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NAWIC: gender bias’ effects on women in the workplace

NAWIC looks at the issue of gender bias and its effects on women in the workplace

In our regular instalments of ‘Construction Convos’, NAWIC aims to break down gender bias, whether conscious or unconscious, in the workplace and provide the opportunity to create real change by sharing lived experiences from women who have faced difficulties at work because of their gender.

We open up these conversations and give examples as to how we can take real action, amplify workers’ voices and shift the culture in construction to create a safe and inclusive place for all women.

“I wouldn’t have to hide that I was trying to start a family”

This is something women often feel the need to conceal. So how do we fix this? Creating a supportive work environment is essential to ensure that women feel comfortable when discussing their plans of starting a family. Here are some key strategies that can help achieve this objective:

  • implementing family friendly policies
  • encouraging open communication
  • demonstrating supportive leadership (leaders should also take parental leave and encourage family/life balance)
  • providing parenting support programs
  • organise training sessions that focus on diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias
  • let’s acknowledge and celebrate family milestones within the workplace.

By following these steps, we can cultivate a supportive workplace where everyone feels valued and supported throughout their journey in balancing work and family responsibilities.

Incorrectly fitting PPE can be a safety risk on site. Image: pressmaster/stock.adobe.com

“I would have got the board position because of my skills, not to improve the diversity lens on the board”

At NAWIC we have spoken about the ‘tick box’ in depth. The tick box refers to having someone, in this case a female on a board, in a position without creating real action for change but to simply appear ‘diverse’.

We know women bring:

  • real diverse perspectives and lived experiences
  • an increase in ethical and social compliance
  • a passion to navigate difficult situations with empathy and emotional maturity
  • inspiration for future women and generations to see that women can sit on boards and in leadership positions
  • a return on equity, sales and environment.

In 2011, Reibey Institute found that over three- and five-year periods, ASX500 listed companies with women directors delivered significantly higher ROI than those companies without any women on their boards, with a 6.7 per cent and 8.7 per cent increase. In our recent Construction Convos post, we spoke about self- doubt and women in the workplace often facing feelings of insecurity, with the presence of gender bias and stereotypes leaving women doubting their abilities, and the unequal opportunities and underrepresentation of women leading to imposter syndrome, where women question their skills and value.

Whether you feel you don’t have the skill set to sit on a board, or believe you may have been a ‘tick box’, this is where real change can begin. Being a woman on a board has been statistically shown to benefit companies and organisations and shift the culture. You can create impact by:

  • supporting the introduction of more women to your board
  • being a role model or mentor to women
  • introducing HR policies to support women in flexible working, parental leave, menopause or menstruation wellbeing, safety and so many more
  • highlighting gender pay gaps within your organisation and advocating for change.
Diversity on boards shouldn’t be a tick box exercise. Image: Kostiantyn/stock.adobe.com

“My shirt and pants would fit”

Here is a really important topic. The difficulties women encounter with personal protective equipment (PPE) primarily made for men. In many industries PPE is often designed with a ‘one size fits all’ approach mainly suited to male body types. It’s a bigger issue than you may think.

Some of the issues with ill-fitted PPE include:

  • poorly fitted PPE can lead to safety hazards such as tripping, loose safety harnesses, no protection from weather, no protection from sharp and dangerous equipment and the risk of loose clothing being caught in machinery
  • discomfort can cause distraction, impacting job performance, such as: loose boots and not being able to work, constantly feeling the need to rearrange clothing and more
  • attracting unwanted comments in regard to clothing not fitting
  • forcing women in pregnancy to leave roles early due to a lack of fitting PPE.

Inclusive and proactive workplaces tend to have happier staff, with higher levels of retention and efficiency. Organisations need to acknowledge the needs of all their employees and invest in PPE that caters to all. Let’s close this gap and establish an inclusive workplace.

NAWIC is a not-for-profit organisation, with a vision to create an equitable construction industry where women fully participate.

Our mission is to drive change that will aid in the increased recruitment, retention and further vocational development of women within all facets of the construction industry.

You can stay connected with NAWIC through our social media platforms, The Leaky Pipeline Podcast or become a member. You can learn more about the impactful work we do at www.nawic.com.au.

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