If you want something, go for it. I went for it and I have never had any regrets. Sure, I made a few mistakes along the way but generally speaking I have been a bit of a risk taker. Don’t be so risk adverse that you get twenty years down the track and wish to God you had done it. That’s a shocking situation to be in. It’s a recipe for unhappiness.
I studied a bachelor of Arts majoring in Geography and Politics at the University of Melbourne. I really didn’t know what the hell I was going to do with that. I went on to complete a diploma of Education thinking at least I can earn an income and teach. I then decided to do a three year post grad course in Urban Planning. I taught for a year, loved the kids but was totally depressed by the staff room conversations. I just thought, I don’t want to be here in ten years’ time and be miserable like these people.
Fortunately, I was offered a job with local government working for the former City of Fitzroy, now known as the City of Yarra. I worked in the Urban Planning Office. We were trailblazers at that time working on community gardens, protection of boarding houses, social planning issues, heritage studies, streetscape improvement programs and a whole range of policy and guideline documents.
Once the local council changed from a Labor Party base to become controlled by a small group of independents (they were starting to destroy the whole progressive agenda), I left. I became a consultant working for Wilson Sayer Core who were urban planners. I became a senior associate and one day realised that I was billing more than three out of the four directors. There was no career path for me in terms of directorship so I went out into business in 1986 with John Henshall (an urban economist).
That successful practice through evolution became Hansen Partnership in Exhibition Street, Melbourne. I took on two other partners, and eventually brought in urban designers and landscape architects to broaden the diversity of skills in-house. Whilst I was doing that, I was going back and forth to Vietnam completing projects for the World Bank and various other foreign aid agencies.
In 2011, I decided to retire, supposedly. I was nearly sixty years of age and I thought ‘I’ve had enough!’ I had my succession plan in place – by that stage I had five other equity partners in the company. Since then I have been involved in many things! I chaired the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Plan Melbourne which is the Metropolitan Melbourne Strategy to 2050. And more recently been involved in the Geelong Authority, another ministerial advisory committee, looking after revitalisation of central Geelong.
I am also a member of various boards including YWCA Housing, Salvation Army Housing and the Melbourne Social Equity Institute. So basically, I’m not retired!!
When you have been in practice for so long, the reality is you’re not just going to turn the switch off. I’ve had a real interest in affordable and social housing for a long time. I guess I have been fortunate in that I have had opportunities to continue that interest but in a capacity where I have more influence.
I’m a leader, I acknowledge that. Whatever I have taken on, I have always liked to lead. For instance in 1998, I chaired what is now the Heritage Council of Victoria. I was 36 years of age, I was the youngest person around the table of 16 members, and I was female. I had only been on the Heritage Council for 2 years. The then Planning Minister asked me to be the chairperson and I jumped at it. It must have been a shock for some of the old guard who had been sitting, waiting in the ranks to have the accolade. I had to prove to them that I had the capability to be able to lead a statutory authority as well as bring fifteen other people together from a wide range of interests and backgrounds, as was the case with the Heritage Council at that time
I think female participation in the workforce is improving dramatically. I used to get annoyed sometimes at some of my fellow colleagues (males in the organisation) who weren’t so attuned to being supportive of women in the workplace. Those attitudes, that when you delved into it, didn’t have 100% acceptance. Planning is increasingly female dominated, however poorly so in senior positions. We are still not well represented, that is, as much in local government as well as in the private sector. I think it will change.
The challenge for women is when they go and have kids. How do they keep in contact with the industry and transition back into part and full time work? I believe the employer has to provide every opportunity to make this work. Many employers put a lot of time, energy and training into people who come into an organisation. I think the employer has an obligation to help women in the workforce have a pathway to achieve what they want. There shouldn’t been these glass ceilings and obstacles in the way. When they move into a child caring situation, they should be given every opportunity to continue if they so desire. And when they do come back, to actually give them the support and the systems they need so they can come back and feel comfortable and continue to be productive and successful in what they do. Some employers are very good at doing that, but I think there are a lot of employers, particularly in the private sector who are slack. They talk the talk, but don’t put words into action.
When I went into my own consultancy, (I was only one of two women who was heading up a planning consultancy at that time), I was quite ambitious and career driven. I made a conscious decision in my mid-thirties not to have children. People often ask whether I have any regrets. The answer is, I don’t and I don’t feel I have missed out. I made a conscious choice. I knew that I could not have children and fulfill my ambitions. Women should not have to make that choice. But at that time, I was ‘it’ in the company.
I do however, have step children. I have two by my first marriage and I have three by my current marriage. And I love them! I treat them as if they are my own. Sure, I didn’t have to do the nappy changing and all the hard yards but I do have the friendship and the joy of those people now as they are all adults.
The advice I would give to young women in the industry is to sort out what you want. Don’t think about the end of this week, or at the end of the year. Actually have a serious think about where you want to be in five or ten years time. When I pose that question to women I have mentored they are often taken aback because in many instances they haven’t really thought about it. Do you want to stay in Planning? Do you want to branch out? Be in middle management or CEO of the City of Melbourne? What do you want to be? You should give it some serious thought. It will change through your life and your work career. Open different doors. Then figure out how the hell you are going to get there and what you need to do to put all the pieces in place.
Networking to me has been really important. I have been to network functions where I have been the only female apart from the waitresses. I used to say to some of my mentees, when you go to a cocktail party after work, don’t wear black and white! I once went to a function full of men, and one man came up to me and said, ‘I would like a scotch’…! I happened to be wearing black and white.
Get out of your comfort zone. Talk to people. Broaden your networks. Build your future opportunities. Treat networking as a part of your professional development and being able to pursue your dreams.
Don’t stay in one job for too long. You can always go back, but I see so many people, particularly in the public service, that have been there for yonks and they are often dead wood. They become brain dead and have lost their spark. People say to me, ‘Well, how long should you stay in a job?’ and the answer is till as long as you don’t like it anymore. When boredom kicks in, get out.
