Article: Speak Easy

Where Are We Up To With Women In Construction? with Michael BoturWhere Are We Up To With Women In Construction? with Michael Botur

The 2016 PwC report looking at female participation in building and construction found the number of women joining the industry increased 45 per cent.

The report reminded us construction is the fifth largest sector in New Zealand by employment with over 178,000 fulltime jobs.

I can’t give you this year’s Census data on the number of women in building and construction because this year’s Census had really low rates of completion, particularly in the “laid back” regions of the country, like sleepy Northland.

There’s a Herald report from 2016 which said women make up only 2 per cent of all building trades workers; that same year, though, 12 percent of the 10,000 apprentices in training were ladies. You can see things are trending towards a more even balance - the number of women involved in the industry almost doubled leading up to 2016.

Did you know we have a National Association of Women in Construction? They’re one of the drivers of the annual Hays NAWIC Excellence Awards – a ceremony which was only set up five years ago.

At the most recent awards, women honoured include Fulton Hogan’s Pip Buunk (no, that is not a spelling mistake) who was at the time of the awards New Zealand’s only registered female driller.

Anyway, the world is so densely populated in 2018, and things are moving so fast, that I thought I would bring you some radical new stats about what’s changing in building and construction when it comes to the gender balance.
• There seems to be a trend of women going into building and construction only
after branching out from other expertise. The reason, BCITO suggests, is a
career in the trades is rarely suggested to girls while they’re at school. Nearly
three-quarters (72%) of BCITO’s female apprentices had never participated in
construction-related courses while at school; 67% were working elsewhere
before starting their apprenticeship.

• Using BCITO’s numbers again, just 16.8 per cent of listed companies have female
directors and that’s mirrored in the directors of big organisations, too (with the
exception of Building & Construction Minister Jenny Salesa…. who is a woman).

• The Women At Work 1991–2013 report by Statistics NZ pointed out that women
are most well-represented in signwriting (16 percent) or painting/decorating/
paper hanging roles (8 percent). Women made up only 1 to 3 percent of workers
in the remaining building trade occupations, which includes occupations such as
carpenters, builders, plasterers, plumbers, and electricians. Evidence suggests that
women employed in the construction industry largely work in administrative
support roles rather than in core areas of the industry. Information from the 2013
Census supports this- apparently 37 percent of women in the construction industry
were in 2013 employed in clerical roles, with only 5 percent employed as trades
workers. By comparison, only 1 percent of men in the industry worked in clerical
roles, while just under half (49 percent) were trades workers.

• Only 14 per cent of engineers in New Zealand are women.
There’s a flipside to all of this. Some trades are massively female-dominated.
Women made up 74 percent of life science and health professionals in 2013 and,
at the time, women made up 90 percent of primary and early childhood teaching
professionals (again, we would have more recent data if lazy old Northland had
completed its census.)

People with a similar skillset to me – writers, secretaries, keyboard operating clerks – are over 90 percent female.
So is my editor/publisher, who does a mighty fine job of running PropertyPlus.

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.


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