When you think about construction and gender roles you think of a male-dominated industry. In 2018 the ABS reported that women comprised only 12 percent of the construction workforce. Even smaller is the number of female construction workers on the front lines of the job site. NAWIC reported that in 2017 women accounted for less than 3% of construction trades workers across Australia.
When you think of these statistics it’s hard to see how women have the opportunity to make a difference. But they do.
We spoke to one woman who is trying to change perceptions of not just women on the job site but also perceptions around safety and is kicking goals.
Ruby Thompson is a Health and Safety Officer with Mirvac, one of Australia’s largest builders, and has had over 8 years’ experience as a HSE professional; first in the mining industry for the first four years of her career and in construction over the last four years.
Ruby’s week consists of inductions, inspections, audits, reporting, subcontractor onboarding, toolboxes, committee meetings, site presence, reviewing the effectiveness of hazard controls and of course, in safety, always allows time for the unexpected. Day to day she likes to ensure people are making safety conscious decisions and carrying out all tasks with diligence, whether it’s high risk or housekeeping.
Meeting Ruby you can see and feel her passion about behavioural safety and long-term positive work culture. She influences this daily through strong communication and by promoting responsibility. Over her eight years as an HSE professional she has seen the effects long hours and workplace pressures can have on people and how negativity can bleed into their personal lives. From this experience she developed a speech to motivate and empower people to help themselves, and to promote that life is an accumulation of choices.
She encourages people to be conscious of what thoughts, people and activities fill their day and importantly, not to underestimate the danger of distractions. She delivers this speech in a toolbox forum, which she delivered to our office early last year. She also focuses her attention on informal education and coaching.
When asked about what she would change about industry perceptions of women she said: “I think it is important to appreciate and celebrate individuals’ strengths and value regardless of their gender.”