My New Career In Construction; A Young Woman’s Perspective

What’s it like to be a young woman in construction? We asked one of our Sarah Graduates, Amanda, to give us her insight into a career in construction.

Let me introduce myself. I’m Mandy; born and raised in Adelaide, I enjoy watching television, doing yoga and pilates, movies and books. I’m pretty much no different to the rest of you. Except I work for Sarah Constructions. Yes, a woman working in construction. Is that weird? Not at all actually! Here’s why.

I guess I always knew I was going to go into a maths and science field. You know those aptitude tests you do when you’re young? Mine always came out with computer science or engineering, so I’ve always had the mindset that that’s the kind of thing I’d get into. I ended up studying a Bachelor (Hons) in Civil Engineering & Architecture at University of Adelaide, but it actually took me until about halfway through Year 12 to decide that was the degree for me. Mine was a process of elimination; I knew what I didn’t want to do and what I thought I wasn’t good at, so eventually I landed in the Civil discipline. Plus, I had an aunt tell me that I might be good at Architecture because I’ve got attention to detail, so when I saw that degree as a combination of those things, it seemed like the perfect choice.

After graduating, I was offered a place on the Sarah Graduate Programme. In fact, I’m in the first wave of recruits with 4 other graduates; there’s one other engineer on the programme and the others are all from a construction management background. Since I was already doing work experience at Sarah before beginning the programme, I transitioned into the role quite smoothly.

Even though my degree was in engineering, I actually really like working in construction because it’s all about how everything comes together as a whole. And that’s what makes it interesting; you get to see something come from nothing and then build up into something.

The Sarah Graduate Programme is a super interesting 12 months because we get to experience all the different departments of the business. You’ve got Estimating, Project Management, which is what I’m doing now, and Subcontracts. I’m looking forward to the Estimating because I’ve dabbled a bit with tendering, going out to suppliers, trying to get the best price and quality etc, plus it’s numbers driven and involves negotiating, which appeals to me.

I’ll also be doing an individual industry based research project as part of the programme. I’ve just spent the past 18 months doing a research project for my degree, but this one will actually be ‘real world’ and not purely academic, so I’m really looking forward to that. Then there’s the group CSR project, where the Sarah Graduates work together to solve a construction problem for a charity. Hopefully by the time we get to it, everyone will have developed skills in different areas so we’ll be able to cover a larger scope of work.

I’m really excited to see where the next 12 months goes ‘cos I’m loving what I’m doing here at the moment. Whether or not I get to stay on as a full time employee at the end of the programme remains to be seen, but whatever happens I’d like to stay in the construction industry because of how diverse it is. It’s not limited to taking things down or making things look pretty; there’s a lot of different aspects to it.

And despite what you might think, construction isn’t just for men. Sure, the majority of tradies on site are still men, but there’s plenty of women in Admin and Finance. My Project Manager is also a woman; in fact, there’s about 4 of us ladies working on that project. It’s not easy to shift the perception that construction is a guys’ arena though. For example, my family weren’t too happy about me going into the field, but nobody blinked an eye at my male cousins doing the same. But in actual fact, there’s nothing in the industry that women aren’t capable of, especially when it comes to the organising, maintaining and facilitating side of things. Project Management roles can involve a lot of multitasking, especially if you’re on multiple projects, which most of the team are here, so it’s a bit of a mind juggling game, but women are good at that!

So yes, I’m a woman working in construction and it’s not weird at all. And there are heaps of opportunities in the industry for those that want them. In this 21st century, we should be empowering women to go outside of their comfort zones and pursue subjects at school and university that are traditionally seen as masculine; not just maths and sciences, but also project and people management. Not only is there room for women in these roles but they’ll likely dominate in them too!

Want my advice? Don’t be afraid to come into a field because it appears male dominated. Try not to see the reasons why you shouldn’t, see the reasons why you should. It’s all about opportunity, and if I had to sum up the Sarah Graduate Programme in 1 word, that would be it. I can’t wait to see what career opportunities will open up for me as a result of these 12 months of real, on-the- job, construction industry experience. Watch this space!


Comments


  1. Caroline Tschirpig

    October 10th, 2017 at 5:59 pm


    Amanda, thank you for your post about your progression into the construction industry. With only around 12% of females in the industry, it is however generating more interest. My husband is an experienced concreter who has worked over several projects. We built our first home through a reputable builder in 2010, and through my career in Retail Store Management and Relief Area Management, I was successful in opening a petrol site from build to trade. An opportunity I was fortunate to undertake and would do it again tomorrow. I am currently looking for work in recruitment/people and culture as this area has always been of high interest. I was with my previous employer for 12 years as a Petrol Store Manager/ASM. I would love to get into Building and Construction as a Site Supervisor or Project Manager role. I have researched study options and am very excited of the possibilities. So thanks again, your insight has been very helpful.

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