And finally, I say, travel. It is the best education you will ever get. Sure, it costs a bit of money, but travel to me in my profession, has been an absolute winner. Certainly that has opened up doors for me. It’s a lifetime journey of actually having experiences that you don’t get out of a book or lecture.
My father was my mentor, he was very much a private enterprise person. At the age of 14 he was out on the floor sweeping a warehouse. He never had the ability to have a tertiary education but he made sure all of us had a good secondary education and four of his five kids had a tertiary education. My father taught me a really strong work ethic. You want something, you work for it. You don’t get it on a silver platter. I think that has been embedded in me. Every dollar I have earned, I know I have worked for it. There have been no freebies, no hand outs, no leg ups. I think that is a really solid foundation. You won’t get anything by sitting on your arse. It might sound like old fashioned advice but it certainly got me though. I’m 65 this year and I figure so much of my value, work ethic and leadership has come from my family. Those things resonate.
A lot of people in the industry will be familiar with Roz Hansen. When we ask people to name the people they find inspirational, it’s often Roz’s name that pops up. She holds a space in the industry like no other. Her breadth of experience and her years of forging her own path have made her a denizen of the Melbourne planning scene and her name precedes her prodigious reputation as a powerhouse of strength and experience. We had such trouble picking a quote that really struck us from this piece, as the vast majority of our interview with Roz was memorable and relevant! We can’t thank Roz enough for taking time out of her very busy schedule and speaking to us over a glass of wine at Punch Lane. We wish her all the best and hope her endeavors both continue to bring her great joy and achievement, and also change to the industry for the better! J&D xx
Look, we aren’t saying we’re not partial to a long lunch, or a sneaky wine after work. I mean sometimes that’s just what one needs! We conceived Yogazella with the mind and body at the forefront of our thoughts. A chance to network, with good vibes only. A chance to take some time out of your busy schedules to find some peace of mind. A chance to eat and be merry without the usual beer in hand.
Good Food + Good Flow = YOGAZELLA
THANK YOU to legendary, beautiful soul Jules Jenkinson for her practice. We all felt challenged and grounded through her teachings. For Radiant Sol for providing the most effortless and calm studio space. And to the people who made the night special – YOU!
Wellness is… Family and Love.
Wellness is… Time to yourself. Peace, Strength and Resilience.
Wellness is… Drop all of your thoughts and go for a long, peaceful walk with a friend or a family member.
– Elisia and Nella
Wellness is… meditation and taking the time to look after yourself.
Wellness is… walking along anywhere. Sleeping.
Wellness is… sleeping, relaxing, eating and being with the people you love!
Wellness is… family and friends.
Watch this space for the next Y O G A Z E L L A event that will be in June 2018. Hope to see you there.
– J & D xx
My brother worked in a job for ten years that he hated and I was at Uni at the time, so I was like, ‘Right, I’m going to chose a job that I love.’ So every morning, and every day is not a chore. Some people go into professions, they think they like and just moan about how terrible it is. Well, change? If you want to move, it’s never too late.
I started as a quantity surveyor maybe ten years ago now. I was twenty-three at the time. I wanted to be a lawyer, but then I tried law for about five minutes and it didn’t ignite any fire in me. Then I worked on a construction site and thought, yep, I wanted to do something in construction. So I got a job as a trainee quantity surveyor in Manchester, for a quantity surveying firm.
The UK was going through the GFC, everyone was just getting sacked left right and centre, so I just said to my boss, I’m going to move to Australia and take a punt. I rang WT Partnership, at 1:00am from the UK and said ‘Can you give me a job?’ and they said yes. So I got in on a plane with a suitcase. Arrived, with nowhere to stay. I had to start from scratch. That was seven years ago now.
I worked at WT for five years and loved every minute of it. But I just didn’t want to be a QS anymore. I’ve always wanted to be a project manager. Being a QS you don’t really get to show your personality sometimes. Sometimes, you are sitting in the corner of a room, but you really want to jump in and drive the project. That’s basically why I moved over to Sinclair Brook.
You need resilience and the ability to work very, very hard. I couldn’t believe what we had to do for Australia 108. I’ve never worked as hard in my life to get the contract signed. It was so worth it in the end. You have to have organisation and a personality that is able to influence people and get people on board.
I asked of my Director, when I interviewed with Sinclair Brook, ‘What personalities do you want in the people here?’ He said he wanted everyone to be different and work in a different way. Because if everyone is the same they will see everything in the same way. I’ve seen people hire in their mirror image. But I think that’s a bit unfair because all people have things they can bring to a project.
It’s about relationships with people in the construction industry. If you have the ability to build relationships with people, then it just come down to working hard at the end of the day. It’s not about bashing your hand on the table. Sometimes it’s just as important to be quiet, reliable and good at your job. You can’t have the same archetypal construction characters all the time.
I’ve seen it before where female colleagues have gone on maternity leave, come back and haven’t been treated the same afterwards. It’s very frustrating to watch because it doesn’t mean that just because they have had children, they are worse at their job. All of the female colleagues I have worked with do more in four days than I do in five and knock it out of the park! I actually feel guilty sometimes, like I really need to lift my game! I could probably learn some time management. It’s all about efficiency and organisation.
It’s not just those typical things, but it’s also a different perspective that diversity brings. Women look at things, slightly differently. I don’t want to use cliched words, but sometimes, rather from a ‘I’ve got to win’ standpoint, a female’s approach can be more subtle in order to get a proper resolution. I think women just need to be given the best possible chance to excel.
The construction industry has a real problem with innovation. Change scares the hell out of people. Immediately you get the response ‘It doesn’t work.’ It’s not like the technology industry where people are designed to be innovative. It’s always, keep doing what you have been doing for ages, just do it quicker, quicker, quicker.
