I read with great interest a First Women article concerning the sector in which I forged my career, and the need for change to attract, and indeed retain, more female talent to bolster what is often considered a less than attractive opportunity.
The construction industry has typically been associated with men throughout history, and it still today remains one of the most difficult sectors to break into as a woman.
I’m often asked about my experience, being one of the industry’s first females who broke that glass ceiling, in an era where male chauvinists were plenty and rude gestures and comments were very much ‘par for the course’.
Much is needed to be done in order to meet the equality and diversity challenges that remain within the industry. Our nation’s largest construction firms must lead the way to drive the changes necessary, if we are to see the construction industry be considered as a career options for our country’s future female talent.
‘It’s not exactly a sexy industry Jacqui’, is a comment I’ve heard often. Many people hold this view but I can state through firsthand experience that if you work hard and deliver on promises you make, then as a woman it can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding industries to be a part of.
In an environment fraught with daily challenges it’s an exciting and fast paced sector. Very rarely are any two days the same and if you’re able to offer innovative and effective solutions – which I’ve often found the female gender to be particularly good at – without doubt you will be recognised and rewarded accordingly.
I am also of the view that as an industry the sector needs a major rebrand, so that younger women will look at jobs within construction as real career advancement opportunities. We need to start with improved career advice and capture the imagination of girls at a much younger age.
We need to dispel the myths that the industry is ‘not a place for girls’ and we need a nationwide movement, led by the industry’s top firms, to make a pledge to actively promote the sector as a great professional path for women.
The prize for such a movement to our national economy would be quite considerable as the industry can benefit from the type of thinking women have to offer.
Imagine being the first nation to export this strategy, and in so doing secure many large infrastructure projects on a global scale. As the old adage goes ‘he (in this case SHE) who dares, wins’. To the people in the construction industry, I say “just what are you waiting for?’
About the author
Jacqui Miller-Charlton has over 35 years’ experience working within a senior executive role in her own business alongside her two brothers. A trailblazer in the construction, quarrying, mining and associated industries she changed the face of how hydraulic excavators are used around the world through the introduction of their company’s revolutionary Miller Quick Coupler.
Jacqui stepped down from her operational role in 2014 but remains a shareholder and main board director. More recently she has assisted in mentoring many business professionals looking to create, grow or change and manage their own businesses.