Women on site: a new generation of female builders

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Here at Hamlan, it’s not uncommon to see women working on our building sites and even less uncommon to see a woman running a site.

Currently in Victoria the construction industry workforce is made up of about 11 per cent women. However, Hamlan’s bucking that trend, with an equal split of male and female employees across the organisation. And that starts right from the very top, with our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer who are both women.

Hamlan is also an official sponsor of Geelong Women in Trades — a grassroots network of women and girls who work in trades and promote trades as a realistic and viable career option for women of all ages.

A rewarding career in building

Hannah Butler is one of Hamlan’s rising talents. Hannah has a double degree in Architecture and Construction from Deakin University and started out as an estimator but soon proved herself a valuable talent in drafting and project coordinating. She’s a great example of what a rewarding career in the building industry can offer young women.

Hannah comes from a family that has a long history in the construction industry. She says that despite initially being interested in design, she felt drawn to the construction industry.

“At first I was only interested in architecture,” Hannah says, “But as I met more people in the construction industry and spoke to more people within the construction department at Deakin, I decided to switch over to the double degree in architecture and construction.

“I’ve always enjoying pulling things apart and putting them back together. It was in my last year of uni that I started working at Hamlan as an estimator.”

Hannah says Hamlan has given her flexible opportunities to work in estimating and drafting, and this year for the first time she started project coordinating at Hamlan’s high-profile Frank Street project in Newtown.

At first Hannah was acting in the role while the site supervisor was on paternity leave, but once he returned they started sharing the responsibilities.

“I just love seeing it all come to life,” Hannah says of project coordinating. ”It’s far more rewarding being out on site than being back in the office. I love the excitement of being out and about and making decisions on the spot. And seeing how things all come together.

“I like being able to see all the little details that you just don’t get to see when you’re in the office.”

She says so far in the industry she hasn’t experienced any sort of discrimination although there have been some stunned looks when people ask for the site supervisor and she says, “that’s me”.

“Everyone has taken the time to get to know me and then given me the opportunities to get involved in all elements of the project” she says.

“Girls have characteristics that are different than the boys and I believe some of these skills are an advantage when working onsite managing projects.”

Greater support for women joining trades

As well as looking after our own, Hamlan is a proud supporter of gender equality within our industry’s greater workforce. We have thrown our support behind local initiatives such as Geelong Women in Trades (GWIT). This group is taking the lead on promoting women and girls in trades and encouraging female mentorship of girls in trades. The group is made up of female apprentices and tradespeople, and local industry representatives who act as mentors and leaders.

Recently, Hamlan helped the group head to Siem Reap in Cambodia for a skills exchange. Alongside local Cambodian builders, GWIT members, made up of female carpenters, mechanics, cabinet makers, painters and electricians, built a house for a disadvantaged rural family.

According to one of its founders Leesa Hanlon, this is the first of many national and international skills exchange programs GWIT hope to organise.

Leesa works with many young apprentices and students in her role as Team Leader of the Geelong Technical Education Centre at The Gordon Tafe Geelong. She says GWIT was formed after she and co-founder Fiona Lawrie (who also founded Tradeswomen Australia Foundation) identified a lack of support for young women entering apprenticeships and the trades.

“GWIT came about because I could see these girls enter the industry with no support, they don’t get to see each other and they don’t get to talk to other girls who have also started an apprenticeship,” Leesa says.

“[The girls in trades] are a wonderful support for each other, they get advice and lean on each other.

“We are facing a massive trade shortage and I’m not saying women are the solution but they are certainly part of the equation.”

Leesa says on site, boys and girls are equally matched in the skills and the demands of the job — particularly these days as jobs have less physical requirements, such as lifting, due to occupational, health and safety guidelines.

“One thing girls are good at is talking things out and talking through issues. And that really makes a difference,” she says.

“The culture is changing. Girls that choose to do trades, are resilient and ambitious. They’re doing the job because they are that way inclined — they like working with their hands… and they just get on with it.”

Conclusion

About 11 per cent of the Victoria’s construction industry workforce are women — and Hamlan is bucking that trend.

Hamlan’s Hannah Butler is a young woman that’s proving to be a future leader in the industry. Starting off as an estimator and now training as a project coordinator, she is showing the younger generation of women in construction that there’s a bright future for them in our industry.

We’re also sponsors of Geelong Women in Trades — a local network who are taking the lead on promoting women and girls in trades and encouraging female mentorship of girls in trades.

As Hannah and GWIT demonstrate, women have much to offer the building industry and we hope to see more women join trades.

And that inclusion can only be a great advantage to the end result — your new home.

If you want to build a home with Hamlan or learn more about what we do, call 1300 426 526.

SOURCE: Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018) Table 1 : EQ06 – Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards

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