26 September 2023

States join up to nail women to construction

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A cross-boarder partnership between NSW and Victoria is to trial an Australian-first standard to address cultural issues at construction sites and get more women into the building industry.

Announced by the Minister for Infrastructure, Rob Stokes and Minister for Metropolitan Roads, Natalie Ward, the Culture Standard trial is to be led by the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce – a collaboration between the two State Governments, the Australian Constructors Association and industry leaders.

Mr Stokes said new the Standard is to be tested at construction sites for the new Wentworth Point High School in Sydney Olympic Park and Mulgoa Road upgrade in Penrith to address cultural issues that could lead to poor mental health, high rates of family breakdown and a lack of diversity in the industry.

He said the pilot was focused on improving wellbeing and work-life balance, boosting construction efficiency and productivity, “all without impacting project timeframes”.

“Construction sites will be happier, healthier and more productive places to work when there is better work-life balance and diversity, and more access to wellbeing and mental health support,” Mr Stokes said.

“The industry has one of the worst gender pay gaps in the country at around 30 per cent so we’re going to trial the publication of that data so we can work towards women being fairly paid for their equal contribution.”

Mrs Ward said this was the first of many initiatives aimed at boosting the number of women in construction to 15 per cent by 2030.

“The sad reality is that women on construction sites can be subject to sexist slurs, offensive graffiti and second-rate amenities that don’t accommodate their needs, including a lack of sanitary bins or private spaces,” Mrs Ward said.

“The Culture Standard sets out a basic roadmap to making sites more inclusive because when sites work better for women, they work better for everyone,” she said.

“We also know another key barrier is construction work is typically a six day, 50 plus hour a week job, which is why this program will seek to improve flexible working conditions for women who are juggling family commitments.”

Mrs Ward said the trial would include measures such as no offensive material on site, ensuring appropriate amenities were provided, identifying and disclosing gender pay gaps across roles, mental health first aiders on site, and clear targets for the appointment of women.

She said the trial would also include a Monday to Friday working program or, when this wasn’t viable, a ‘five in seven’ program to give workers adequate rest and recovery time.

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