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Women in Construction Event 2017

Photo by SafeRebuild and the Canterbury Rebuild Safety Charter. Anita’s spot prize.

‘Women in Construction’ was a free event held on March 29, aimed at celebrating being a woman in the New Zealand construction industry. Hosted by Kristina Wischnowsky and Jo Duffy from Safe Rebuild and the Canterbury Rebuild Safety Charter, the event was aimed at supporting women no matter what role they may take in the industry; on the tools, behind the desk or on site.

The purpose of the event was not only to celebrate being a woman who works in construction, but for women to have the chance to connect with other women and discuss some of the issues faced when working in this male-dominated industry.

The afternoon’s discussions included panel sessions with groups of women from different areas; a CEO, a cleaner, a student, a single mother of four, and a maori woman discussing her culture’s influence on the construction sector. There were discussions over pay equity; there is still a 15% lag in women’s salaries compared to men’s in the construction sector. This is equivalent to women doing unpaid work from the 15th of November to the end of the year.

Three women shared their stories of barriers/ issues they had during their career and how they overcame them. These three women consisted of an OH&S officer (Occupational Health & Safety), a painter and a woman whose house had been destroyed in the earthquakes, which inspired her to study construction. We also spent some time brainstorming our own thoughts on difficulties and opportunities faced in a male dominated industry and how we can overcome them.

Sarah O’Connell, the Managing Director of Tri-Ex, discussed her success story and offered tips for remaining calm in stressful situations, when to remove yourself and how to handle the small, everyday hassles. Michelle Kernahan (new CEO of Fletcher Construction) spoke of her success story and how she rose up through the ranks. It was an incredible opportunity to hear her story. Michelle’s keys to success were hard work, efficiency, perseverance, continuous learning and time management – traits that she states are common in most, but crucial to improve on. Michelle shared her tips to keep on top of the stress levels, one being to always try and keep the weekends free for a mental break.

The biggest highlight of the afternoon was hearing Sarah and Michelle give their speeches. It was inspirational to hear their success stories and learn about how they got to where they are today. The event was a fantastic opportunity to network with other women in the construction industry, and know there are so many interesting and enthusiastic women out there working in this sector. Thank you to the hosts, Safe Rebuild and Canterbury Rebuild Safety Charter, for holding the event and letting us know that they’re here to help and offer support.