Women in Construction: Building a Career

Stacie Gibbons
When you think of the construction industry, what comes to mind? Dust, mud and bricklaying? Men in vests, boots, and hard hats? I share what it’s really like in the construction industry and why I'm happy to get my hands dirty.

From the moment I could walk, I went to work with my dad. I started doing odd jobs, like tidying the site or carrying over his materials (although I don't think I was being productive bringing him one brick at a time, and yet, he still made me feel important!). When I was in my teens, I would help more with the business operations – sorting wages, planning materials, working out estimates for jobs, and sending invoices.

Our projects ranged from restoring period buildings and creating people's dream homes. Away from the business, we were making snow sledges, stilts and soccer goals out of plumbing pipes and left-over timber. That’s what I could recall about my childhood while growing up in Ireland. Fast forward to today, I have maintained a passion and excitement for creating something out of nothing. It is this passion that inspired me to join other women in the industry to take the road less travelled. It is certainly the less obvious career choice for young ladies leaving college. It requires a level of love for construction and a determination to navigate your way through the natural obstacles. When you love what you are doing, you are far more likely to succeed at it.

When you love what you are doing, you are far more likely to succeed at it.

I was raised to believe that there were no limits to what I could achieve. Because of this, I always felt I could voice my opinion and stand my ground in any situation, and I've always been confident in my own abilities. I remembered working on construction in coal mines – it was more than a room full of men; there were a thousand. Initially, it was a culture shock for both them and me, and I must admit that it was a little intimidating. We were building a coal processing plant and dams in remote Queensland with huge machinery and tight production rates. It was fast moving and an amazing opportunity that also came with many challenges, including living away from family and friends.

The whole team worked, lived and socialised together during our two-week shifts. It was intense, especially being the only female, but my manager and team had my back. We became a family away from home. After this mine, we moved to another and from there, we built the company’s mining division. Building from my experience, my advice for women working in or considering a career in the construction industry is that there will be times when people test your boundaries, and when they do, stand firm and don’t be afraid to speak up to set things right. 

With Faithful+Gould, I have had once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to work on some amazing high profile projects.

Having support from your senior management is essential too. The culture of any company is set at the top. When choosing a career, it's important to not only look at your day-to-day role, but also the company culture, the values of the leaders, as well as your manager. I was fortunate to have a mentor who had offered me honest advice (even when I didn't want it!). When I joined Faithful+Gould two years ago, I was certainly not the only woman, despite the small percentage. Nonetheless, I immediately became part of the team and felt that I was judged on my performance, irrespective of my gender.

With Faithful+Gould, I have had once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to work on some amazing high profile projects. This ranges from building circuits for the Singapore Grand Prix to creating South East Asia’s largest and most magnificent Light and Water Show at Marina Bay Sands. I’m currently working in the hospitality sector in Marina Bay Sands, the leading business, leisure and entertainment destination in Asia. I’m also overseeing the upgrade of over 1,500 five-star luxurious guestrooms and creating the most exquisite and prestigious high-end VIP suites within the region.

Throughout my career, I’ve learnt that gender diversity and inclusiveness across all levels are part of a cultural transformation. At Faithful+Gould and Atkins, we are leading the way in achieving greater gender diversity across all levels. Recognising the gender imbalance in the construction industry, we are proactively addressing it by setting up the Women's Business Network to encourage more women into senior executive levels, empowering them to influence business decisions, and provide greater opportunities for those around them, championed at the highest level by our leadership team. We have successfully implemented this in the UK, Middle East, and North America, and a similar model is being used in Asia.

So, to any lady on the door step of joining the industry, I would say: seize the opportunity to work on amazing buildings around the world and feel that sense of accomplishment when you complete a project that will last for generations to enjoy. Ride the wave of positive change in the industry and see how far you can go!