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.
General Manager, Inspired Homes
Paula started her career in building and construction in 1988 and is the General Manager of Inspired Homes WA, in the past she has held leadership positions with companies such as J-corp, JWH Group and Amano Homes. The first elected female councillor on the board of Master Builders WA, Paula has a wealth of knowledge and is skilled in business management, leadership, administration, construction, and customer service.
Recognised by the Housing Industry Association, nominated for Rising Star Awards and a finalist at the 2016 Telstra’s WA Businesswomen’s Award, Paula West is a powerhouse, and we could not have had a better ambassador to encourage more women to enter the construction industry.
Paula says "Many women have been affected by covid-19 especially in industries like retail, hospitality and tourism but the construction industry is currently facing a shortage of workers, so this a perfect time to take advantage of the opportunities the industry has on offer”
In finishing Paula says:
“Building and construction workers have higher than average earnings so our industry can play a role in closing the pay gap. As a Women Building Australia Ambassador in Western Australia, I hope that I can encourage more women to experience a wonderful and fulfilling career in the industry like I have.”
Operations Manager, Mead Con
Vonette Mead is a Co-Owner and Operations Manager at Tasmanian construction company, Mead Con. The company currently employs over 60 workers, including 17 apprentices, 2 of whom are young women.
The company is focused on employing and training apprentices, and Vonette considers the skills learned throughout the apprenticeship program as one of the most effective pathways to future full-time employment.
Mead Con also participates in programs that assist students to set themselves up for success by teaching them how to create a winning impression during selection processes, including resume presentation, effective interview techniques and building on their core competencies and skills. The company’s program is not limited to finding work in the construction industry but is designed to assist all students at local schools.
Vonette feels that the current low numbers of women in the construction industry in Tasmania will continue to be addressed by providing comprehensive information on what the industry offers.
“Young People need to identify what they are interested in,” she said, referencing that many students, particularly women, are not aware of how they could apply their passions and talents to the construction sector.
Additionally, she said that more women on work sites creates a culture that changes the mindset of workers toward women in construction. Cultural shifts pave the way for more women to enter the industry.
Vonette lists the opportunities of being 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.
There are many opportunities for capable and motivated female apprentices. Pathways through and beyond apprenticeships are diverse – they can go any-where – it’s an exciting career.
President Master Builders, ACT
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, Fasham
Melanie Fasham is Managing Director of residential building company Fasham, founded by her father some 55 years ago. Melanie is also Past President of the Master Builders Association of Victoria, the first woman to hold this office.
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.
In addition to running Fashams, from 2016 – 2018, Melanie was appointed President of the MBA of Victoria making her the first woman to hold the office. Melanie says the position was a fantastic opportunity. With more than 50 per cent of the staff at the organisation in Victoria being female, she has had a unique opportunity to discuss with different people their observations of women in the industry.
She believes that women learn differently in the classroom, and they ask different questions. Bringing different people and skills to the industry will only serve to improve the sector overall which is exciting. She looks forward to championing greater female participation well into the future.
“Bringing different people and skills to the industry will only serve to improve the sector overall which is exciting.”
Director, Small Change Design & Construction, VIC
Sally Wills is a registered domestic builder and the sole director of Small Change Design and Construction Pty Ltd, which specializes is very small energy efficient homes.
Sally has been involved in the building industry for the last 30 years in various roles including co-director of a boutique residential construction company that built early works of several notable Melbourne architects. She was also involved with several developments that she co-owned, which allowed her to combine her interest in design and construction.
Later she worked as a contracts administrator for the Geraldton Building Company in Port Hedland, Western Australia working on projects including the refurbishment of the Newman Hospital, construction of a tank farm at Mount Newman and provision of sub contractors facilities at the BHP HBI site. She initiated a residential division in the company to respond to BHP’s requirements for an employee home purchase scheme and designed and supervised the construction of several homes before leaving the Pilbara for Geraldton.
In Geraldton she commenced her own business providing concept design and documentation for subdivisions, planning permits and project management services. At this time Sally also lectured at Central West College of Tafe delivering the Cert. IV Interior Design Course
When she returned to Melbourne in 2008, Sally formalized her previous experience by obtaining her builder’s registration (Domestic Builder Unlimited) and completing the Advanced Diploma of Building Design (Architectural). Sally then set about designing a range of very small homes and launched her design and construction business in 2014.
Sally is a member of Master Builders Association of Victoria and sits on the MBAV Housing Committee. Small Change is a corporate member of Design Matters National and also created, sponsors and organizes a student design competition ‘Small Home Big Life’ to promote small house living to design students and the wider public via the Melbourne Home Show. Sally also serves as a member of the Building Appeals Board hearing appeals disputes and requests for modifications relating to the Building Act, Building Regulations and the NCC.
Sally is also currently studying building surveying at night to continue ongoing professional development.
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.
Managing Director, Sherridon Homes
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?
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.
Founder, Victoria Waring Painting and Decorating, NSW
Victoria Waring, founder of Victoria Waring Painting and Decorating, she has led by example and shown us how hard work and ingenuity can take someone far in the construction industry. She has not only run her own business for the last 24 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. Victoria's daughter has now started her apprenticeship in the painting industry as well.
Construction is a great industry because the harder you work, the more you get out of it.
Founder - Female Tradie
Penny Petridis is an expert in project managing small to medium building and renovation projects for homes and commercial fit-outs. With 28 years experience on the tools, as a metalworker, carpenter, in horticulture, landscaping, decking and with a Cert 4 in Building and Construction Penny has a depth of skills.
Penny 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 focused 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.
I want women to have confidence in their ability to do jobs in building and construction well and to excel. Women need access to better information, so they know the huge range of job roles to choose from. Not all jobs in the industry involve manual labour.
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.
There are many fantastic opportunities for you in building and construction. A great job, a rewarding career, a chance to build your own business.