Encouraging inclusivity and diversity in the building and construction industry is one of our key priorities. This is why we are supporting author and illustrator Keely O’Keeffe by giving her book national exposure within our industry and primary schools in celebration of Women’s Suffrage Day.
A 24-year-old raised in New Plymouth, Keely wrote and illustrated Tickety-boo as one of her final projects before graduating from Massey University College of Creative Arts in Wellington in April this year. The challenge, she says, didn’t come from writing the storyline or designing the imagery but from finding the idea to run with in the first place.
“We had to identify a current issue and create something around it, and there was a fair bit of vagueness that came with the freedom to choose whatever we wanted. I was stuck for an idea for the first month or so.”
With the Covid pandemic taking effect, Keely began looking into the sudden ‘building boom’; the more people spending their time at home leading to a rise of renovation plans and the high demand for qualified trade professionals to take these projects on.
Further research into the building and construction industry drew her attention to an unfortunate yet undeniable statistic; the noticeable lack of females working in the trades.
And thus, her grand project idea began to formulate: a children’s book that underlines the issue of stereotyping using the lack of women working in building and construction as a prime example.
When asked who inspired the characters, Keely confidently replied, “Every woman working in a trade. I spent months reading reports and articles headlining female apprentices; I followed all the social media accounts of women working in construction that I could find to grasp an accurate perspective of their stories.”
Keely gives special thanks to qualified builder Brooke Thompson (@sparkygirl), who openly shared her experiences with Keely to assist her with the creative writing process. The two even met virtually for an interview. “Through getting to know Brooke, I was able to understand the trials and tribulations that come with working in a typically male-dominated industry and later articulate this in a way a young mind would understand,” says Keely.
She wondered if the challenges facing women working in construction could directly result from the societal expectations imposed on girls from a young age.
Keely explains, “I researched when exactly children pick up on “stereotypes” and learned these ideas develop as early as five years old, that’s why it was important for me to write a book that could be suitable for primary school-aged audiences. I want children to read ‘Tickety-boo’ and not only have questions but more importantly, to understand anyone can do anything without limitations.”
Sharing this notion, we have gifted copies of Tickety-boo to primary schools across the motu. We hope our donation sparks meaningful conversation amongst peers, whānau and tamariki around the importance of acceptance.
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