Women's job prospects expand as city rebuilds

In the aftermath of the earthquakes, women have been given the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and assist in rebuilding Christchurch piece by piece. And perceptions of a male-dominated trade industry are changing. Samantha McPherson, of The Star, Christchurch, reports.

You will see more woman enrolled in civil engineering programmes in polytechs and universities compared to 10 years ago AN increase in the number of women gaining employment to assist with the rebuilding of Christchurch is changing the way the male-dominated trade industry is viewed.

Canterbury Work and Income figures showed an increase of nearly 3000 women who gained employment after the September 4, 2010, earthquake.

The diverse range of roles women are immersing themselves in stretch across engineering, truck driving, traffic management, health and safety, painting, plastering, building, carpentry, operating heavy machinery, drainage and civil construction.

Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT) general manager Duncan Gibb said over recent times the perception of the infrastructure industry being one only for men had slowly changed.

"You will see more woman enrolled in civil engineering programmes in polytechs and universities compared to 10 years ago.

"More women are exploring operator roles in civil infrastructure. Certainly, the industry as a whole is conscious of widening the scope of who is in their workforce," he said.

A majority of rebuilding employees are Canterbury women, mixed with those from overseas and other parts of the country.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national industry construction organiser Ron Angel said he had noticed there were many women working in health and safety, painting and other trades.

"What we are seeing is that most of the women in Christchurch that are working on the rebuild are painters, aged between 25 to 35 years. Women are also becoming more active and involved with administration roles for smaller firms," he said.

The number of women who had been on the unemployment benefit, who have gone into work in the two years is 4107, compared with 1985 for the two previous years.

Work and Income regional commissioner John Henderson said the increase was positive.

"It's really positive that more people are getting back into work and the unemployment numbers in Canterbury are dropping.

"We are working in partnership with employers and training providers to ensure Work and Income clients are ready and have the skills they need to secure job opportunities within the Canterbury rebuild," he said.

Fulton Hogan project director Adam Nichol said it was nice to have a good mix of men and women.

"Women have a high tolerance level and they can manage conflicts at a difficult level.

"Out in the field there's about four to five local women working in traffic management, site engineering and lab testing [of] aggregates and materials. The industry has changed positively in the last few years," he said.

Downer HR adviser Sara Paris said the overall diversity of the workplace was increasing because of the growth in Christchurch.

"There are 20 women working as part of the rebuild for Downer.

"Diversity is increasing due to overall growth in Christchurch, increasing numbers of people and the way the future is heading in terms of the rebuild - gender diversity, age diversity and culture diversity," she said.

  - The Star

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