Women in the construction industry: a work in progress

The call for women to join the construction industry or take up a trade is growing according to a New Zealand Herald article published today.

While statistics published by Statistics New Zealand in 2013 report a working-age population that is over 50% female, females make up just 5% of all trades workers in New Zealand.

Nancy McConnell, the general manager of corporate affairs at Hawkins Group, believes that this is due to a common misconception that success in the trades sector is dependent on physical strength. However, that is not the case today. While historically the construction sector has been described as a tough environment, Ms McConnell describes it as a team environment, within which many women “make incredible operators and tradespeople”.

The Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT) initiative, supporting Māori and Pasifika learners to gain the skills and qualifications necessary to enter a New Zealand Apprenticeship, are leading by example. In 2015 MPTT’s role was 23% female, and it is actively campaigning for the number of females in the industry to increase to 40% by 2020.

Research undertaken by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in 2011 indicated that having more women in the construction industry has strong benefits for employers, other employees and the women in the industry themselves. For many of the firms interviewed during this research, having female employees was identified as providing a distinct competitive advantage, both from the specific skills that the women bring to their roles, and their approach to customer service.

Given that the construction industry was the largest contributor to annual employment growth in 2015, there is an ongoing opportunity and demand for more women to be employed in this high growth sector.

The construction team at Kensington Swan is another example of gender diversity in action in the construction sector, with women making up 50% of our national team.


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