My style is fairly laid back, although that doesn’t work with everyone. I always think, at the end of the day, we are doing construction, it’s been done before, it’ll happen, you just need to calm down. You feel sorry for people who have a role in medical science where you have to find the cure for diseases where you start with no reference point and you don’t know where the endpoint is. For Construction, you have a programme, you have concrete, reo, windows and you just have to get there. For someone who is told to create something out of nothing…I just wouldn’t be able to compute that. Where do I start!?
My mother is a lovely, lovely woman, although she has quite an acid tongue. She’s from Liverpool. She actually saw the The Beatles play when they were in Liverpool and maintains they were rubbish! My dad was the archetypal 1950s type, women-do-everything-at-home bloke, but he has always really respectful of my mum. He has always maintained that my Mum had a role in our family and that she went well above and beyond. I had the best childhood I could have asked for. My mum has always said ‘I live in a house with three men, but I’m better than all of you. All you do is watch football all day. That’s all you care about. I’d rather speak to the dog then speak to you!’ And she was right.
Richard is quite the character. We thoroughly enjoyed speaking with him and getting his perspective on the industry. Laid back, introspective and down to earth, he has a sense of quiet ambition about him. None-the-less, tempered with a will to see the industry move forward and things done better.
Like many of the men we have interviewed, he was nervous to talk to us about diversity in the industry, but not because he hadn’t thought much about it, but because he has thought much about it and he didn’t want to seem irreverent or entitled to an opinion he had no entitlement to have. However, at Gazella we have seen how important it is, that the industry understands and discusses diversity and other issues such as flexibility and well-being, across the board. The discourse on such matters does so much more to create movement and real action than almost any other policy, workshop, conference or guideline does.
We thank Richard for his courage, honesty and willingness to engage. Best of luck with mega build Australia 108 and for the future! J & D.
Back in year twelve, I never really thought to study engineering. I always wanted to be a Physiotherapist. I did a lot of gymnastics and netball growing up (not great for your ankles), and spent a lot of times around Physios. I even completed work experience at a Physio and loved it! It wasn’t until the middle of year twelve my parents asked whether I had thought about any other career. Honestly, I hadn’t.
I did a career aptitude test and throughout that test, I was preoccupied with having already made the decision to be a Physio. My top results were Doctor, Osteo, Physio. There was one section on the test that was all about shapes, orientations, orders and logic. I loved that section! I was explaining this to my careers counsellor and she said ‘You should be an engineer.’ That was two weeks before preferences were due. I changed all my preferences because of those shapes!
I’ve presented a few times on my journey and why I decided to be an engineer and it’s made me realise how many clues I’d missed. My grandfather was an engineer. My Dad was in aviation. I always wanted to do the maths and science subjects. I’d always liked to build things. Even with extracurricular activities I always went into the building side of things. When I look back, I questioned why I didn’t figure it out earlier. No one had ever said to me, ‘You should be an engineer.’
My first preference was the University of Melbourne, as it allowed me to study French as well as engineering. I completed a Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering (Structural). In my first year of University, Marita Cheng (Robogals founder) came into class to say ‘Who wants to come out for five days to Ballarat and teach girls about Robotics?’ I had no interest in robotics at the time, but I’m from out west, so I thought Ballarat was really close. I ended up leading the five days of programme. I enjoyed it so much I came on board to coordinate the regional workshops. Over the next twelve months I organised seven across Victoria to inspire young girls to consider engineering as a career.
Robogals creates communities at Universities which are an inclusive and positive environment for everyone. Robogals provides the opportunity for people to give back to the community and share their passion for engineering. They mainly run workshops in robotics, but they are branching out to different disciplines.
After twelve months in the Robogals Melbourne team, I was approached to become the CEO of the global group. I don’t think I knew what I was agreeing to, but one of my mottos is ‘Will I regret it if I say no?’ It was clear that I wasn’t going to regret it -decision made.
During my four years as CEO, I really figured out what it was I was interested in: business development and growth. I made a lot of mistakes along the journey, however it’s all about how you bounce back and grow. There were challenges – people with different opinions and leadership styles. Struggles with partnerships. Difficulties with financials. But these are inevitable in any business and the way we develop both ourselves and the organisation. During my time as CEO, we went from four countries and ten cities to ten countries and thirty two cities around the world. When I started we had reached 5000 girls. When I finished my time as CEO, we’d inspired almost 70,000 young women.
I’m currently working as a structural engineer at Calibre Consulting in Southbank. During year twelve, Calibre was offering a cadetship for young women wanting to study Engineering. The opportunity was to sign on with them for 7 years. At the age of 18 that was terrifying but it was financial support throughout my degree and work experience on school holidays. To have a job for two years after I graduated was great. I spent the last year of study, concentrating on my degree, rather than trying to find a job. That was a big weight off my shoulders. This program still exists and more information can be found here.
My advice to other young women is to have confidence in your own abilities. Taking opportunities. Don’t have any regrets, or look back and say ‘I wish I had done that.’ For women, graduating and going into the workforce, be comfortable that you don’t know everything. Don’t be shy about asking for help. A lot of women sit back. I experienced a lot of that in Robogals and at University. There was one particular project where I was working with 3 guys and where we were programming a robot, which I had no experience in. I spoke up and said ‘Why don’t we try that?’ And got shut down and ignored. I asked twice. Then sat back and let it happen. I look back and say ‘Why didn’t I do more about that?’ But I didn’t want to rock the boat. I didn’t feel confident. Chances are people are happy for you to help, because the more you know, the less they have to do.
My Mum has always been very supportive always saying ‘The world is your oyster.’ She told me that the world is in my hands, take it and make it your own. So that’s what I do. She’s a kindergarten teacher. When she went through high school, everyone told her she had the brain to be a lawyer or a doctor, but she was adamant that she wanted to be a teacher. No matter what people would, say, she just wanted to teach. The advice is simple: be true to you.
