Despite efforts to improve the inclusivity and gender gap within this sector, there are still numerous barriers for women's entry into the construction industry. A significant restriction is of course, in the movement and recruitment of employees. Traditionally, employment within the industry has been through word-of-mouth and recommendations, a process that women were previously unlikely to be a part of.
Chelsea Lawson-Brown, our New South Wales sales representative strives to improve the support and representation of women by leveling the playing field. Through her extensive network of inspirational, hard- working women, Chelsea vows to educate and connect women within the Australian construction environment.
What is your current position within SAS?
CLB: Sales Representative for the New South Wales region.
How did your career begin?
I joined the construction industry aged 18 as a receptionist. I worked my way up to buyer and through my contacts working with SAS as a customer, I was offered a role in the Sales Order Processing team in Reading, UK.
What led you to a career in construction?
I worked for a sub-contracting company for my first job. Since then, through my network I’ve continued my career in the industry.
What makes a career in construction exciting for you?
Firstly, no two days are the same and a career in construction gives me the opportunity to constantly learn new things. The reason for this is, I am fortunate enough to work in a small team which means juggling lots of hats. Generally, a sales role focusses solely on sales, however, my role consists of sales, business development, estimating, quality control and building the Australian brand.
It’s been very exciting yet humbling coming from the UK where SAS has an established reputation for achieving world-class interiors whereas in comparison, the Australian brand is very young. I’m thrilled to be involved with the growth of the business and hopefully be part of its success in the coming years.
What has been the most surprising part of being a woman working in construction?
The support from other women has been surprising. It’s great to witness women building each other up, which so often isn’t the case.
Why do you think there is a lack of women in the industry?
Women are the majority within the Australian office at SAS, but I’m acutely aware this is not always the case.
In my experience, young women aren’t educated to the vast number of opportunities available to them within this industry. Many still have the idea that construction is just manual labour, which really isn’t the case.
Thinking back, I didn’t go to school with any girls who strived to be an engineer. In which case it leads me to believe that the lack of education is a large part of why there is a lack of women in the industry now.
How do you feel that the industry is embracing women?
Networking. For example, my network within the industry also has some incredible women at all levels. Groups like these are so encouraging and push women to strive for more whether it is in their current roles, or other parts of the industry.
Why do you think it is important for women to be involved in the construction industry?
Diversity within the work place is important. I see more women in the industry, working in roles that only a few years ago were traditionally held by men.
We should be employing people for their skills regardless of their gender.
How do you think organisations can attract women into the industry?
There are some great schemes in Australia that are introducing girls in school to this industry using workshops and site tours. This not only provides more options but it encourages young women to consider a career path in different industries and fields. Also, the number of female grads we work with is really inspiring and is paving the way for the next generation.
What advice would you give to women who are considering a career in this industry?
Stick it out! There are situations that can make some days seem extra challenging as a female in our industry. Remember, everyone, no matter what their industry, female & male, have these days too! It’s all the more rewarding when you’ve faced challenges and make it out the other side having learnt something.
Are there any industry events or associations women within the industry should attend/join?
I’m part of two associations determined to support women, like me, through the trials and tribulations of the construction industry. Both NAWIC and WIDAC are communities focused on women in design and construction. I try to attend as many events as I can.
I personally hold a quarterly event with the main objective of bringing women, who wouldn’t usually have the opportunity to meet, together. I ask each person I invite from my network to bring a guest (someone I don’t know) who will add value to the group. Ultimately, it’s a great way to get the SAS brand out there whilst giving everyone the opportunity to meet someone that would benefit their business.