Isabel Duffy introduces 100 Women in Construction
Helping to attract more women to the construction industry has always been important to Northrop Principal and Sydney Business Development Manager, Isabel Duffy.
Over the last 12 months, Isabel has partnered with several influential women and organisations across the sector to launch 100 Women in Construction.
Seeing the huge potential of this initiative, Northrop has come on board as a founding partner.
Isabel tells us more about 100 Women in Construction below.
1. Tell us about 100 Women in Construction and what you are hoping to achieve?
100 Women in Construction is an engaging online database showcasing career options in the construction industry to high school students. We are hoping to break down three key known barriers for getting girls interested in our industry:
- Awareness of the career options, including many office-based, creative and sustainability-focused roles
- A negative perception or stigma of our industry, and;
- Lack of support from parents
By profiling 100 different women from across all areas of NSW's Construction Industry in a way that is accessible, searchable and exciting for high school students, we hope to provide a valuable resource for young women making decisions about their career paths, also unlocking early career opportunities offered in our industry including with TAFEs, cadetships and work experience.
It aims to break down the stigma of working in this amazing industry, turning 'you can't be what you can't see' on its head!
2. How is it different from other organisations that support women’s careers?
We've done significant research into existing programs and understand ours to be different because:
- It's made BY the industry, FOR the industry - we are industry-funded, with constant conversations with our partners about which stories to share, and how to make our website even better. The passion our Industry Committee has for making this a success means that we are launching a platform that has been tested with pilot groups of students and schools. We know how to measure its impact for our corporate partners and we're able to be more agile to suit feedback we get - for example harnessing paid advertising on social media.
- Many existing programs rely on senior women speaking directly to high school students. Whilst we support this and get involved in many of these programs ourselves, we are trying to leverage the stories of our industry's women into an online format so that they can been accessed by a broad range of students, without the time and energy commitments required of these senior women.
- Similar online profiles are often limited to one field of construction - e.g. engineering, or site-based careers. We want to link common themes in construction such as 'design' or 'sustainability' and show the network of careers you can have in these areas across multiple technical or trade backgrounds.
3. What was the catalyst or turning point in your career that made you see the need for an organisation like this?
I've been very involved in different high school outreach programs and have often felt disappointed by the reality that it's unlikely my personal story would resonate with more than a few of the girls present. The effort our industry goes to in organising site tours and career presentations for high schools students is incredible, and so important in inspiring an interest in construction - but it needs to be backed up with information that can help move these students from having an interest through to actually choosing a career path.
Our industry is complex and regularly changing - so an industry-lead resource is important in making sure up-to-date information is available for students to make informed decisions about their further study and career options.
4. What has been the most challenging or surprising thing about getting it up and running?
Staying motivated to keep working on this around a demanding full-time job has been my biggest challenge.This initiative wouldn't have gone anywhere without the support and energy from my business partner, Katharina Kister from RP Infrastructure, and our amazing Industry Committee which includes Amy Williams (ADCO), Angela Collins (Architectus), Sarah Lawlor (NSW Government Architect's Office), Charlotte Dodgett (Group GSA) and Annika Field (Richard Crookes Constructions).
We're also very grateful for the help of Harriet Oldmeadow and her team at Norton Rose Fulbright, who have helped us establish this initiative as a non-for-profit company, and Tamara Williams from Altis Property Partners who generously agreed to not only be a company Director but also help bring Kat and I up to speed with our regulatory and governance requirements.
The excitement and commitment from the industry partners we have approach so far has also been amazing. Having a tangible resource made possible by the industry that helps us to build our own pipeline of women is very empowering, for us and our partners.
4. If you looked back in 5-10 years, what would success look like?
We've worked hard to get enough funding to build a reasonable online database - but to make this a big success, we need to ensure it's engaging for high school students and includes content like video, quizzes, and integration with platforms like TikTok and Instagram. The first step of success for me is for enough industry partners to get involved so that our committee can fund the resources we need to build the best possible platform, to be launched in 2024.
In terms of measuring the overall success of the program - we are looking at how we can do this in 10 pilot schools at the moment, through conversations with students and careers advisors. We'll also be able to measure click-through rates on the website, including engagement with University and TAFE links and interactivity with industry-related programs like work experience.
Ultimately, we're here to see the pipeline of women choosing careers in construction increase. We're just one of many initiatives all working together to this shared cause - so success for me is also shared. The number of women going into engineering degrees in NSW hasn't moved from 16% in the past 5 years, and it's actually declined for degrees in Construction Management. This is really the first step - to see the proportion of women in construction-related degrees, diplomas and apprenticeships increasing.
A big thank you to our founding partners; Northrop Consulting Engineers, RP Infrastructure, ADCO, Group GSA, Altis, Multiplex, Richard Crookes Constructions and fjmtstudio.