Could we imagine bringing you a more amazingly-bright spark for IWD?! Nicole has gone out there and seized the day on so many occasions in her not-so-very-many years, that it’s a lesson to all of us to positively have a go. Nicole is calm, collected, and wonderfully attuned to what she wants to get out of her career. And as you have just read, she has a fantastic acuity for introspection and self-reflection. We know this woman is going on to great things and we are so glad to have her as part of the GAZELLA tribe. Thank-you Nicole and besT of luck in 2018! J&D xx
Some of you will know our dear friend Rosie Leake. Not only does she unashamedly wear the most brilliantly patterned Gorman wardrobe on largely unappreciative worksites but at only 25 years old, she is a force to be reckoned with. Not willing to accept the status quo, it was not a surprise that she came to us one day to share that it was time to break free, think bigger, be bolder.
Through 2018 she has decided to take a year off from the daily grind to give back to the world. Leaving her full time gig, Rosie will travel across the world to volunteer with Playground Ideas. And by volunteer, we mean put her construction management skills to good use.
We have had so much fun hearing about her adventures, we decided to share them with the Gazella tribe. Her photos are so beautifully endearing, we well up with pride and happiness every time we receive another installment of her journey. Getting out there, giving back, pushing herself mentally and physically. She knows some people think her crazy. We think she’s a bloody legend.
So here we are at the start of it all. We’ll hand over to the penned words of Rosie Leake…
To the people I like,
I have recently decided to take a leap of faith and volunteer off and on for all of 2018. Aiming to give all I possibly can back to society I hit the google for skilled volunteering opportunities and stumbled upon an organisation called Playground Ideas. Naturally Alice was all over their work, which essentially is providing designs, skills, volunteers and resources for communities looking to build a playground for schools or similar.
The school we are working on in Sindhuli, Nepal is for the hearing impaired, the views are beautiful and the children are naturally superb and stoked to have strangers to stare at and play with. The focus of the project is both a playground build and striving for inclusion of all children in the local community. We ran a few days of play workshops to understand what equipment these particular children would love, have completed the design, procured the materials (car tyres, lots and lots of car tyres) and now comes the fun part, the build!
Please see below brief summary of the Playground build & Images of the scene attached (also pictured: my pint sized best friend). For context, the volunteering team consists of Cat, a play specialist from Melbourne (who was only here for concept & design), Socheta, graphics & playground designer from America, Claus, builder/normal job of IT professional from Denmark and yours truly.
I chucked on the trusty yet-to-partake-in-any-actual-
This is where the fun really began; Rosie equipped with a drill. Having said that, there is a power pole / power line issue occurring in the area so the comics of power-tool use were short lived (power only available in the mornings and at night for the next week, because, well, Nepal). After day two I can now officially say I have completed more things with a tyre than I ever thought possible; I have cleaned, primed, cut, drilled, bolted and painted until my un-trained body couldn’t work any more #saturdaysonsite.
Tyres, Tyres, Tyres and more Tyres. 83 to be exact. We have now cleaned and primed 83 tyres, falling vaguely into tractor, truck, car and motorbike categories. The children have been adorable in attempts to help, although I must say communication is a challenge with translating from English to Nepalese to Sign language. Many things like, ‘Please stop surrounding me, I will let you paint when I have actually got the tin open…’ are a lost cause and instead personal space barriers are broken left, right and centre. Potentially the exact definition of eager beavers.
Days 4 through 8
A note, which should have been mentioned above all others on site life in Nepal: we have an all women labourers for the project. The ratios have never been in my favour on a construction site, so naturally living the absolute, very foreign, dream. Skilled labourers are giving me slight safety anxiety attacks, but I guess that’s what happens when you move from a tier one contractor to a backyard welding operation. On two of the build days, Saraswati (Goddess of knowledge) was celebrated so the school erected flags and gave offerings. It was lovely to see, not very productive on site, but colourful non-the-less. We, one team one dream, have now completed two ox made from tyres, a bamboo garden, a sand pit, tile slide, tyre climber, soccer goals, basketball hoop, an amphitheater and a stage. Not to shabby for my first time at the rodeo, although I must admit I did manage to give myself blood rule four times and burnt myself two times throughout the week. Three of which were on the same day 🤦🏼♀️.
We winded our way back to Kathmandu this afternoon, where we prepare for the next adventure – a short lived stop in Mumbai on route to an Indian Village.
Don’t get us wrong, you were amazing. There is however, no kinder way to put this, it was a year that some might call bat shit cray! Between interviewing every single Thursday night, flying to Sydney, the drama of hosting events, running late, squeezing this-in-between-that, meeting and greeting, podcasting, scribbling, posting, photographing, it got all a little hard to take a breath. whooosahh. We achieved more than we ever expected in you, dear year 2017. In case you missed anything whilst you were busy moving and shaking, here’s a look back over that roller-coaster that was you.
We started the year working alongside the University of Melbourne MSD Women’s Alumni Committee (mouth full!), to bring some amazing guest speakers and conversations to our fellow Alumnae. How humbling it felt to give back to the university community that gave us our start.
We partnered with UDIA again to run Gazella LIVE version 2.0. Our guest panel Laura Phillips, Sarah Tozer, Nicola Smith, Vanessa Goulding and Venise Reilly spoke on management styles, women’s agenda, family and flexibility, networking vs mentoring. It couldn’t have been more jam packed.
We were proud to be awarded as the Vic Finalists of the PCA Future Leader Award. Our win meant that Victoria had two of the finalists out of 6, Australia wide. We were so honoured to both be recognised individually for our leadership and contribution to the industry.
Justine decided to start renovating her inner city Victorian terrace while she made the move to ABD Group to pursue a new direction in her career. Watch out for our interview with ABD Group Director Raffaele Aiello still to come.
Danielle worked on her first health project out at Werribee Mercy Hospital. She took some brave new steps, trying to figure out her management style and how to keep herself centred in life. Her creative soul took some satisfaction in focusing on her personal photography.
