important for parents to educate their boys to treat women with respect in all facets of life.
Despite the current low numbers of women in the industry, Grace is of the view construction is a great sector for women. The flexibility of the industry, a product of project driven work, for instance, is a good fit for working mothers.
She said, “Even if a woman pauses her career to have kids, it is possible to come back to the industry when you are ready.” She also notes that the heavy focus on design and creativity is something that would benefit from greater female involvement.
To get more women into construction Grace believes improving career education at school will have the most significant impact. In particular, she said it was important to explain all the different career paths available to young people to join the industry, whether it be through university, TAFE or an apprenticeship. Also, it is important to explain the incredible array of jobs that can be pursued.
Complementing this approach, Grace believes it is important also to make parents aware of these options so that they can support their children’s decisions.
Even if a woman pauses her career to have kids, it is possible to come back to the industry when you are ready.
Managing Director, Homes Business - JG King Building Group, VIC
Natalie King is Managing Director, Homes Division of JG King Building Group, a large integrated construction organisation.
For young women interested in joining the industry, Natalie recommends they develop their technical skills as it will open a multitude of opportunities. Also, if someone has no desire to go to university, they should pursue a trade.
She says, “become a plumber, or an electrician or a carpenter. These are the jobs of the future; they are going to be the ‘surgeons’ and the ‘lawyers’ of tomorrow.”
Natalie believes society pushes too many young people into university when they don’t want to be there, and she would like to see more people championing the trades as a career path. “You’re told as a child to go to university, go to university, go to university, whereas who is there beating the drum saying become an electrician?”
Natalie also believes mentoring is important and so too work experience for young students. She mentors a young woman in the industry who is not part of their company. The company also offers work experience programs where young students are given exposure to all parts of the business from supervision to drafting, estimating, administration, accounts and even sales and marketing.
Since joining the business she has worked hard to develop her knowledge of the industry and has attained her domestic building licence, and low-rise commercial license. Working her way up through the company to Managing Director of the Homes Division has been a proud achievement. Over the next few years, she is looking forward to growing the business further and ensuring that it is solid and strong well into the future.
You’re told as a child to go to university, go to university, go to university, whereas who is there beating the drum saying become an electrician?