Lack of women in construction sector a missed opportunity

The bad old days of men downing tools when a woman walked on to a construction site might be long gone, but the property and construction industry is yet to realise the full potential of half of Australia’s workforce.

Our industry employs about 10 per cent of Australia’s workforce. It is a vital component of a healthy Canberra economy.

Women make up just 12 per cent of the sector – and this alarming statistic is not good for the advancement of women, our industry, or the nation.

This week, the Property Council announced the formation of the Property Male Champions of Change, to accelerate the career opportunities for women in the industry. The group, which will be convened by leading businesswoman Carol Schwartz AM builds on the transformational work achieved by the founding Male Champions of Change group, established in April 2010 by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. The efforts of the Business Council of Australia, which last year announced it intends to increase the number of women in senior management roles to 50 per cent over the next decade, should also be applauded.

Encouraging diversity is not just about fairness or altruism. Organisations that value diversity and inclusiveness have been found to reap the financial rewards, and research by McKinsey & Cohas found those companies with a higher proportion of women in the top tiers of management perform better than other companies.

Workforces that are more gender diverse are more productive – and communities, cities and nations are more productive, too.

While we want to see more Canberra women don hard hats and step on to construction sites, this is just one component of the industry. Job opportunities for women span engineering and architecture, interior design and project management, sales and leasing – careers that can take you around the world and back again.

Canberra is in the enviable position of having the highest average incomes in the country, as well as the highest levels of education.

Our industry has a golden opportunity to leverage the highly talented, highly educated pool of women to improve diversity, boost productivity and build a better, more profitable city for all Canberrans.

Catherine Carter is Executive Director, ACT at the Property Council of Australia

This piece was first published in the Canberra Times