YOGAZELLA came to fruition. That saw the vivacious Jules (our Yoga guru) leading Thirty of our Gazella tribe through a powerful Vinyasa flow, followed by the most beautiful spread by Plentiful Catering (@plentifulcatering_melbourne) and some amazing goodie bags to get everyone to Christmas. See photos below.
Oh and by the way, We also decided to start a Salon. Yeah a salon. An intimate affair with said guest speaker, cheese, wine, and Chatham house rules. This is hosted alongside the effervescent Dimity Reed (interview to come), highlights of which we will be bringing to the wider Gazella audience throughout the year. In our first, we heard from power duo Sonya Miller and Olivia Christie (@armitagejones). followed by our second guest, yes, Carolyn Viney was in the house. You should have seen our overwhelmingly star struck gobsmacked faces. Absolutely peerless.
And All the while working full time #constructionlyf. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Gazella is all scheduled around our already hectic work lives. In the late hours of the night, you will find us designing, crafting and organising. It’s outrageous when you think about it!
GAZELLA have a mission in 2018 to reach more women. We want to reach out to women at schools, university, in or out of the workplace. Your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives, grandmothers, aunties. We will be pursuing this wholeheartedly. We have an unshakable desire to engage with the industry and make a positive difference.
We are always on the hunt for suggestions, stories and guest writers. So if you have any ideas or thoughts, why not get in contact with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or @gazella_blog. Feel free to ‘dob in’ your friends/colleagues/rivals as interview suggestions.
As always, we remain steadfast in our mission to INSPIRE, CELEBRATE and CREATE AWARENESS. So welcome to 2018. We’re back! Bright eyed and bushy tailed. We got this.
D & J xxx
Walking around the RMIT Design Hub interior (for the first time), I’ll admit that it’s a beautiful building to look at. All that calming circular patternation. Though the talk around the traps is that it appears to suffer, as many of the current spate of University grand gestures do, by not being terribly functional.
I’m here to attend the graduate exhibition for the various design disciplines. My long time friend Sarah has completed her undergrad in Architecture. I know what the slog is like. The burn out is real. I’d go out on a limb to say that the demands of any course with design studio, can test even the hardiest of students.
Sarah doesn’t know I’m writing this (she has given her blessing since). But I’m writing it, because I think Sarah is a perfect example of perseverance and the kind of quiet strength women often have. But more importantly she represents something I hold very dear:
I first met Sarah about…here’s a real guestimate… maybe eight years ago. She was a student at my dance school, a few groups below me. After a few years Sarah moved into the senior group, where I was her teacher. I had moved to St Kilda by then and was commuting down to the Peninsula for teaching. Sarah’s family moved to Parkdale, so I used to give her a lift home and we spent many hours getting to know each other beyond our dance school social life.
People ask me why I teach dance. I mean, it’s not like I need a second job?! I never wanted to be a ‘teacher’, which is why I never pursued a career in professional dance after school. Teaching full time (often where one ends up after a career in dance ends), did not interest me at all.
But I love teaching for the fun of it. I love teaching the tweens and the teens. And it’s because I love that I get a special place in their life and can hopefully be a good role model for them. Your dance teacher, (anyone who has danced, will get this), occupies a special pedestal. They are your second mother, confidant, best friend and mentor, rolled into one. And I love being that.
I know that may sound like I have a massive ego, or that I love the attention. But it’s not that at all. I know that as a dance teacher I occupy a very special position and that I have the ability to guide my students. To pass on the lessons taught to me about organisation, discipline, teamwork, self expectation, motivation and focus. I know I get to help them when shit gets too tough at school. I get to counsel them on Uni preferences. I know I get to be there when they are going through body changes and hormonal changes and the phase we all go through where we hate our bodies and think we are fat, even when we are actually as fit as elite athletes.
So, I was so excited when Sarah decided to do architecture. No one else at dancing had gone into anything similar before. But I also knew what she was in for and the burn out I experienced.
Not to go into any details, because they are irrelevant, but Sarah had a pretty shaky start to adulthood. Life was for a time, very hectic for her. She had some poor health. Some family challenges. She moved out of home, which is always a hurdle. And after first year. She needed a break. She took a year out.
I was working at the Monash University Residential Project at the time. We were desperate for some work experience/cadets. My workload was getting ridiculous. My project manager asked me if I knew anyone, who could at least read drawings. Sarah jumped into my brain and a week later she was helping me with precast tracking and design coordination.
It’s funny, I had known her as a thirteen year old, tiny little ballerina. She had followed in my footsteps into architecture (I’m not taking all the credit for that), and now she was walking around site with me, helping me with structure (or, as I like to call it, stepping into the darkside).
But I knew that she had guts, determination, focus and she was just as organised as me, because I’d seen her manage hours and hours of ballet training with school and exams, with the added bonus of her professional level ballet exams in the mix.
Turns out the construction game wasn’t for her. But during that year out I saw Sarah go from giving up on architecture, to questioning whether architecture was for her, to figuring out that it was something she loved and that she was going back. I don’t know how much of that was due to me and my influence. But I like to think that I had her back and that helped. I like to think that she had also grown up, watching me struggle through architecture (I was often crying at the dance studio or surrounded by study notes, which I would bring to dancing with me), and that helped her with some perspective – that it isn’t an easy course!
Sarah, it turns out, was shortlisted for an award on Friday night. She has tuned into this focused and mature architectural undergrad. Far better than I ever was. I’ve seen her highs and her lows. But I also know that I’ve been able to help.
Sometimes we interview people and they say that their parents were a big influence on them. Don’t get me wrong, my parents have been a big influence on me, but sometimes it takes someone outside of the home to challenge you and provide you with that role model position. I don’t know why, but people in those special roles of coach, teacher, mentor can be a shining light. They are positions of power and crucial (I think) to the development of children, into well rounded adults.
