Most people would agree that the New Zealand construction industry is made up of a disproportionately high number of male participants. According to a 2010 Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation report, women make up less than one per cent of carpenters and project builders working in New Zealand. We have also referred to Statistics New Zealand findings in an earlier post that females make up less than 12 per cent of the industry (read Constructing an equal future here).
While the low level of female participants suggests that barriers exist, this does not appear to be the result of a lack of support from industry bodies. In 2010, IPENZ implemented a task force to investigate the reasons why the engineering profession has difficulty attracting and retaining women. NZCF has previously noted that it is supportive of changes aimed towards attracting more women to the industry. The National Association for Women in Construction (NZ) also takes an active role in this regard.
It is also not a problem specific to New Zealand, with a number of other countries experiencing the same issue.
This makes the recent move by Kudumbashree (a women’s self-help group in Kerala, India) all the more intriguing http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/kudumbashree-steps-into-construction-sector-114060800143_1.html. According to the Business Standard’s report, all of the ‘Kudumbashree Construction’s’ employees (from engineers to masons) will be female, and as many as 220 Kudumbashree volunteers, with distinct qualifications and skills, are being trained in construction-related works.
This is a great initiative from an organisation that appears to already have an impressive record of helping women find better futures. Perhaps it will also provide a positive reference point, in terms of encouraging more women to enter the construction industry in New Zealand and elsewhere.
[this post is written by Jared Holt]