Women in construction

Queensland has one of the nation’s largest building and construction sectors spanning a $46 billion industry.

While the industry employs about 240,000 people across the state, women account for only around 15 per cent of all people employed by construction firms. This figure falls below five per cent for frontline ‘on the tools’ trade and labouring roles.

The Queensland Government spends approximately $4 billion per annum on building construction and maintenance activity and is actively encouraging females to join the building and construction industry and build careers in a range of professional services, trades, administration, and supply chain roles.

The Queensland Government is also committed to the 11 per cent target of the National Association for Women in Construction and is actively pursuing initiatives to exceed this target on projects.

QBuild, the Queensland Government builder, is already well above the state average in employing females and is making great strides toward lifting this ratio even higher.

We’re trialling a project to build a new social housing property, supplying homes for Queenslanders in need, with diversity on the worksite a key focus.

By boosting female participation in the industry, we are contributing to the Advancing Queensland Priority of creating jobs in a strong economy.

How we’re making a difference

We are leading the way in Queensland to help boost the levels of participation by female tradespeople in the building and construction industry, particularly in frontline construction roles.

In July 2021, we finalised a 20-apartment, five-storey social housing complex exemplar project in Cannon Hill, with a strong focus on a diverse workforce. This project saw 31 per cent overall female participation and around 22 per cent of the frontline workforce including trades like plumbing, electrical, fencing and painting.

This project was managed through QBuild and sought the best ways to build female participation in construction and to support retention of women apprentices and tradies.

A second exemplar project has been proposed in Torquay, Hervey Bay for a social housing complex made up of 10 one-bedroom apartments and is due to commence early in 2022.

Similarly, the private construction industry is seeking avenues to implement their own exemplar projects with Hutchinson Builders commencing a project at Pacific Pines on the Gold Coast in September 2021.

What we learn from these government and industry-led projects will inform how we encourage greater diversity on future QBuild, Queensland Government and private industry projects.

Janette – Director, Building Contract Management

The Queensland Government’s Exemplar Project at Bombery Street Cannon Hill has delivered a 
20-unit social housing complex and it also set an overall 30% target for female participation across employment types of professional workers, the frontline trades and labourers and the project administration staff.

QBuild’s tenders for each trade package asked for a minimum of 20% women and a workforce plan to achieve this. While the overall aim of the was to achieve the 30% female target it really set out to test three key things.

Could the construction industry in the Brisbane metro area supply enough tradeswomen to meet the 20% tender package target?

Would the demand for more women increase costs of the project and how would larger number of women impact the traditionally male dominated worksite?

Wes – Senior Delivery Manager, QBuild

As an experienced project supervisor, I’ve seen the radical changes onsite where it’s a friendly work environment, a cleaner work environment, a safe work environment where we’ve actually had no loss injuries to date on site as well.

We have a Dogger onsite, and she said it was the best worksite she’s ever worked on. We also had a cleaner who said it was actually friendly and by far the safest site, job she’s ever been on.

Radmila – National Association of Women in Construction Queensland

The National Association of Women in Construction is really proud of what we’ve achieved on this project and we’re extremely grateful to the Queensland Government for this initiative. It’s certainly helped to further advance the interests of women in the building and construction industry and helped us with our attraction strategies to get more women into construction.

Sean – Director, Industry Development and Capability, Construction Skills Queensland

We actively work to encourage women to try trades in construction through our industry events and work placements such as the industry Try a Trade we ran here in partnership with the project to really provide young women with opportunities to try a trade in construction.

Alex – Project Manager, QBuild

It’s really exciting to see such great female participation rates across this project. At project completion we recorded 31% across the project and 22% females in frontline working trades. This paves the way for future government initiatives and projects in the future.

Casey – Apprentice Electrician, QBuild

Hi, I’m an apprentice electrician here on the exemplar project. It’s been a great opportunity to be on this site and see lots of women in the workforce and I hope to see that in the future.

Try a Trade events

The project in Cannon Hill  is also serving as an excellent promotional opportunity to showcase careers   in construction to young women.

In partnership with Construction Skills Queensland and the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), QBuild has hosted two successful Try a Trade events where 20 years 9 to 12 female school students from local schools can attend an active commercial construction site and learn what it takes to be a carpenter, plumber, painter, electrician, plasterer, tiler and bricklayer.

The NAWIC mentors including qualified female plumbers, carpenters and bricklayers give the students invaluable advice about their career experiences in the construction industry and discuss career pathways.

Show transcript

Katie, High school student: Seeing all the women here has changed my pathway more to the construction side of things because it just looks like such a good community.

Cienna, High school student: It is a big experience for women here because most of us don’t have the opportunity outside of school to do any of these type if things. I’ve always had a passion for carpentry. Today has really shown me that I can do it.

Katie, High school student: Electricians and tiling are what really interests me at the moment. I do see myself going into an apprenticeship after school.

Cienna, High school student: There’s so many women here that inspire a lot of us girls to be able to pursue those dreams we want to do and go out there into the real world. I do see myself being a construction worker. Coming here today has just shown me that it’s possible.