Blokes in boots can welcome the new wave
WALKING onto a construction site you used to be able to smell the testosterone in the air. But while building sites have stereotypically been dominated by blokes in boots, a new generation of women with their eyes on a construction career have quietly invaded the hard hat hectares, deposing the stereotypical image and are successfully making their mark on projects across the country and around the world.
Stockland, one of Australia’s largest property groups, has signalled its commitment to encouraging women within the organisation and is supporting their career development.
This commitment was recognised when Stockland won this year’s Employer of Choice for Women Award ( as awarded by the Federal Governments Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency).
But for the company, the icing on the cake was the fact that four of their female employees received individual recognition at this year’s National Association of Women in Construction ( NAWIC) state awards.
Stockland is committed to furthering the career development of women in the property and construction industry, says Matthew Quinn, Stockland’s managing director.
According to Louise Roche, the company offers many internal and external networking, training and mentoring opportunities for women.
As the general manager of human resources for the Retail Division, Ms Roche is also accountable for Stockland’s diversity strategy, and she is delighted that four of their employees have been recognised by NAWIC.
She points out that women in all areas of the business are being supported to achieve success.
‘‘ We are encouraging women to move into developmental manager roles, leasing and acquisition management,’’ she says.
‘‘ We have quite a good cadre of women in middle management coming through.’’
Chris Akayan agrees. As Stockland’s general manager, organisational development, Mr Akayan is adamant that the company recognises and encourages women and that they add a positive difference to an organisation. Moreover, its important to retain great people.
‘‘ Part of our employee engagement is our focus on diversity and we offer benefits such as flexible work practices,’’ he says.
One of the prime examples is Siobhan Toohill, general manager for Corporate Responsibility and sustainability who was the recipient of the NAWIC inaugural Sustainability Award.
At 35, Ms Toohill has responsibility for developing and evolving Stocklands CR& S strategy and assists the organisation in realising responsible and sustainable outcomes in the marketplace, workplace, community and the environment. ‘‘ My role is about acting as a catalyst within the business,’’ she explains. ‘‘ I build a clear strategy about what does sustainability mean, such as more energy efficient building, which provides a cost saving and is more valuable for our clients,’’ she says.
So it’s all about raising awareness and making the business aware of opportunities and being a influencer - and to be a great influencer, you have to have great support.
‘‘ We get great energy for the managing director, board of directors and from within the business.’’
In this role, Ms Toohill supports Stockland’s CR& S Board Committee and chairs Stocklands employee CR& S Committee and Giving and Volunteering Committee.
Stockland recently published a second CR& S report meeting the AA1000 Assurance Standard and attained Global Reporting Initiative B+ Accreditation.
With over 14 years experience in architecture, urban design and sustainability, Ms Toohill has worked previously at Lend Lease, in small architectural practices and the NSW Government’s Urban Design Advisory Service. She also has lectured in urban design, planning and architecture at the University of NSW.
Ms Toohill’s commitment to what she calls the next wave of women in the profession has seen her participate in the Royal Australian Institute of Architects mentoring program.
She has also been a long- serving member of the PCA’s NSW Sustainability Committee and sits on the Operations Taskforce of the Australian Business and Community Network.
In 2000, she was recognised by the Planning Institute of Australia as Young Planner of the Year.
In 2004, she was selected to participate in the St James Ethics Centre’s Vincent Fairfax Fellowship, a two- year program that seeks to foster ethical leadership in Australia.
Ms Toohill admits that while she had no dream of working in this industry, ‘‘ as a child I always loved lego’’, she says. Work experience in an architectural firm was a defining moment.
‘‘ There was no obvious area for me to jump into, but I met someone through my parents, took the initiative of working there and it resonated. I finally found something ( in which) to use my talents,’’ she says.
After gaining a degree each in architecture and urban design, Ms Toohill designed houses for a few years before moving to the NSW Department of Planning and designing cities, but says that her current role is absolutely fascinating.
‘‘ As Stockland gets bigger, the role continues to be really stimulating,’’ says Ms Toohill.
‘‘ Now that Stockland has a business in the UK, I am now looking at what corporate sustainability and responsibility mean from a global perspective.’’