Tackling the barriers to women entering infrastructure

Women in Construction NAWIC IWD International Women's Day

Young women are struggling to visualise themselves pursuing careers in construction and are even being actively discouraged from entering the industry, according to a new report by the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC).

The research paper by Dr Phillippa Carnemolla, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), explores why so few girls are choosing construction careers.

Some of Dr Carnemolla’s research findings include:

  • High school girls cannot visualise themselves in a construction career
  • Schools, teachers and parents are not recommending a career in construction to high school girls
  • There is a lack of understanding about the diverse scope of jobs and careers that comprise the construction industry
  • Parents’ perceptions of the industry are influential in steering students away from the industry

Over 2018-2019, Dr Carnemolla, has investigated the perceptions of the construction industry by female high school students.

Acknowledging that women entering and remaining in the construction industry remains well below parity, Dr Carnemolla’s research examines how construction is portrayed and perceived by the very women it hopes to attract as well as where they come from.

In addition to exploring high school girls’ thoughts and opinions of the industry, Dr Carnemolla has analysed university data on female students who are interested in a career in construction.

This combined data reveals both the perceptions of construction, and where interest is coming from, both important contributions when addressing the imbalances in our industry.

As a result of her research findings, Dr Carnemolla has made recommendations that will enable NAWIC, employer groups, leading companies and broader construction networks to better engage with high school girls and to communicate the potential for a construction career.

This is turn will help lead to a more equitable industry where women fully participate.

Dr Carnemolla is the 2018 recipient of the International Women’s Day Scholarship, which has been awarded annually since 2009.

The paper’s release coincides with the announcement of the 2019 IWD Scholarship winner as Fiona Lamari, Lecturer in Construction Project Management at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

Dr Lamari’s research proposal, titled ‘Engagement with Regional School Students through Virtual Construction Site Tour ‐ an Immersive Experience’, aims to promote the exciting and diverse careers in the construction industry to female high school students through virtual reality.

Dr Lamari’s research will enable students to step onto a construction site and experience a high-rise building being developed. Her study will also measure the effectiveness of virtual reality as an engagement strategy for regional female high‐school students.

This project will create a Virtual Construction Site (VSC) tour. The VSC tour will offer an immersive virtual experience that can mimic a realistic building construction site.

Students will witness the actions, the interactions between people and the diversity the industry has to offer. They can begin exploring and establishing an identity of real professionals within the construction sector.

The project will also evaluate whether the immersive experience delivered through a VCS tour can provide aspirations to female high-school students and influence their consideration of a career in construction.

NAWIC is an Australian not-for-profit organisation formed in 1995 whose mission is to champion and empower women in the construction and related industries to reach their full potential. NAWIC provides a forum for its members to meet and exchange information, ideas and solutions.

The association offers members an opportunity to expand personal and business networks, maintain awareness of industry developments, improve skills and knowledge, and make a contribution to other women in the construction industry.

Since 2009, NAWIC has invested a total of $200,000 to aid research that improves, benefits and empowers women in the construction industry due to the support of long-term scholarship sponsor CULT.

A full copy of the report can be viewed here.

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