Our Women Building Australia Influencers are trades-people who understand and experience the realities of working in the industry, are immensely successful and have great passion for building and construction. These women are paving the way and supporting other women to enter the industry. Their personal stories shows us that they are here to lead by example.
The building and construction industry offers women, a vast array of rewarding career opportunities, well paying jobs and the ability to upskill. It provides the flexibility to explore different pathways and choose what is right for you.
Anita graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, which forayed her into building and construction industry. With a passion to gain more knowledge, learn and be physically involved on the building site, Anita chose to pursue a career in the trades. In 2018, Anita became an apprentice carpenter and her first project was working at CSIRO ACT.
The daily challenges at a work site be it problem solving or working with with colleagues who had big personalities or no site amenities for females drove Anita forwards. As someone who likes be challenged, this has helped Anita build her self-confidence especially in situation were she felt like she did not fit in.
Her motto at the work site has been and continues to be:
Women in the industry are working to be noticed as equals rather than as a woman. Regardless of gender or age, background/ethnicity we should all be treated with respect and as human beings. We are all people.
A typical work days for Anita starts with 7 am call time at the work site and she finishes by 3:30 pm. Before the 7am start, she unpack and set up tools/equipment for the first task. Work tasks vary through the day. 12pm is usually when she has 30 min break for lunch, post her break she continues to work until about 3:20pm. Then she starts winding down her workday by packing up her tools and equipment, cleans up the site and prepares for the next day.
Asking questions, asking for help and showing how eager she is to learn and improve has been one of the key steps for Anita to become successful. She has learnt to believe in herself and be patient. She says,
I challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone and remind myself it is okay if I fail. When I fail I learn from it. I try to keep positive and keep persevering.
For all the women who are interested in the industry, Anita says : Please give it a go. You will never know unless you try. Never be afraid to ask for help. There is so many opportunities for women to thrive in the building and construction industry.
"The construction industry found me!", Kirsty Reaks, a project Manager at Downer tells us when we ask her how did she get into the industry. Kirsty's story is one for the books, she was completing her nursing degree when she needed a job that would allow her to work around her placements and study. She was drawn to the flexibility that working casually for traffic control gave her. This was the starting point for Kirsty, she received exposure to different elements of the construction industry and discovered that the industry was one that she wanted to pursue a career in. Kirsty worked as traffic controller before Downer gave her a big break in offering her a position as junior site administration clerk within their Roads business.
I think for a long time it was fear of not being good enough – not knowing much about the industry I was very inquisitive about what the roads surfacing business was because I felt like I didn’t know everything. 7 years later I still don’t know everything, but that fear is long gone and been replaced by confidence in my skills and ability and knowledge to source information when I require it.
Kirsty's current role is all about the road surfacing business. She primarily deals with local and state governments working with them to deliver road maintenance projects that meet the expectations of the public. She also spends time working on a national project called Ben Hur where Downer is looking to address the risks associated with working in live traffic on their worksites and her background as a traffic controller plus being on the crew has placed her in a fantastic position to provide knowledge to the larger business.
Having a good attitude and being adaptable were aspects that have been instrumental in Kirsty's success.
There is always change and 2020 showed us all how dramatic the change can be and while I might not always be comfortable with that, the ability to bounce back and simply bring a positive constructive attitude has lead me to hit my stride in times of change.
Women Building Australia's mentoring program was productive for Kirsty, it helped her realise and reshape “what are the things in her control?” and for her that was imperative, plus developing skills on having the tough conversations whilst they are not easier it’s certainly something she has been applying. Being able to let go of the things she cannot control, whilst giving control to the crew to deliver work and having the tough conversations when required has really empowered Kirsty in her role.
For all the women who are interested in the industry, Kirsty says: Give it a crack, there are so many different aspects to the construction industry there will be something that suits you. I never would have thought I would be interested and passionate in roads sector, but then there are other aspects in construction I doubt will entertain me - but that’s ok. I am sure there are people who will never be interested in a road but they will find passion in those other areas of construction.
Kymberly decided fairly early that she wanted to work towards a career in the mining or construction industries but it was deciding in what capacity that took her the longest to decipher. After years of applying for any and all apprenticeships/traineeships on offer she landed an electrical apprenticeship. This job opportunity had her move sixteen hours from home to a place she had never been before, with no friends or family to chase the crazy aspiration of being a tradesperson. She began her apprenticeship within the rail industry in 2016 and throughout her apprenticeship she was placed with other external companies to develop my skills and knowledge in the construction, industrial and domestic areas of electrical.
She believe that the challenges she has faced through her career so far are the typical (although she stringently hopes that one day in the near future they are not) trials women in industry face. The commentary on life choices, the opinion that you ‘took a man’s job’, the sexist and misogynistic comments that unfortunately happen and uncomfortable situations that no one at work should be subjected to.
