The civil construction industry has for many years been an almost exclusively male workforce. The number of women employed within the sector still remains a small percentage of the total workforce, with men still dominating traditional civil construction roles. However, in recent years, the industry has seen an increase in females interested in civil construction roles.
The civil industry is a unique one; over 70% of revenue flows from the government, making it very strict, compliant and procedure-focused. Because governments are careful with their money, performance and efficiency is high in the minds of employers. When we look at the nature of the work, the reality is there is no reason a female cannot perform effectively in civil construction roles.
So why is the percentage of women in civil so low? Because we, as an industry, have done a terrible job of communicating how rewarding this industry is to work in, and on the whole, we have not considered well enough the effects on females of working in a male-dominated space. Rather, the industry has been too focused on getting the job done.
CCF NSW has been working with women and employers within the industry to change this…
In June 2017 CCF NSW launched the CCF NSW Women in Civil Program.
To encourage more women to Join and remain in the civil industry.
It’s been a well-received program by both women and employers, yet it’s a small program compared to the enormity of the task. We need to do better as an industry.
CCF NSW has conducted Member surveys on gender participation levels in civil-related roles, and these levels have continued to grow. In March 2017 the rate of female participation in civil-related roles was 4.2%; in February 2021 it was 5.7%; and in December 2022 it grew further to 9.9%.
An October 2021 report from Infrastructure Australia in fact shows a rising nationwide skill shortage across the construction sector, with peak demand for skills from mid-2023 and beyond forecasted to be 48% higher than the available supply and labour shortages anticipated to be three times higher than 2017-2018.
The problem we have is less about culture; it’s more to do with demand exceeding supply. And as an industry, we have failed dismally to present ourselves well enough to women and we need to communicate far better what our industry offers.
To secure NSW’s future infrastructure construction pipeline we have to do better…
Our vision is equality ‘50 by 50’
CCF NSW’s vision of ’50 by 50′ is to achieve equal gender participation in civil by 2050.
Announced publicly on 26th October 26, 2021, the vision makes it very clear that a set of measurable goals are needed to encourage more women to join and remain in the industry.
This is a lofty goal, but it is not possible to set a goal in this topic that reflects anything less than equality.
How we will get there
CCF NSW has submitted a wide-ranging Proposal to the NSW Government to achieve 50 by 50. It is a significant enhancement to our existing Women in Civil Program… WiC 2.0 for want of a better descriptor.
The Proposal provides a coherent, structured framework for willing engagement between stakeholders that will lift participation rates.
It has been constructed following consultation with female workers and employers from within CCF NSW’s diverse 450-strong membership. It was developed following six years of work by CCF NSW with women and employers of all sizes in the industry. Our membership includes tier 1 contractors to small family-owned companies. Our membership covers regional and Sydney-based businesses.
The Proposal includes a Base Solution with two enhancements. Importantly, it focuses on:
- Improving all aspects of the supply side (the number of women wanting to join the industry), and
- the Demand side (ensuring we better retain those who join).
To demonstrate the industry supports equality as its vision, CCF NSW asked a sample of its membership if they would be willing to commit in writing to supporting ‘50 by 50’ and to actively support greater female participation by becoming Employer Champions for Women in Civil. Within just days, over 35 employers from Tier 1 multi-national contractors to small regional family businesses and industry stakeholders such as TAFE NSW signed the commitment.
So critical do we consider this Program to the sustainability of the industry that CCF NSW is prepared to invest in each of its years an amount equivalent to over 20% of our current revenue. The NSW Government’s requested contribution represents less than one-half of one-thousandth of a percent of what the Government is spending on infrastructure each year.
CCF NSW is leading the way.
Our current WiC program
The CCF NSW Women in Civil Program aims to do that, and it pulls together the following elements:
- A structured 10-month Mentoring Program.
- Facilitation of monthly networking forums through our Virtual Community initiative (a very regional NSW focus) to which guest speakers are invited.
- Identification and heralding of female ‘champions’, including the penultimate award of our annual Women in Civil Excellence Award. (This has actually been running since 2012).
- The launch of our Career in Civil website which explains the roles in the industry and has a very deliberate focus on encouraging females to join the industry.
- Training and educating supervisors about managing a diverse workforce through our partner the Institute of Civil Infrastructure.
- Providing a package of tools and legal advice for employers to recruit and retain more females.
- Our Employers Championing Women in Civil initiative asks employers to publicly commit to supporting women in their workplaces and CCF NSW’s 50% gender participation by 2050. If your business is interested in becoming a Champion, please get in contact with us.
Fanning the flames of change
We are confident that, by creating a spark, the winds of change will move through the civil industry. We are already seeing amazing step-ups…
Owner and Director of Liddell Contracting Pty Ltd
“CCF NSW has been at the forefront of real, meaningful action to support women in civil by having run its highly successful Women in Civil program.”
Co-owner and Director of Haslin Constructions
“The Women in Civil Program is a fantastic initiative that will bring great benefits to the industry. All workplaces are improved by greater diversity.”
Managing Director of Sage Civil
“The Women in Civil Program changes lives and continues to assist this great industry evolve. There is no better feeling than being able to complete a project and say to your kids, I built that. If you can see it, you can be it.”
CCF NSW is proud to provide ongoing support and care to women, and the employers who support them, in this great industry. To encourage more Women to Join and Remain in the civil industry.