There are barriers to recruitment and retention of women at a professional and trade level in the Tasmanian building and construction industry, a recent study commissioned by the Tasmanian Building and Construction Industry Training Board (TBCITB) has found.
Conducted by Dr Megan Alessandrini and Dr Romy Winter, from the University of Tasmania’s School of Government, the research project explored the contributions made by women employed in Tasmania’s building and construction industry.
Dr Alessandrini said there were enormous opportunities for the industry to build on its skills base by reviewing how it recruits young women.
“The research showed professional and qualified female tradespeople were ‘able to hold their own in the workplace despite an underlying presence of gender stereotyping,” she said.
“The main finding was there is significant gender stereotyping in the industry which has an impact on recruitment, training and retention of female employees, particularly in the professional and trades area.”
The research on women in the Tasmanian building and construction industry had two threads - women in management and executive roles and the profile of women in trade and technical/professional occupations who work on site.
“We found women in the executive, administrative and management roles make an enormous contribution to the industry, and this is recognised in some quarters,” she said.
“But stereotyping was evident from the schools level, where girls were largely steered towards the female dominated occupations. Girls who had good family support and a strong interest in building and construction occupations were able to get a foothold into training.”
Dr Alessandrini said many assumptions were made about what women prefer, what was important to them, what occupational areas were most suitable to them and the resources they had to cope in the workplace.
Director of Ronald Young & Co Builders Lisa Burnell said women were “highly valuable” in the construction industry.
“Women work well in the industry because they are able to multi-skill, have high organisation and time management skills and good attention to detail,” she said.
“More recognition should be given to the work undertaken by women in building and trade vocations.
“The skills and qualifications I have gained through a diploma of business, project management and marketing, combined with postgraduate nursing degrees, are directly transferable to the building industry.”
TBCITB chief executive officer Simon Cocker said commissioning the research was the first step to encouraging women to consider a career in the building and construction industry.
“These days there is no reason why women should not see building and construction as a promising career,” Mr Cocker said.
“Focusing on the messages about the industry given in schools is an important priority, as well as furthering research on the gap between females enrolled in VET education and application for apprenticeships,” he said.
“Through building networks of successful women in the industry and promoting mentoring and training programs, we can foster long-term change across all organisational levels.
“I believe we need to see a cultural shift in the industry as there will come a time when it will need to actively recruit women. We need to get to a position where recruiting a woman to work in the sector is regarded as the norm.”