I would be lying if I said that I found my time easy or took every day in my stride however was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY YES. I am very proud, not only of myself but the other women I now work alongside or have met along the way, who are also living their truths and working towards their chosen careers.
A typical work day for Kymberly looks very different, she is currently working in the infrastructure department on a mining site which in a day can have her fault finding, setting up new installations or routine maintenance on anything from fuel farms, lighting plants, crib rooms, office buildings, water treatment plants, the list is endless. She says her days are exciting and filled with unbelievable learning opportunities, surrounded by fantastic people eager and willing to teach her everything she wishes to know and learn.
Kymberly says be resilient if you want to be successful. She advises that if you get knocked back on the job application, find out (if you can) why you weren’t the chosen applicant and apply yourself to bettering that aspect whether it be study or tickets or just time. You may not be successful straight out of the gate but keep at it. You can teach skills; you cannot teach attitude. This mantra is written on her wall at her home. A company can 9/10 help you hone in on your skills on the job, but what they can’t teach you is attitude- this will come from your why.
Find your why, if you can get up each morning and face whatever the day throws at you by knowing ‘why’ you’re doing what you are, you’ve won half the battle.
For all the women who are interested in the industry, Kymberly says: My advice would be fearlessly chase the goals you have for yourself, if you want to start a career in the industry do the research on what you need to succeed in that area, reach out and gain industry advice from people already in those areas, join groups online to surround yourself with likeminded people, look into events held by industry groups such as WBA, NAWIC, SALT, WIMARQ. There are endless resources at your fingertips (thank you internet), mentorship programs, TAFE open days.
You are your greatest asset, build upon that, invest in yourself- you are so very worthy of that.
Bailee has loved being creative and hands on, which lead her into loving woodwork. What started out as a hobby quickly turned into passion which inspired her to take the plunge and ditch her mainstream study and career. She turned her love for wood working into building a career in carpentry. Post her apprenticeship, Bailee wanted to have a crack at running her own carpentry business and that lead to the birth of B.Claire Carpentry.
Bailee's first job and taste of the building industry was straight into an apprenticeship after a trail period with a local carpentry business. They worked on framing, finish carpentry, and doing everything else in between! It proved to be a great start to her career, she had immense learning and got to experience doing many different tasks.
Bailee faced many challenges within the industry, she found it hard just being a “beginner” and tackling her apprenticeship; she believes that,
"whenever you take on learning something new on you just have try your best and trust you’ll get quicker, better & stronger, it might not happen straight away and honestly you might feel a little useless at times but practice makes perfect, and you’ll get there!"
She found it challenging at times to feel accepted and worthy. She did have experience misogyny and the odd sexist comments that got thrown around, but her work ethic was soon realised by others. She was there to work, she was just as good and worthy of respect as anyone else who walked onto site, no matter their gender.
Bailee now specialise in finish & 2nd fix carpentry, mainly doing new home internals; hanging doors, doing all architraves, skirting and other feature timber works inside homes. However running her own business solo means she also does all the schedules, phone calls, admin, accounting, planning and shopping on top of that; adds up to a few extra hours of work off the tools over the work week as well! She says,
"There is no recipe to success. You just have to work hard and back yourself. If you have enough passion and persistence to work at it, you WILL get there!"
For all the women who are interested in the industry, Bailee says - "Any women who wants to have a go, do it. Doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, if you’ve never been on the tools in your life; you just have to have a go! And if you find your niche within the industry don’t be scared to go against the grain or social norm and get into it!"
Karly's fist job at Bunnings exposed her to so many trades and a few women tradies as well. When she finished her year 11, she quickly realised she did not want to do year 12 and wanted to give trade a go. Her first job in the industry was painting & decorating and 6 years later she is still painting. Karly fell in love with painting during her first two week trail and she hasn't looked back since or wanted to explore other trades.
Karly has had a few, good and bad challenges, most they have been good challenges. She believes no matter what you do, it’s not always going to be easy but that doesn’t mean it won’t be worth all the hard work that you put into it. Karly's hardest challenge she says was herself, thinking she wasn't good enough and mostly second guessing herself. She reflects back and recognises that one of her bosses was not supportive and created a toxic environment. As there was bad, there was good too! Falling in love with painting and enthusiasm she had when she first started kept her going. Karly says,
You’ll always face challenges, it’s how you react to it and go about it instead of dwelling in it.
A typical work day for Karly starts at 7:30 am and finishes around 4:00 pm. Prep is key in painting. Most often, she and her team prep first which is taping, plastic sheeting anything that they don’t want to get paint on and protect it. They fill, gap and sand. She advises that you need to ensure your prep is on point so that when you come to painting, it then becomes a breeze. After the prep is done, they start to paint. They do spray work, roller work and brush work.
