Inspiring inclusion for women in the construction sector -International Women’s Day 2024

Inspiring inclusion is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day. The power and positive impact of inclusion is evident everywhere you look, and everyone has a part to play in supporting and empowering women to create a stronger, thriving construction industry.

In Aotearoa, two important paths to inclusion are recruiting, retaining, supporting, and developing female talent, and providing women with access to quality education and training. BCITO is committed to empowering women in the construction sector by providing more opportunities for women, challenging stereotypes, and addressing myths about the capability of women in trade-based work.

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Caitlin Simpson is dispelling the old-school narratives and making the industry her own. Caitlin started her BCITO apprenticeship with Graft Joinery in 2020 after completing a gateway programme through her high school. Craig van Velden, owner of Graft Joinery in Taupō, has over 20 years’ experience in the joinery trade and has made inclusion a strong focus within his company.

“At our company, we've established key principles to guide our culture, with 'empowerment' being one of them. This principle is something we all embrace, fostering an environment where each individual is treated equally. It forms the foundation for how we interact with each other, ensuring a supportive and inclusive workplace,” says Craig.

Cailtin highlighted that at Graft Joinery, everyone is listened to with the same respect, whether they're an apprentice or fully qualified, male, or female, new to the business or experienced

“Craig has always been so supportive of me; he makes sure that I have a voice in the industry. He sees all of his employees as his equals, no matter what. And throughout my journey with BCITO, I’ve met so many great people. No one in the BCITO community has been discriminatory towards me because of my gender. They have always been so supportive and encouraging of women entering the industry,” says Caitlin.

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Craig is equally complimentary about his colleague.

“With having Caitlin on board, I’ve noticed an increased eye for detail, excellent organisational management and effective communications that’s spread through our whole business. All these things help everything move along at greater pace with precise execution,” he explains.

While Caitlin has found it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, she is adamant the positives of doing a trades apprenticeship always outweigh the negatives, and that there are more people rooting for you than not.

“When I look back on my journey, the first thing that comes to mind is the continued support I’ve received from everyone around me. Every time I visit a site, at least one person will tell me how amazing it is to see more and more females making the leap into the industry,” she says.

While reflecting on her experience in the industry so far, Caitlin highlighted what inclusion means to her.

“To me, inclusion in the industry is when someone can confidently walk up to me, unprompted, on site, to ask a question that they would happily ask a male colleague. Inclusion is being treated just like any other worker. Inclusion is the future.”

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