Blokes in boots can wel­come the new wave

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Careers In Construction -

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.’’

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