Karly's been doing painting for a while now and she believes that still needs to work for the success she wants to achieve. She has always put her all in painting and knew on her first week of her trail that painting was something she wanted to do for the rest of my life. Karly says taking pride in your work, not giving up and being persistent is really important in becoming successful. Everyone is not perfect at the start but you practise and get better and karly is surely on that path. After 6 years, Karly believes she is a good painter and cant wait to see what the future holds for her.
Doing my apprenticeship was the best decision I ever made. It’s never going to be easy but I assure you that it will all be worth it, the good and the bad.
For all the women who are interested in the industry, Karly says - "It can be scary at times but don't be scared to give it ago, it may be nerve wracking at first and at times you may feel overwhelmed but coming from someone who is fully qualified, doing my apprenticeship was the best decision I ever made. It’s never going to be easy but I assure you that it will all be worth it, the good and the bad."
"Something my father has always told me and it has stuck with me is that “you will get out of something, what you put into it” and honestly it really is true. My whole apprenticeship and even now as a qualified painter, I do believe it has made me a stronger, more independent person and has taught me that gender has no bearings in my ability to do my trade."
Bardie's first job in the building and construction industry was as a labourer, she spent her first day taping windows up for the renderer and wondered why people chose this as their career. After labouring part time for a while, she started learning more and more about carpentry and the building industry, the more she learnt the more she wanted to know. Which lead to her taking on a trade that allowed her to be creative and to think analytically. Bardie is now a 3rd year Apprentice Carpenter.
Like some women who work in the male dominated trades business, Bardie faced some challenges, she found it hard to feel confident and deserving of her place within the industry. Most of her achievements were accoladed to her being a women and left her feeling undeserving of her accomplishments.
Bardie loves that working in the industry means that everyday is different and you are involved in a constantly changing process. She believes that a good finish comes from thought out and well approached beginning. What she enjoys is that working with plans making sure everything is set up so the details all come together.
The best thing Bardie every did was starting out with labouring, it gave her the opportunity to observe different aspects of the many trades that happen on a building site. She attributes her success to learning from her mistakes and voicing any questions that she had since they are crucial for growth and development.
"Try out some labouring work! This is my number one tip for anyone wanting to get into a trade. It gives you a really good idea about the industry."
For all the women who are interested in the industry, Bardie says "If you want to do a trade or think it could be a path for you I highly recommend labouring just to get a taste of the industry and what you might like to branch out into.
I would also say to any woman out there, if you are wanting to start a trade, hold your head high, put in the work and remember that no matter what other people voice about your career choice, it is your choice and nobody else needs to understand or give you the okay to choose what you want to pursue in your life.
And if you are in a bad company or working with a tradesperson that makes it hard, know that person or place is not representative of the industry as a whole. There are so many people that are willing to teach you and support you in your journey to becoming an awesome tradie."
During high school Renee developed a passion for wood work and she loved learning about all the different tools and making the most obscure projects. She found it rewarding to look back and see what she had created and feel a huge sense of achievement. She loved being hands on and learning about the why’s and how’s of different projects. She believes that there is much more to things than what meets the eye and often being able to break it down into smaller manageable tasks is what she enjoys the most.
Renee's was thrown into the deep end right with her first job - building framing. We was part of a small crew that focussed on single and double story new build houses. Her body took a few months to adjust to the reality of the type of work she was doing, despite being regular at the gym, the days of heavy lifting was hard on her body. Sometimes people did not respect her position as a female apprentice at the work site so she put her energies into her work and allowed it to speak for itself.
A normal work day in Renee's life involves getting up bright and early, take some breakfast-to-go, jumping into the car and getting to the site early to set up all her tools. A lot of the time with the new developments that she works involves getting straight into the work and smashing it out until lunch time which is usually around12pm and then she keeps pushing through until the 3:30 pm when her work day ends.
Renee believes that she still on the journey to success but some rituals that she says have put her in good stead are waking up 30 minutes earlier so she can prep her food, clean her room and get ready for the day. She tries to keeps her car fairly clean and organised so tools and materials are easily accessible and everything has its own spot.
One of the biggest things you can do to be successful is to put yourself out there as a person, look respectable for the job and be committed to the work you are doing.
For all the women who are interested in the industry, Renee says "Try a pre-apprenticeship and make good connections with the teachers and staff as they can be your number one resource for finding work and improving yourself. Find someone that will give you a few weeks trial to get experience on the tools and slowly making the adjustment to the fast-paced trade lifestyle. Contact volume builders, supervisors, gumtree, seek to find work - there are people out there but you also have to put yourself out there and promote yourself. Keep your resumes interesting and your cover letters short- what will make you stand out from everyone else, is it a photo of yourself, a link to your social media etc. Start promoting yourself via social media pages, following inspirational trade accounts because you never know where you will find your next job."