Illustration of two women construction workers using HammerTech construction safety platform on mobile devices

WIC Week 2024: Why construction is a place for women

Sunday, March 3 is the start of Women in Construction Week with the theme Keys to the Future, which celebrates the strength and knowledge of women and the vital role they play in shaping the future of the construction industry. To get their view, HammerTech spoke with three women – two in Australia and one in the US – Carly Hayden, the Senior Safety Manager at Columbia in Massachusetts, Melissa Pollock, the General Manager of Health and Safety at Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure based in Sydney and Amy Parker, the HSEQ Manager at Plan Group in Melbourne.


What's Inside

  1. Construction: a career for everyone

  2. There is no one pathway into the industry

  3. No two days are ever the same

  4. We need more women in construction – it is critical

  5. Women need to be aware of the sector from a much younger age

  6. Standing on the shoulders of women in construction


Statistics can tell us many things. Of the 47% of all women in the workforce in the US, the construction industry only benefits from 1.25% of women in its workforce. The construction sector in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employs 7.7 million people with just 14% female - made up of 86.7% in office positions and 2.5% in a trade. 

The good news is that more women are entering the industry than ever before. The US Bureau estimates that the construction sector will grow by 4% from 2021 to 2031. That means the creation of nearly 170,000 new jobs each year over this decade.

In Australia, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) conducted a survey last year of its members to get a better understanding of what women liked about their work. The overwhelming responses painted an encouraging picture of construction for women where: 

  • They love their job

  • They feel valued, respected, and heard

  • They have equal access to training opportunities, mentors, and career advancement

  • They work with great people

To celebrate Women in Construction Week, we spoke to women in the HammerTech Community to gather insights as to why they love what they do and the exciting future that lies ahead for women in construction. 

Construction: a career for everyone

“I think the industry has come a long way in being more inclusive. If you feel as though you have the grit for this industry, it is unlike any other I have been a part of. You have to be strong-willed, not afraid to speak up, and not afraid to make mistakes,” said Carly.  

When asked what advice they would give to women thinking about a career in Construction, Amy enthusiastically said, “Definitely do it!”. She added that whilst we are all here to support women, it is more than that. “It is about recognizing women and seeing what they are already doing. The industry is no longer unchartered territory. It is dynamic, exciting and becoming a fairer place to work.”

Similarly, Melissa feels the industry has changed and the impressions some have may be wrong. “Just go for it… There are a lot of beautiful, really caring people in our industry.”

There is no one pathway into the industry

All three women entered the industry in their own way. Growing up with her father who was a carpenter, builder, and developer, Amy knew it was where she wanted to go and entered Construction from the get-go. “I just kind of felt at home. Straight out of school I knew what I wanted to do. I started out with roles in residential construction, but I knew I wanted to see more. I landed a role in the commercial sector where, over 10 years, I have been able to progress from project coordinator, moving into IMS management and then to HSEQ Management, where I now proudly guide all business sectors, workers, and experts in their own fields, toward best practice safety and compliance.”

Melissa’s career, whilst always focussed in the safety arena, has seen many facets before entering construction, including local government– at the Wollongong City Council – and then through the NSW State Emergency Service, Metcash, Origin Energy, Orora, Sydney Water and Scentre Group (owner and operator of Westfield in Aus and NZ).  

“I moved to my current position at Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure when they created a new health and safety role and wanted to drive strategic change in the safety function. I had a broad portfolio of work industry experience and I was excited to move into pure construction for the first time. I came for the job, fell in love with the business, and then fell in love with the industry.”

As her dad was an electrician, Carly thought of attending trade school but ultimately decided on attending Keene State College where, upon deciding safety was what she wanted to pursue, took as many relevant classes as possible she could.

Her first job was at a medical school in the EH&S department. “After two years I knew I wanted to make a change. A friend was working for a general contractor and she encouraged me to make the move into construction. “I thought about it for a while and then said let’s give it a go although I knew little about that specific industry. I made the jump and it was a total shock. I thought what am I getting myself into.”

No two days are ever the same

Being on-site is where Amy, Melissa, and Carly all love to be. It’s an opportunity to see the project, understand its uniqueness and quirks, and talk to project managers and safety staff to get a feel for what is going on. It also provides them with the opportunity to see if any improvements or changes need to be made regarding safety.  

“There’s a lot of time with boots on the ground. I love that time, with project teams and during site inspections, but then there’s also that other side of working on the system, at the computer,” said Amy. She also acknowledged the balance in being proactive with reactive – being there to support day-to-day operations as the sites reach out, as well as “I also need to find the time to work on continual improvement.”

While Melissa tries to plan her day “It never goes how you think it will”. Spending about 75% of her time in the office with the rest on site visiting the projects and the safety teams. “It is very diverse and there is the ability to be hands-on. That is why I love my role – I like to get my hands dirty.”

Carly spends a couple of days a week on-site by 6 am, checking in with field staff/superintendents to talk about the site and any high-risk activities they can proactively start to pre-plan. “There are a lot of pre-planning meetings with subcontractors getting a snapshot of what the job site looks like, attending owner’s meetings, running reports, and utilising HammerTech.

We need more women in construction – it is critical

With just 14% of the construction workforce in the US being women and only 2.5% having a trade such as a carpenter or electrician, all three would love to see more women move into the construction sector, whether that be straight from school or a career change.  