I wanted to write this for two reasons. Firstly I think it’s important to help your children find these adults in their life and encourage them to see these people as a resource. Secondly, I think that we need to recognise when we may be in that role for other people’s kids and take it as an opportunity to empower young girls. To show them what they are capable of. To be a friend, but also remember that they are a kid and you are an adult and therefore both an authority figure and hold a lot of influence.
Young girls, become women. And we want them to see what they can be. It’s one of my favourite lines; If you can see it. You can dream it. And you can be it.
And send your kids to ballet!
Out of High School I went into RMIT Applied Design. Moving from small town to RMIT was a big leap. If I’m honest the talent wasn’t there. I wasn’t going to be commercially viable as a designer. I also hated working on things that didn’t have an end product. I wanted to see something finished and working. At the end of the year I actively sought a new path and found I could cut a deal with RMIT and get some work experience then starting Construction Management the following year.
At University, I put my resume out there and said I wanted to work, rather than slack around the summer of second year working in my supermarket job. I landed a gig with Cockram. They put me on a project in Clayton, the Monash Health Research Precinct. I was there as a cadet. I continued to work with them until after graduation. Working on site early was brilliant exposure. I still really appreciate the opportunity they gave me when I was greener-than-green.
I’m a Contracts Manager at Kane now. That just means I’m older than a Contracts Administrator! The role is really diverse, which I enjoy. From contract procurement, client liaison, financial control as well as the day to day running of the project- it’s all inclusive and never dull.
I had no idea what I was doing at first, but working for an organisation like Kane you are not cloistered into one area of the project. You are expected to be across most aspects of the project and it gives you a great deal of latitude to explore and learn.
When I joined Kane their average project was fairly small scale and now it has grown into much larger projects. It’s been a great time to be involved in an established company during a period of further growth and expansion. My first job at Kane was the redevelopment of the Grand Hyatt Hotel which included months of demolition and structural remodelling followed by high end fit out. Wedged between Louis Vuitton and Hermes while the hotel remained fully operational, it is still the most challenging job I’ve been involved in.
We had a tough programme and worked 24/7 for around 5 months crane lifting materials onto the job from Collins Street at 4am through an opening in the façade. Looking back at what we achieved there, I still feel a hum of pride and a cold chill walking through the Hotel entrance. Since then I’ve done mental health facilities, tertiary buildings for VU and LTU, infrastructure upgrades and PC2 laboratory work. Each job is always different and new.
I love that I can wear jeans to work! No really, I like the finality of handing something over. Something tangible and real and purposeful. Handover is literally, ‘Here’s your key, here’s your swipe card, call me if something breaks.’ I really like that. I have a romantic notion of when I’m old pointing to buildings I’ve had something to do with.
I like the simplicity of life on site. It’s either there or it’s not. And on a personal level, I like that there’s not a lot of pretense on the job. We are there to work together. I’m here to help you, but we are all interdependent and pushing for the same end goal. You can find yourself having a ‘heated discussion’ and five minutes later all is forgotten and you are chatting about your plans for the weekend.
The first person that raised the ‘chick issue’ was my father. When I went home and said I was starting a new course he said ‘Why are you not doing this design thing that you do? I own every texta in Melbourne, why would you not continue with that?’ When I explained I wanted to go into Construction he was genuinely worried that I would undertake a 4 year course and wouldn’t find work at the end. For his generation I’m sure that was most likely the case and a very real concern. While I knew I would be in the minority I was confident there would be a job for me. In a nice round about my Dad, a truck driver, worked on the bulk excavation at the Grand Hyatt when it was first built.
Vanessa Goulding made a good point; you can be equally loved and loathed. Half the blokes on site will love you and half of them will hate your guts at different times. Sometimes in the same day. That makes you develop a pretty thick skin. Site is sometimes a world away from the corporate office environment some of my friends work in. That is, I think, one of its charms. The people you work with onsite become your family for a time and you can find yourself wanting to look after them and they you.
My mother always told me ‘Do what makes you happy.’ She was always a huge supporter of me and my older sister in anything we wanted to do. We both work in traditionally male dominated industries. My sister is in Sport and me in Building and I think my Mum is quietly stoked by that. I’ve always had women around me that worked. My Grandmother always had a job and later in her working life volunteered. My mum always had a full time job, ran two kids, a house and a business at one point. She used to get up with my Dad at 5:00am, see him off to work and then she would iron our clothes. I’d get up for school and be like ‘What are you doing?’ She’d say ‘When else am I going to iron?’ She’s that woman. I hate ironing- avoid it at all costs- but I think the hard work bit might have rubbed off.
Ainsley is such a breathe of fresh air. We caught her in Richmond at a cute little wine bar. Where we waxed lyrical on our experiences in the construction game. Ainsley may have chosen an un-traditional path, but she has found her niche and has become a place to call her own in the Industry. What we love about Ainsley is that she is both highly considered in her approach and yet easy going and down to earth. We wish her all the best in her endeavours and we hope you enjoy reading about her life on site. Thanks Ainsley for your time and wishing you all the best, J & D!
I trained in architecture. I graduated in 1991. There was no work in New Zealand. So I did various things to make money, all connected to architecture in some way. Perhaps I might have become a practising architect if I had graduated into a better economic climate? Architecture and construction is so cyclical, you need a complex view of what a career might be.
I went to an architecture school that had a very wide-ranging curriculum. Being a practitioner was one option, but the school also opened up the idea that you might graduate and go into other areas. This also relates to the statistics of the high number of women leaving the profession. It is one thing for women to leave because they feeling pushed out, it is quite another to leave because you see more opportunity to use your skills elsewhere. That’s growth. Architecture has quite a narrow view of itself – I think it would benefit from a richer perception of what being active in architecture could look like.
I curated and designed an exhibition with a friend of mine, Sharon Jansen, in 1996. And part of that we found lots of photographs of post-war architecture, which I was really fascinated by. So I applied for the National Library Research Fellowship to look at these photos in more detail. This led to a book, Looking for the Local: Architecture and the New Zealand Modern, which I co-wrote with my partner, Paul Walker.
