With last Friday being International Womens Day, Laurice Temple takes a look at what the day means for the construction sector and the need for the construction sector to do more to attract and retain more women in construction.

Just briefly, and by way of introduction, the first IWD was held on 28 February 1909 in the US.

It was started as a part of calling out the inequitable labour laws and acknowledging and supporting the growing women’s suffrage movement.

Over the years, decades, century +, IWD has become a special day to engage in actioning change that encourages building a more equitable world as well as celebrating women’s contributions in society.  And just as importantly, to honour and celebrate women who courageously forged the path ahead of us.

Move on to 2024 where the theme of this year is, “Invest in women: accelerate progress”.

This week (now last week at time of publication) Ripple Affect Institute was proudly running the bespoke CCF Pathways program (https://www.ccfvic.com.au/pathways/) which is a huge investment into women apprentices in the civil construction industry.  However, the stories that were being vulnerably shared highlighted the need to prioritise the investment and educate more broadly to be able to accelerate progress at a greater rate.

The stories being shared from the cohorts were their life experiences highlighting the societal, cultural and familial biases highlighting the deterrents to joining the industry.  The stories being shared had similar themes around how these young women were brought up to believe that women were less than and “were not qualified” to be in construction / to follow in their father’s footsteps because of their gender.

In order to accelerate progress, we must invest in creating safer and kinder organisational cultures that drive cultural change that benefits us all.  It’s all good and well to invest in women but if we don’t  also include educating everyone, and addressing the systemic biases, progress will not be made.  For example, if there is not support, investment, and measurable actions from the board and leadership team, then there will be little to no progress.  This year’s topic should be “Invest in your culture: accelerate progress”.

So, what challenges is your organisation trying to solve for?  Wage parity?  Paternity leave?  Reduction of harassment?  Creating a kinder culture?  Greater diversity of thought at the board table / senior executive level?  Building a psychologically safe working space? Creating a more inclusive environment?  Any and all of these are worthy of being a part of your organisational strategic goals for 2024!  Perhaps on this International Women’s Day we all make a commitment  to invest in a project that will accelerate progress within your organisation / the industry (our Ripple Challenge to you!).

Why is IWD important?  It’s important as it keeps the conversation alive.  We have so many challenges still to solve for to create a more equitable world which is hampering our industry economically and directly impacts us all.  Systemic change is never easy and it takes intention, effort, and time.   It is complex.  It’s messy.  And as such it will be full of failure.  However the neuroscience, the psychology, and all the research shows that in the messiness there will be failures before there is growth.  That’s all a part of the change process.  So with that comes a requirement to build a psychologically safe environment to create change.

The construction industry can no longer survive by doing things the way they have always been done in the past.  This is clearly evident by the lack of diversity, the wage gap, the lack of senior women in the industry, that is all contributing to our continued low productivity.

The call to action is inviting everyone to lean into the cultural changes needed to drive better outcomes, to be more inclusive and build a more equitable industry that will be good for all!

Happy investing!!!