At a mere 18% of the Australian construction workforce, women who enter the industry are placed in a male-dominated environment. With ten years of experience, civil engineer Isabella Castillo, witnessed the transition towards a more gender balanced worksite firsthand. While her journey hasn’t been without some gender-biased hurdles, she says it is, without a doubt, getting better. Her passion for the industry remains unmoved by the challenges. On the contrary, Isabella is staying optimistic about her future and planning for a long-term fulfilling career.
Isabella’s introduction to the world of construction started in her home country of Colombia. As a child, Isabella loved playing with building blocks, playhouses and lego castles, the spark of imaginative play that would turn into a career. With her passion for building she decided to study civil engineering. There was just one problem. Back then, women enrolling in engineering degrees was a rarity. It wasn’t even encouraged as a viable option. Isabella recalls the traditional gender roles and misconceptions as the first barrier to break through during the start of her professional journey.
Some family members were not very happy with the idea of me becoming an engineer, they tried to persuade me to pick any other career, just not engineering, that wasn’t ‘for girls’. Now, of course, they don't think that anymore. They see how far I’ve come and are proud of me. The memory makes Isabella chuckle. Women can do anything.
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From that point on, she put on her safety boots and never looked back. There were, of course, some frustrating times. Throughout the years of working on-site and in the office, she faced more discrimination at the start. Mostly it was comments from the ‘old school’ colleagues with outdated views. Or male colleagues not taking female voices seriously. But this all seems like a distant memory to Isabella now.
‘I truly believe the industry is changing’ she says, ‘Both in Australia and Colombia, I don’t see the same issues anymore’.
With a passion for her work and a determination to succeed, Isabella has been developing her career since arriving in Australia three years ago. Through Randstad, she got a role as a senior contract administrator at Corporate Interior Projects. A client-facing job perfect for an organised, critical thinker with experience in the industry. In her new role, Isabella is working closely with many inspiring female professionals whose careers are taking off just like her own. Isabella says the key to women’s success in the industry lies in the extraordinary value they have to offer.
‘I see a lot of women being promoted. I think women are very determined to prove just how much value we bring to the industry. We are highly organised, good at understanding client needs and fostering relationships. We are willing to go that extra mile at work.’
And this doesn't go unnoticed. Randstad survey participants cited career progression as one of the top factors attracting female talent to enter the industry. In addition to that, work in the construction sector can be an attractive career choice for women due to the flexible hours and equal pay, according to the survey findings. Isabella tends to share that sentiment:
‘I have no doubt I will grow and develop in this line of work. I do plan on having children one day, not yet, but one day. And I am confident I can be a parent while also building my career. I can go on maternity leave and come back to the same opportunities. I feel very supported in my workplace.’ she says.
Isabella belongs to the majority of women who believe that the industry is improving its practices and becoming a more inclusive sector. 58% of female workers in the Randstad Women in Construction survey say that the way women are treated in the industry has improved to various extents. There may be many reasons contributing to this trend, but, for Isabella, it is all about representation. For her, the reason the industry has greater gender equality is women themselves.
Even my uni back in Colombia is different now. There are more female students compared to when I was studying. Back when I was a student, if I asked a question, I would have gotten ‘you should already know that’ as an answer, while my male peers were treated with more respect. It is now different, the professors see how many girls are getting into engineering and are taking them seriously, treating them with respect.
While it is about women who are paving the way for future professionals, Isabella, like most survey participants, would like to see more representation of women in leadership roles. In fact, the lack of female role models in senior positions was cited as the top reason why women might leave the industry. Isabella is taking it up as her new challenge. She aims to complete her master's degree in project management and take on a leadership role in the next few years. She only wishes there were more female directors and company owners she could work for. And maybe one day, she could be one of them herself.
‘I would very much like to direct a construction company one day. This is what I am working towards’.
At Randstad, we are committed to supporting women like Isabella by advocating for our female job seekers and partnering with businesses that foster positive change.view construction jobs