My partner is an academic, and we came to Australia for his job at the University of Melbourne. I was looking for work and I saw Architecture Media advertising for an editorial assistant and I knew they published Architecture Australia. I had just finished our book. I went along, and they said ‘You’re kind of over qualified for an editorial assistant’ but I got the job. Six months later my boss took over as editor of Architecture Australia and I became his assistant. A couple of years later, I was made editor.
I was there for ten years. And had two kids while I was editor of Architecture Australia. I could work part-time and flexibly because I had a fantastic assistant editor, Katelin Butler. I was made editor the day before I told them I was pregnant with my first child. To his credit my boss said it wouldn’t have made any difference, which I have always really appreciated.
I didn’t know much about making magazines when I started, or about Australia, but I knew a fair bit about architecture. I think one of the reasons I left is that I started to feel too embedded in Australian architecture. It was all too cosy. I needed something fresh and the magazine needed something fresh too. At the same time I became involved in a large research project led by Dr Naomi Stead and funded by the Australian Research Council, looking at women in the profession.
My generation had graduated in a time where it felt like roughly half the graduates were women. (Maybe it was around 40%). We were pretty well versed in feminism and we thought it was going to be fine for us. Young graduates still feel like that. But we looked around decades later and thought ‘What happened?’
So we set up this research project. People kept asking what we were doing, so we thought we’d set up a website to tell them. And I was an editor without a magazine, so I got carried away. In addition to essays from my academic colleagues I started commissioning content from many others.
I started by asking a whole lot of people from the profession to reflect on the research we had done to date. It became a way of building quite a large community. We also knew if we wanted to have an impact we had to find a way to spread the work beyond academic publications, and generate new grassroots demand for change.
Gill Matthewson, my colleague, did fantastic statistical work on women’s participation in the profession. That gave people the ability to locate themselves in the profession. The realised they were not alone. Previously if people were having problems, they tended to think ‘It’s just me,’ or, if they had never experienced any issues they thought, ‘I’m fine, there is no problem, what are you talking about?’ Statistics are really important because they point to general trends and the experience of the group. Of course your own experience might not match the story told by the statistics, but that can help generate empathy and understanding.
You don’t get into architectural publishing intentionally. You stumble in. There are no career paths. There are not that many editors in the country. Every one of us has a slightly different background, and every one of us has had a pretty organic career. I’ve never known where I was going. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I do think if you are focused on a particular path, you might not see the opportunities on the side, which might be more interesting.
Parlour started out as a communication platform for the research. We became a formal advocacy group in 2015 when we set up as an incorporated association. (People thought it was an organisation a long time before it was). It’s about giving the research life and impact out there in the world. But is also about drawing the knowledge of others in too.
We developed the Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice as one way to activate the research, and give people the tools to make change in their own workplace. There are eleven topics – there’s one on negotiation, one on pay equity, one on career breaks, and so on. Each explains what the issue is, why it matters and what ‘you’ can do about it. It’s addressed to architectural practices, to employees and to professional bodies. Each party have different types of issues, and different types of agency, and if you can understand these different perspectives, you’re more likely to get somewhere. They’ve been remarkably successful. Particularly in the US!
Another project we’ve done is WikiD, which is writing women in the built environment into Wikipedia. This is a collaboration with Architexx in New York and colleagues in Berlin. We’ve written guides and run workshops. We have also set up the Parlour Seasonal Salons, which came about partly because women were commenting that they know their own generation, but they don’t know older or younger women. So the Salons are informal, convivial events that encourage people to build networks across generations. Each one starts with a public conversation between two women, which have been fantastic. The only rule is that everyone who comes has to talk to one person they don’t already know.
We started the formal organisation through crowd funding, and with initial support from the Australian Institute of Architects, but now we have a number of key sponsors – AWS supports our event programs, and a number of universities support the organisation as a whole. When we started, the core members of that research project were relatively well known. All well regarded as academics and as writers. So that helped with getting people bothered to listen. If you look like you’re grown up and you don’t look like a bunch of daggy people in the corner, it makes a big difference.
It’s a long project. People have been working on gender equity in architecture from before we were alive, and they’ll likely others be working on it once we are gone. Building on the work and of others, and making the pathways for those who come after are both really important.
The barriers to senior leadership are multiple and intertwined. It’s the idea of what a leader looks like, it’s also about the way people are perceived; (women are seen as bossy, men are seen as strong). All that crap. The tendency we all have to surround ourselves with people like us and men appointing their own image. But it’s also about career pathways that allow women to have steep climbs, then a plateau, because, like it or not, most women are still the primary caregivers.
I think the thing that shocked me out of our research is the extent to which people feel having children has impacted their careers. It’s horrible, to hear about people who were going along, really successfully, then find themselves being treated really unacceptably.
My children are 13 and 10, both girls. Actually when I get really frustrated and think I want to do something else, I look at them and I think, ‘I can’t! I’ve got to keep going.’ They are really good little feminists – they had no choice. One commented the other day, ‘Mum we wrote a story at school and I managed to convince everyone that the hero of the story should be a girl in armour, not a boy.’
When the figures came out on the pay gap for architecture and construction a few years, it was in early January on my birthday. I was reading through the data trying to figure it all out, because it didn’t seem right, and my girls were saying, ‘Mum why are you working?’ Trying to explain the pay gap to a five year old is very bizarre – she just went, ‘What do you mean? That’s ridiculous? I know, from now on boys should be paid less!’
My mother always told me I could do whatever I wanted. She was very interested in science at school and had to fight to be allowed to do it. She put her career on hold to have kids. But both my parents were always very clear that I could do anything and could certainly go into non-traditional areas. When I was at high school and thinking about what to study, I said ‘Oh, maybe I could do Interior Design,’ Mum said, ‘Or you could be an architect.’ It wasn’t a comment on the relative merits of each discipline, but more that I shouldn’t shy away from areas that were seen as the province of men.
