We speak to the leaders of Georgiou Group about the underrepresentation of women in the Australian construction industry, and how the company is removing barriers and recognising the immeasurable value of women in construction.
EMPOWERING THE POSITION OF WOMEN
As one of the most prominent industries across the globe, construction permeates every sector and business. However, despite its abundance, the field faces a glaring gap in its workforce due to a noticeable lack of women.
Identified in recent years as a key issue that must be addressed, the importance of women in construction is slowly rising to the surface.
For Georgiou Group (Georgiou), combatting the striking gender disparity in the industry is at the forefront of its priorities. Courtney Scott, National People and Capability Manager, believes there are a number of reasons the problem can be attributed to. These include gender stereotypes, an unconscious bias at play in the hiring and promotion process, and an overall lack of flexibility for women who are balancing family responsibilities.
“The challenge is also self-perpetuating – a lack of female role models and women in leadership roles, alongside a male-dominated ‘boys club’ culture can make the industry unappealing, and at times harmful for females,” Scott opens.
Alex Brown, Commercial Manager at Georgiou, holds a similar perspective.
“There is a huge pool of female talent that feels they cannot be part of the industry because they are mothers and cannot conform to traditional construction hours with no flexibility to manage family commitments.
“The industry is crying out for more resources, but many organisations sadly remain inflexible,” she affirms.
This is telling when you consider that in 2016, men comprised 89 percent of the construction workforce, making the sector incredibly male dominated.
“Looking back, the construction sector was seen as physically demanding with difficult working conditions, which have changed overtime due to an improved focus on safety and more effective work practices,” CEO, Gary Georgiou contextualises.
REMOVING THE BARRIERS
Georgiou is an industry-leading provider of civil and building construction services for both government and private clients across Australia. With its core business sectors spanning resources, renewables, defence, building, transport, and land development, the company permeates many industries across the country.
Georgiou has offices in Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and Darwin, footed by a team of 900 people who are all unified by a commitment to the core values of care, integrity, and excellence.
With this in mind, Georgiou’s leadership holds a firm responsibility to shift the norms of the industry for future generations. The company openly welcomes a diverse range of experiences, perspectives, skills, and ideas that ultimately help to improve the company’s operations.
“We certainly embrace this opportunity, and it contributes to our success and excellent culture – we value and celebrate the uniqueness of our employees,” Scott highlights.
Gary agrees in the sense that the increase in varying perspectives is correlative to Georgiou’s capacity to deliver unique and forward-thinking solutions, whilst increasing the depth of its communication and collaboration.
This is most aptly showcased in the array of innovative projects the company has recently enjoyed.
For example, Georgiou, working in an alliance with Main Roads WA, BMD Group, and BG&E, recently completed the Fitzroy River Bridge in the Kimberly region of Western Australia (WA). The bridge is a critical piece of community infrastructure that the alliance was able to complete six months ahead of schedule.
“Equally as important, the project team developed an impactful relationship with the community throughout construction, providing valuable opportunities, services, and experiences for locals, including school children and Indigenous communities,” Gary tells us.
Georgiou also delivered the design and construct contract for the Townsville Ring Road Stage 5 project in Queensland. In addition to the scale of the landmark development, the company is proud of its local impact, having an 80 percent project spend with regional businesses, of which nearly half was spent with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Furthermore, AUD$9 million was spent on Indigenous-owned suppliers, with development opportunities given to 35 local apprentices and trainees. Georgiou also notably achieved a Leading ISC Design rating under the Infrastructure Sustainability Council V1.2 system.
“Beyond delivering excellent infrastructure, the impact we’re able to make on people’s lives and the environment is an incredibly meaningful driver,” Gary adds.
On a broader scale, the company’s work across Australia showcases its ability to collaborate effectively to deliver outstanding results that consistently have a transformative impact. These projects include the Coomera Connector Stage 1 North Package in joint venture with Acciona, the M12 Motorway (West) in joint venture with CPB, and the Tonkin Gap Alliance working with BMD.
In each of Georgiou’s projects, the company endeavours to truly value the contributions of women, including expertise in communication, meeting the strict deadlines of clients, and providing a greater perspective for forward-thinking solutions, to name but a few.
For the likes of Project Manager, Fiona Lethbridge, who has worked at the company for over 16 years, the sheer variety of roles available makes the industry an attractive occupation for women.
“Project management is a little bit of everything, from tracking finances to organising procurement and managing people – perfect for women who can multitask! With a strong focus on other elements of the projects, such as quality, safety, and human resources (HR), there are lots of opportunities for women in construction beyond typical manual labour,” she explains.
To add to this, women in construction often bring a unique blend of perspectives, problem-solving, and collaborative approaches, as Evie Greenwood, Senior Project Engineer, elaborates.
“The ability of women to navigate challenges with resilience and attention to detail often adds a distinctive touch to projects.
“We also often excel in communication and relationship-building, contributing to better teamwork and client relationships.”
These valuable attributes are the reason why Georgiou diligently recognises the contributions of its female workforce.
“It’s integral to provide equal employment and development opportunities in order to attract, retain, and empower women in the industry.
“Following that, I believe that we are excellent at trusting our people to operate autonomously and take ownership of their work. This trust fosters fulfilment and success for individuals, and in turn, the business,” Scott expands.
The company’s work towards representation is reflected across every project, where a welcoming and trusting environment is cultivated.
“I really love being part of a site team and playing an important role in building works. When I first joined Georgiou, I liked that it was a family business and was impressed by the number of long-serving employees,” Lethbridge tells us.
Additionally, the company strongly believes in both personal and career development across its entire workforce, allowing its staff to take charge of their own development and learning journey.
“What stands out is the diverse support from my team – technically, collaboratively, and even on a personal level. It’s more than a professional environment; it’s a place where I’ve been encouraged to grow in every aspect,” details Greenwood.
“As I’ve developed in my career, I now see my role as a leader that can empower and champion women entering the industry and be part of the changes to bring equality to Georgiou as well as the broader industry,” expresses Brown.
PURSUING OPPORTUNITIES AND NURTURING DIVERSITY
Following several years of significant growth, the company aims to extend its impact by entering new geographical regions. This will be achieved by continuing to pursue opportunities of increased scale and complexity across the core business sectors of resources, renewables, defence, building, and land development.
“It’s also really important for us to consolidate our progress and nurture our people and existing clients,” adds Gary.
Alongside the diversity of its project portfolio, the company also aims to support organisations and initiatives that Georgiou holds close to its heart.
As such, the company is extremely proud to sponsor the National Association for Women in Construction (NAWIC) across Australia and participate in initiatives such as Constructionarium Australia.
“We also have well-established internal initiatives such as our mentoring programme, cadet and graduate programme, and Diversity Champions – all designed to cultivate a safe and inclusive work environment and contribute towards the meaningful development of people,” Scott expands.
Additionally, Georgiou is currently developing its National Diversity and Action Plan to ensure greater progression moving forward.
In this sense, the company is a key part of the major movement for female representation across the Australian construction space, ensuring that the unique blends of perspectives and the critical contributions of women are acknowledged and valued across every project.