Utilising women's skills: lessons from Canterbury

Ministry for Women Chief Executive Jo Cribb says lessons from the Canterbury rebuild can assist other organisations to make better use of women’s skills. Since 2013 the number of women employed in construction in Canterbury has more than doubled, from 3,100 to 7,800. Jo said research to understand the perceived barriers for women was the critical starting point.

“This research identified women were an untapped labour force. Many women were keen but they perceived barriers to working in these roles. The top incentives for women to consider jobs in the rebuild were: flexible hours and environment, good pay and more information about rebuild opportunities. Following the research our message was: the rebuild needed workers and many women needed work.

“An informal Working Group was formed to focus efforts. This group included industry training organisations, tertiary institutions, local employers, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, National Association of Women in Construction and organisations working on the rebuild (CERA, Hawkins, City Care; Connexis and the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team),” said Jo.

“Each member increased the visibility of women in the rebuild, based on their particular areas of expertise and influence. For example, many recruitment approaches included the words ‘women are encouraged to apply’.

“The members set and monitored targets to measure the number of women in construction roles and the number of women enrolling in trades courses at CPIT.

“People led change from wherever they were in an organisation: from their leadership or human resource teams, and by tapping into their networks.

“We are keen to apply what we have learnt in Canterbury to encourage more women into male-dominated industries. This means other industries can benefit from diversity and it can lead to more women working in jobs that are in demand, with good pay and prospects,” she said.