With women being greatly under-represented in construction, it makes it hard to find female role models to help guide women in their careers in construction. HSE Commercial Construction consultant Ian believes his candidate Eliza Murphy is a great representation of how women can be successful in both their professional and personal achievements, so caught up with her to speak more about her experience and how she juggles her role as a mother and a Health & Safety Advisor for commercial construction company, Kane Constructions.
Can you tell us how you started your career in the industry?
I actually ended up in the industry by chance. I originally studied nursing and once finished study, worked as a nurse for 2 years. After deciding that nursing was not the career for me, I went back and studied a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Human Resource Management. I knew I needed to get some experience in HR and a job popped up on my uni career portal for a HR assistant, working for a construction company. Although it was only a 3-month contract, I knew it would be a good learning opportunity. I applied for the job, got an interview and then was offered the position a week later.
After the 3 months had passed, I was offered the opportunity to continue working for the same company as HR and HSEQ Coordinator, due to the need for someone in both areas. After just over a year in that role, the workload was getting heavier in both areas, so I was given the choice to work full-time in HR or WHS. If I was to choose safety, they offered to put me through a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety. As I was enjoying my time learning WHS, it was a no brainer and I decided to continue as part of safety team.
What advice would you give to people wanting to join/move into a HSEQ role within the construction industry?
I think that now is the best time to join the industry. There is a huge demand for WHS personnel at all levels and the industry is set to grow over the next few years. I think making sure you have some form of qualification in the industry is a good starting point. A Certificate IV WHS is a great place to start, as a lot of companies ask for this qualification as a minimum.
How did you advance your career, and can you share some of your key career lessons?
I think I advanced my career by always being willing to learn and take on new challenges. I was always saying yes to opportunities that arose and willing to continue to grow.
The best advice i could give is to network!! You never know who will contact you down the track asking if you would be interested in a role and the safety industry is such a close-knit circle, everyone seems to know everyone.
The other key lesson would be that WHS is an industry with so much to learn, so don’t try to rush yourself up the ladder. Take your time, put in the effort and the career progression will follow.
From your experience over the years, is there a noticeable gender pay gap within the HSEQ or Construction industry?
Definitely! Unfortunately, it is still such a huge issue. I think moving into government there was less of problem with salaries as it works on a VPS system. So, no matter your gender, you are all paid within the same band depending on your role.
Within the construction industry, discussions would occasionally occur with colleagues around pay and there was a significant pay difference between females and males. I think as a female you need to know your worth and actually ask the hard questions. If you don’t think your pay is fair, have the confidence to have the conversation with your manager. The worst they can say is no and if that is the case, you can always look for a new role that will pay you what you deserve.
Have you yourself faced any adversity being a female in your field? If so, how did you overcome that and what advice would you give to other females starting out in this male dominated space?
Absolutely, not too long ago I was hired for a role that was meant to be mostly out in the field as a site WHS officer. Due to being a mother with two small children, I couldn’t be out on the site at 7am and i was told that because of this, I would be more suited to an office based WHS role. I don’t believe that being female nor a mother, should restrict any role that I hold, and I will continue to challenge any stereotypical restrictions others try and place upon me. I think as females, we all need to band together and continue to fight the status quo!
As a mother, what are your views on employers’ approach to how they engage & stay in contact with employees on parental leave? And what was your personal experience with this?
I wouldn’t say keeping in contact with employees on parental leave is something that employers do well. Leaving your job to have a baby brings on a whole array of emotions, and when employers don’t keep up the contact, it makes it very hard to want to come back to work.
I also think it depends a lot on your Manager. In my own personal experience, I was sent a hamper from my employer when my son was born and then my Manager contacted me every 3 months or so and asked me in for a coffee the week before I was due back. Second time around was different as the company was merging with another company. My Manager left during the time I was on leave and I had to get in contact with my new Manager the week before I was due back to let them know I was returning. It was safe to say I wasn’t looking forward to returning second time around.
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