Government plans to bulldoze barriers for women in construction

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
4 Min Read

The Federal government aims to boost the number of women working within the construction industry, according to its recently released white paper.

The report, titled ‘Working Future: The Australian Government’s White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities,’ sets a roadmap for the future of employment nationwide.

With the building and the construction industry currently facing a critical labour shortage, the white paper unveils plans to increase female representation within the sector.

The report states women are presently “under-represented” in construction, making up 12.8 per cent of the workforce, with only 2 per cent working within a trade role.

At the same time, those women who begin pursuing a trade career are more likely to fail their apprenticeship than their male counterparts.

Government outlines gender equality goals

The white paper’s policy ambitions include plans to introduce a national strategy for achieving gender equality, introduce targets for women on major government projects as part of the Australian Skills Guarantee program and introduce measures to attract more female students into VET pathway education.

Additionally, the Women in STEM cadetship and Advance Apprenticeships program has already been extended, alongside the establishment of the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce and investing $2.3 billion in measures to end violence against women.

Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn says the white paper’s female-friendly policy targets would help the industry attract some of the 486,000 industry workers needed to meet demand in the next three years.

“Policies that prioritise attracting, recruiting, training and retaining workers in the industry will be vital to ensure Australia’s housing and infrastructure needs can be delivered,” she said.

“Improving the attractiveness of the industry to women presents a massive opportunity to increase the pool of potential workers.”

Ms Wawn praised the government’s proposals for boosting female representation across the building sector.

“The Employment White Paper has also rightly referenced the challenge of female participation in the building and construction industry,” she said.

“The Women Building Australia program is one example of an industry-led initiative to provide appropriate mentorship and support for women entering the industry, which has helped see an uptick of female participation over recent years.”

Female tradies praise policy plans

Wendy Pinch, founder of The Lady Tradie, a ‘women in trades’ support organisation told Build IT the policy ambitions were “music to her ears”.

She says providing female school students with better awareness of VET pathways and individual trades would help boost both apprenticeship participation and completion rates.

“Most female tradies who fail in the first year do so because they are in the wrong trade,” she explained.

“We need to help boys and girls learn more about the different career pathways available – so they can decide the right choice for them.”

Boosting female participation in the sector has also caught the eye of the NSW government, which recently concluded its Women in Construction survey to help address barriers women face when entering, working and staying in the industry.

NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler says increasing the number of women in trades would deliver a more diverse and inclusive industry, increasing innovation, improving productivity, and leading to stronger economic performance.
“Making the construction industry open to everyone can help bring more people into jobs and deliver the demand for construction activity and housing supply in NSW,” he said.

The results of the survey are yet to be released.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.