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  • Writer's pictureDr. Sarah Redmond

Maori & Pasifika Women in Construction - the difference we can make

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

We recently held our first event for our Maori & Pasifika Women In Construction for 2023, and what a fun evening this was!

We loved watching our facilitators having fun but also deeply serious conversations with the cadets. In this relaxed environment the bonds between cadet facilitators and cadets was plain to see - giving guidance to the young women they have been working with for 1-3 years has become a natural and easy part of those relationships.

"Seeing our new wahine start to form relationships with the older cadets proved the importance of shared experience between those who are further along the path and those who are starting their journey. Our older cadets have achieved a lot, and it was pretty great to see gleaming cars in the car park and the "new" sense of maturity and wisdom in these wahine. However, not one of them has done it without genuine struggle and some momentous challenges which had to be overcome. Their stories of persistence and reward are a hugely important part of having a shared group like this", says Dr. Sarah Redmond, manager of the Ara Education Charitable Trust.

At the core of this programme is the many hours, weeks and now years the facilitators have put into building strong, trusting relationships with their cadets. The multiplier effect is that the wahine who have been with us for a while are truly role-modeling grit, resilience, and success to our new recruits. They had their own cars, they had experience and confidence and they had good advice.

Working all day, often as the only female in a team of blokes, the forming of relationships with other women in similar roles has profound impacts. All the wahine we have worked with for a while, have faced difficult, sometimes really overwhelming challenges. Each has had different trajectories. Some have started strong, had a bit of a dip, and then found their second wind. Others started on the back foot and by showing up and staying engaged have become people that are valued by their employers and who also value themselves.

Many of our young wahine deal with or have dealt with inappropriate male interaction in their workplace that has made them feel unsafe, scared, vulnerable or worried. It's important that wahine can do their work unimpeded by fear of going to some part of the site, or asking certain people for advice, or interacting with someone because they are worried about their safety. We can proudly say that all our partner workplaces have management teams that actively champion women. They have built separate bathrooms for the ladies, and they put them into teams with other women or supportive men.

Diversifying the workplace means getting everybody on board, and understanding the impacts on the individual and on the workplace of making someone unsafe because of their gender. Every person needs to understand that part of health and safety is creating a safe environment for all team members, regardless of gender. It's also part of being a decent human being.

To all our employers, thank you for being so engaged in our Maori and Pasifika Women in Construction programme. A key learning for us all is that becoming inclusive involves a long process with frequent review and modification. To all our cadets, you are the embodiment of grit and hard work and we are so full of admiration. To our facilitators, you know that relationships, knowledge and wisdom are key. You bring that every day for the cadets and as a result these wahine are thriving and being the best possible role models for each new cohort of young women who are keen to become a part of the construction industry.

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