International Women’s Day 2024

Construction and infrastructure have changed over the years to become more inclusive, welcoming, and flexible, and they provide greater opportunities for all, regardless of gender. However, there is still a long way to go, and as we reflect on International Women’s Day and its theme for 2024, Inspire Inclusion, we asked team members Katie Sommerfeld and Samantha Moreira what the theme meant to them and how it can be built on to achieve its goals.

Katie Sommerfeld has been involved in construction and infrastructure as an engineer, estimator and planner, supporting projects in the road and resources sectors, including stints in Australia and overseas for major contractors. Having worked as a client, contractor and consultant, Katie’s experience means that she has a unique perspective on how our industry has changed and become more inclusive; here are Katie’s thoughts on International Women’s Day.

“One of the challenges about thinking about how the industry has changed is that it has been at a different pace across different companies I have worked for,” said Katie. “As a young engineer I worked for the government, and it had clear and enforceable policies around discrimination, so the culture was more diverse and welcoming. Moving into various tiered contracting environments depended on the organisation’s culture as to whether inclusion was better or worse.”

“What I did find surprising was that when I worked in Fiji from 2014-2018 there seemed to be more female participation in engineering and technology roles than I had encountered in Australia, so there aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to inclusion and participation.”

“As I think about this year’s theme and try to make sense of my thoughts and discussions with my workmates, I think there’s still probably a problem with the construction industry whereby the sheer number of on-site hours required and expected to do your job properly prohibits flexibility. This means that people and, of course, women don’t enter or stay in the industry due to the choice between spending time with children versus time at work.”

“It is changing though, and women can choose to work in more flexible environments such as project planning, design, and maintenance. I am fortunate to have already done my hard yards on-site when free and unencumbered and subsequently can contribute on a part-time basis in a company with an inclusive and progressive culture,” said Katie.

Samantha Moreira is a Junior Engineer who is building her career in Australia after migrating from Brazil. As a migrant to Australia and a female in engineering, Samantha’s career journey is one marked by change, development, and joining new communities. Here is what Samantha had to say about International Women’s Day 2024 and its theme.

“Being a person who chose Australia to build a career, I could see some differences if you compare Brazil to Australia,” said Samantha. “After getting experience in engineering in Brisbane, I could see that women have more opportunities to work than in Brazil, which, in my view, is an important point to observe, but we can still improve, particularly for women with children. I don’t have children yet, but for women who do, it seems a bit hard to find a balance between a career and a family.”

“Most workplaces are full-time, and we could be more flexible to inspire inclusion. Many people want a balanced life, a good career, and a family, and we can still be better at supporting that,” said Samantha.

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