Reshaping the landscape

Reshaping the landscape

A pilot program funded by ASBEC was designed to help enhance career experiences and expand leadership opportunities for women in construction. 

Some time around the 2010s only about 2 per cent of AIRAH’s membership was represented by women. A decade and a half later and that figure has more than quadrupled. Yet those who can do the maths – and one would hope most of our venerable Institute’s members could – would understand that this number is still not substantial.

Increasing diversity in the construction industry and improving leadership opportunities for women was the impetus behind the inaugural ASBEC Women in Construction Future Leaders Pilot Program. Indeed, the initiative’s stated aim was nothing short of reshaping the construction industry’s landscape for women.

Unlocking the confidence

The graduation event for the initial intake of program participants took place earlier this year in a week that fortuitously aligned with Engineering Week, Women in Construction Week, and International Women’s Day.

More than 130 women contributed to shaping the pilot program, sharing their experiences in the industry and providing insights on how to enhance career experiences for women, who represent 12 per cent of the construction industry workforce.

The initiative was led by Global IQ Group CEO Liza Taylor, M.AIRAH, in collaboration with Alison Scotland, Executive Director of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC).

“Witnessing the transformation and growth of ASBEC’s Future Leaders as the MasterMind sessions progressed has been inspiring,” Scotland says. “These women are strong, intelligent and capable – and this program was able to unlock the confidence in them to make incredible leaps in their career journeys. I’m looking forward to ASBEC’s continued relationship with these champions of industry.”

Program structure

The program’s launch in late 2023 included a town hall-style event featuring panellists Professor Gayle Avery from the Institute for Sustainable Leadership, Consult Australia CEO Jonathan Cartledge, as well as Scotland.

Following this, three MasterMind leadership workshops were conducted, employing peer-to-peer learning and cohort experiences. Complemented by one-on-one coaching emphasising goal-setting, the program aimed to empower women to thrive in their careers.

The cohort of program participants represented a cross-section of various roles in the construction industry.

Praise for the program

Program participants were united in their praise of the program, which they said provided a suite of tools to enhance confidence, build executive presence and leadership skills, refine personal branding, boost networking, as well as providing personal mentorship.

“Being selected for this program has not only instilled a sense of worthiness but has also given me the recognition and validation to acknowledge my professional achievements,” says Sonia Holzheimer, M.AIRAH, from SEQUAL Mechanical Consultants.

“For me this is not just about developing leadership skills; it’s about overcoming internal obstacles and challenging negative self-dialogue. The supportive atmosphere has empowered me to reach out, connect, and collaborate. Would I recommend this program to my peers? Without a doubt!”

Temperzone’s Rula Karali, M.AIRAH, says the gathering represented a display of strength, unity, and shared ambition.

“The environment created by the program was one of genuine inspiration, led by experienced facilitators who understood the nuances and challenges faced by women in construction,” she says. “Being part of such an empowering program is an honour, and I am certain it will have a transformative experience. It’s not just about the skills and insights gained, but also about the sense of community and shared purpose among the participants.”

Leadership and diversity

The graduation event featured a panel session on leadership and diversity, addressing the challenge of increasing women in leadership positions. Survey results highlighted some key areas requiring attention.

The survey revealed that 40 per cent of workplaces had fewer than 10 per cent female leadership/executive roles, that one in five workplaces do not have any women on their boards, and that many women do not take up leadership training when it is offered.

In response, industry executive Graham Brown shared experiences in improving gender parity, emphasising the importance of recognising talent across all levels.

ASBEC Chair Tanya Cox discussed her experiences serving on boards, and GWA Consultants Director and AIRAH Board member Mikaila Ganado, M.AIRAH, emphasised the value of “diversity as a superpower”.

Cox, Brown, and Ganado underlined the importance of lifelong learning, encouraging attendees to seek out opportunities for professional development through organisations such as AIRAH.

Empowering women

“It was an absolute honour to speak this group of future leaders in our industry,” Ganado says. “Empowering women to be confident leaders will improve the future of our industry – playing a major role in addressing climate change and skills shortages.”

Like to know more? 

AIRAH’s Women of AIRAH STG regularly hosts events aimed at improving HVAC&R’s diversity.

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Ecolibrium May 2024

This article appears in ecolibrium’s May 2024 issue

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