International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global celebration held yearly on 8 March to acknowledge the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
For the male-dominated infrastructure industry, it’s an opportunity to highlight women who are excelling in the sector, while having important discussions around attracting more women to the industry and putting in place policies and culture change to ensure equal opportunity workplaces.
Here are some recent news updates from around Australia highlighting women who are doing excellent work in the infrastructure industry.
Below you will also find Infrastructure’s past and continuing coverage of gender equality in the industry, including the widening gender pay gap in construction, and steps to break down barriers for women.
Building the Ranford Road Bridge
Senior Project Engineer for METRONET’s Thornlie-Cockburn Link, Laura Barnes, installed seven of the largest bridge beams ever fabricated in Australia.
The massive ‘tee-roff’ beams were used in the construction of the new Ranford Road Bridge as part of project works, but the installation proved itself to be far more than an impressive engineering feat.
For Ms Barnes, it was a major achievement in her civil engineering career, and highlighted her motivation, foresight, and technical excellence; resulting in her winning the National Association of Women in Construction WA TBH Outstanding Achievement in Construction Award in late 2021.
“The installation of the beams was a massive team effort, and it was incredibly rewarding to see the job executed safely, so receiving the award for this work has been a career highlight,” Ms Barnes said.
“The National Association of Women in Construction does an amazing job promoting what women bring to the construction industry. Connecting women through networking and mentoring events and highlighting the importance of diversity in the workplace.”
“It was a humbling experience standing in front of a room full of talented and inspiring women and being acknowledged by an organisation I think so highly of.”
Ms Barnes also offered advice for others, especially young girls or women, to consider a career in engineering, science, technology or maths.
“Stay open to opportunities and talk to people in the industry about their careers and experiences and where a STEM qualification has taken them. I never thought I’d end up in bright orange every day looking at huge cranes, but it’s a job and industry I’ve come to love.”
Ms Barnes also said that she is passionate about the construction industry embracing flexible working.
“I’m also very passionate about flexible working in the construction industry. Many women leave construction in their late 20s to early 30s to start a family and don’t come back. But it’s good to see the culture is slowly shifting, and in a post COVID world, the construction industry is adapting so that people can work from home,” Ms Barnes said.
Women leading the (flight) path
The Australian Airports Association (AAA) Board has welcomed its first all-female leadership team.
Adelaide Airport Executive General Manager Planning and Infrastructure, Kym Meys, has been appointed as Chair and will be supported by Perth Airport Operations Standards Manager, Jenny Kox, as Deputy Chair.
The AAA’s first all-female Board leadership team brings a wealth of aviation and airports knowledge as the sector enters a challenging post-COVID recovery phase.
Ms Meys has more than 18 years’ experience across Australian airports having held a wide range of senior airport planning, strategy and project delivery roles.
“The past two years have been an incredibly challenging time for airports, and I look forward to working with the Board to ensure airport members have the tools they need to begin the long journey of recovery,” Ms Meys said.
Deputy Chair, Jenny Kox, has more than 17 years’ experience in airport management and is now overseeing Perth Airport’s Service Standard.
Ms Kox said now that borders are re-opening and passenger numbers are beginning to rise, safety standards will be an important priority for airports.
“Australia’s aerodromes have some of the best safety standards in the world and we will work with members to continue to ensure they are supported through a time of technical and operational change,” Ms Kox said.
Australian Rail Track Corporation recognised at NAWIC awards
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Awards for Excellence 2022, Australia’s largest awards program for women in construction, have been awarded.
More than 1,200 guests gathered at the ICC Ballroom in Sydney on 23 February 2022 to celebrate a record 138 nominees in 13 categories.
NAWIC Co-President, Elizabeth Brookes, said, “The NAWIC Awards for Excellence celebrate the contributions that women make to the construction industry at all career levels and in all sectors. But this year a common characteristic has emerged, and many of the recipients have made it their mission to build businesses that support diversity and inclusion.”
Amongst the winners was skilled project manager Melanie Elms, Australian Rail Track Corporation – Inland Rail, who was awarded the Roberts Co Award for Contribution to a Project’s Development.
As Australia’s 1,700km Inland Rail project took shape, Ms Elms navigated the challenges of delivering major infrastructure while championing the interests of local communities.
A work in progress
Despite the many successes women have achieved in the industry and the number of organisations working on gender equality, it’s clear that there is progress still to be made.
View Infrastructure’s coverage of this important issue below.
Changing the tide on diversity in rail construction
It’s no secret that the rail construction industry needs more women in its ranks. As a senior leader, Metro Trains’ Lisa Hogben wants to break down barriers for women and people of colour.
The widening gender pay gap in construction
In September 2021, NAWIC proudly hosted its first National Forum which discussed solutions to the decreasing number of women entering and staying in the construction industry.
Apprenticeships Victoria redresses the gender balance
Attracting more women to traditionally male-dominated trades isn’t just a well-meaning election promise – it’s an economic necessity. Victoria’s $80 billion public infrastructure boom is a critical part of the Victorian Government’s recovery from the pandemic so maintaining the pipeline of workers is essential.
The changing face of rail
by Catherine Baxter, Chief Operating Officer, Metro Trains Melbourne, and Chief Executive Officer, Metro Academy
When I was young and wanting to find my place in the world, my father suggested to me that I should think about a career in the railways. Back in the late 1980s, rail was traditionally a male-dominated sector, laden with sexist workplace clichés. Put simply, it was a tough environment for women to prosper.
New resource to boost gender diversity in rail
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has released its Gender Diversity Resource Guide, containing materials to help rail organisations establish new measures supporting gender diversity in the industry.
New gender equality policy for the construction industry
The Victorian Government has announced a new policy which mandates increased representation for women in the construction industry.