Amy’s view is that women bring a different perspective, judgement, and intellect. “I really like seeing an industry that is changing as it becomes far more balanced and we see outcomes that we have never seen before. I think it is a much-needed representation.”

“We need to have that voice to call out where something needs to change to reflect a diversity of gender, race, ability, or anything else,” said Melissa.

Carly believes females provide a different set of eyes, skills, and perspectives and she has seen that firsthand. “Women bring more level-headedness and lightness to conversations. I feel there is less tension and more direct communication.”  

Women need to be aware of the sector from a much younger age

A common theme among the women was that the industry needed to do more to raise awareness of construction while women were still in their teens and making decisions about what career they might choose.

Amy said that some companies are skewing advertising and roles towards women and it’s working. “That’s making a big difference as it seems achievable and attractive.”

Melissa spoke about Abergeldie’s recent partnership with Bamara on the Sista’s in Trade Program on a project in Dubbo, regional NSW. The program is designed to kick-start careers for local First Nations Women in Construction. “It led to one of the ladies taking up a role as a construction worker with us. We are also thinking outside the square by targeting engineering students or even psychologists, for example, for HR.”

“I feel like we wait until they are in high school to really start bringing that stuff up. We want to start getting involved earlier so they are aware that this is a potential path they can take,” added Carly.  

Standing on the shoulders of women in construction

So, who inspires our women in construction?  

For Amy, there were very few women involved in her early years and when she did come across a fellow female, she was eager to talk to them to learn. “They exuded something. They either had the confidence or excitement that I did or an angle that made them an expert in their field. I love that. Now the tables have turned. We are seeing women who are excelling, who have found a niche and doing huge, impactful things and making the change those younger ones need to see when they are coming through. That is what I love about the women I am working with and interacting with.”

For Melissa three women stood out:

  • Elizabeth Tosti: “I saw her at a conference and she was amazing. I went up to her and asked if she would be my mentor. She said years later that she loved that I had asked her. She was the first female I really looked up to.”

  • Amanda Clements: “Amanda is an inspiring safety leader who I’m lucky to call a colleague, she is doing phenomenal things in the psychosocial, wellbeing and mental health areas.”

  • Alison Mirams: “I don’t know her that well but I love the way she has challenged the industry and how we contractually deliver work for worker wellbeing, despite negative feedback, she has made real change backed by data and research which we can build upon to make more positive change.”  

For Carly, it is one of her co-workers who she looks up to. Siggy Pfendler started in a role with Columbia and after some time, decided she wanted to do something different. Siggy ultimately created her own role in Improvement and Innovation. Carly recalls being amazed at Siggy’s ambition and saying to her “I can’t believe you just did that!”   

Closer to home, Carly also recognises her sister-in-law,  Cara Wilczynski. “She is a manager at Autodesk which we use for planning purposes. She is a force to be reckoned with in her niche. She has such a knowledge base that I am in awe of listening to her. She and I share that not backing down from a challenge so I like that I have her to push me to be better.” 

Find out more about Amy, Carly and Melissa below, and connect with them on LinkedIn to continue the conversation. 

Amy Parker- HSEQ Manager at Plan Group

Amy Parker

Amy is a passionate and proactive HSEQ Manager with over 15 years of experience successfully implementing HSEQ policies and procedures, reducing the rate of injuries and incidents, and transforming HSEQ Management systems.

Amy is responsible for leading the development, implementation, and maintenance of safety, environmental, and quality strategies on all Plan Group construction sites.

She guides the application of health and safety legislation, standards, and industry best practices. Her expertise allows her to identify potential risks early, addressing them before they escalate and ensuring a safe construction site.

Amy has worked on varying projects within residential and commercial construction and remains dedicated to creating change in OHS culture through effective consultation, mentoring, and education.


Carly Hayden- Senior Safety Manager at Columbia

Carly Hayden

In her role as a Senior Safety Manager at Columbia, Carly is recognised for her meticulous attention to detail and dedication to actively supporting the safety of all

With over a decade of experience in construction management, she possesses expert knowledge of safety processes. Collaborating directly with the project team, Carly is responsible for crafting and implementing comprehensive safety plans in alignment with project requirements.

She ensures the proper execution of safety procedures and maintains compliance with OSHA, as well as city, state, and federal regulations and guidelines.

A graduate of Keene State College with aBS in Safety Studies, Carly leverages her people-oriented work style to engage with the project team to guarantee proactive and comprehensive safety programs at Columbia.


Melissa Pollock- General Manager- Health & Safety at Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure

Melissa Pollock

Mel has an extensive background in safety (20+ years) with an early career in human resources.

She has worked across many industries during her career as she made her way into safety leadership roles, which included local government, emergency services, FMCG, oil & gas, facilities management, construction, and utilities.

She is a passionate safety professional who works with Senior Leaders to change the safety culture of organisations. She believes people are the most important asset of any organisation and providing good safety culture and practices is critical not only for the prevention/reduction of injury but as a tool for employee engagement and creating a positive workplace.

Mel is actively involved in the Australian Institute of Health and Safety to remain up to date with current practices and to assist the safety profession in increasing capability. Her studies have included Industrial Relations, Sociology, Neuroscience, Safety, Business Wellbeing, and currently Safety Leadership. She is a qualified auditor, coach, and strengths profiler.

In 2023 she was recognised as WHS Leader of the Year (under 1000 employees) at the Australian Work Health and Safety Awards.