My older daughter is an extremely talented drawer and she says ‘Can I be an artist?’ and I say ‘Well, you’ll likely be a waitress as well, but of course you can.’ Do what you want to do, but be strategic, realise that you’re in a structural system that you have to negotiate. I think that whole liberal thing of ‘Follow your passion’ is kind of bullshit as well. It erases structural circumstances that have such an influence on people’s careers, for good and ill.
Justine Clark was such a pleasure to interview. Not only was Danielle fan-girling massively (you can’t study Architecture and not know who Justine Clark is!), but Justine has such a wealth of knowledge and information, from which she paints such succinct and brilliant views on women and architecture. Meeting one evening (some time ago now) at City Wine Shop, we spent a great deal of time marveling at the work Justine and her colleagues at Parlour have done, to bring to the fore the systemic issues still facing women in the profession. They have created a community and hub where women can really engage with the profession and a dialogue that addresses both creative and professional life. What an initiative! We also had the pleasure of photographing Justine with her daughter in the State Library. I mean have you seen a cooler t-shirt? We can’t thank Justine enough for giving up her valuable time to speak with us. And we wish her (and Parlour) all the best in making the built environment a better place.
I am a Chartered civil engineer and Fellow of the Australian and British Institutes of Engineers. I graduated from RMIT many years ago and have worked in the construction industry since that time, predominantly with Tier one contractors, including Leighton Contractors (now CPB) in Melbourne and Queensland, McConnell Dowell in the Philippines and Thailand, Laing O’Rourke in the UK and John Holland here in Melbourne. More recently, I have made the move to AECOM to establish a construction services offering across Australia and New Zealand (ANZ).
The vision to build a construction services business across Asia Pacific is an extension to AECOM’s $US 7 billion construction business across America and Europe. We launched the ANZ business in October 2015 and have been growing ever since, strengthening our project management service and recruiting new talent from the construction industry to broaden our offering. Partnering this with some of the most amazing and varied technical experts across the globe, we have a unique value proposition for our clients. We are working towards our vision to design, build, finance and operate projects in the future – I am really enjoying this challenge.
I recently obtained my CB-U builder’s licence. This was identified as business critical. It was a challenging interview process. The examiner appeared to have preconceived ideas as to my suitability (or otherwise) but following a rigorous testing of competencies, I think the examiner was (pleasantly) surprised as to my competency level and recommended approval for the license. This is one of the building blocks towards undertaking Principal Contractor work in Victoria.
When enrolling in engineering at Uni, I thought I wanted to be a designer. It was not until I did work experience on the South-East Arterial project that I found my passion for construction. I remember cruising around in a 4WD with one of the Superintendents singing country and western songs and feeling I’d found my calling.
During that time, I worked with a site supervisor who I reacquainted with when I joined John Holland many years later. He still remembered me?! – not for having me wear white gumboots (he had decorated with flowers) in the middle of the creek to measure invert levels, but for the fact that I used to ask a lot of questions. He remembered me being very interested in what he had to say. I remember thinking at the time that he was ‘The Oracle’. He was reflecting that ‘The grads these days don’t bother asking him questions – they just google it.’ There is much more to asking the question than the answer – it’s so much about building relationships and a support network that is always there when you need it.
Gone are the days of shouting on site, but in my early days I had many challenging confrontations with site foreman. I learned quickly that they shout louder than I and that I’d never win by volume – I had to just be smarter and introduce reverse psychology to get some wins on the board. It changed the dynamic and it worked.
Gender diversity – AECOM has 38% of women on our ANZ executive team. I am proud to say we have driven a 42% increase in women in leadership positions within the last 18 months. At AECOM, we encourage and practice flexible working. We have removed working hours from contracts to give people the freedom to work within time frames that suit their lifestyles. We have also taken direct action by investing $1m over the past two years to reduce the gender pay gap. Yes, there is still more work to do but we are making great progress.
I’ve hit the glass ceiling a few times and found it difficult to break through. It is wonderful to now work for AECOM where I am witnessing great imagination in creating new and exciting opportunities, rather than being pigeon-holed in roles for particular skill sets. Don’t be afraid to challenge your leaders if you find yourself becoming stagnated and if nothing changes then be prepared to change lanes and explore new opportunities. Work is such a large part of your life (in terms of time commitment) – it’s important you are doing a job that excites you and makes you happy. It’s up to you – nobody has more of a vested interest to drive your career – we all need to take control and drive our own career bus.
Choose culture over money every time. Choose a culture you like and projects that you are interested in and everything else should fall into place. Also, be sure to build a network of sponsors and mentors to rely on inside and outside the organisation.
I am passionate about learning. I am always reading or studying something – currently I’m completing a certificate in Applied Finance and I recently completed the Australian Institute of Company Directors Course. We should always be thinking about building skills to be prepared for opportunities as they arise. I like to encourage women and girls into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). STEM opens up so many fascinating opportunities and career paths.
We don’t do stereotypes in our house. Roles are blurred – we all pitch in to make things work. We encourage our children to be independent and try to be gender agnostic – they are willing to take on anything regardless of stereotypes. At this moment, my husband does the heavy lifting in terms of looking after our young children– this was not a decision we took lightly but it makes sense for us right now. We remain flexible to change this if the need or desire arises. I couldn’t do my role without my family’s support. Family is the most important part of life – we often need to make compromises to achieve the optimum level of happiness for the family at any given time. It’s a fine balance for sure.
Nicole is a fantastic leader, so it’s safe to say that we were thrilled to get an interview with her. She has worked in the trenches, all the way through the ranks to Managing Director, which gives her this brilliant insight into the Industry and it’s challenges. Nicole is forthright, real and speaks with a great passion for construction and building a business. She sees the value in ongoing education and encouraging women to find fantastic and exciting career paths within the built environment and beyond. We hope you have enjoyed her insight and the difference that leaders like Nicole are making in the Industry. We wish Nicole the best for the rest of 2017 and beyond!