Dr Phillippa Carnemolla, an industrial designer, researcher and design educator, has been awarded the 2018 National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) International Women’s Day Scholarship.
The scholarship, valued at $20,000 and presented at a breakfast in Sydney on 27 March, provides funding for a research paper that will benefit and empower women in the Australian construction industry.
Carnemolla, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Technology Sydney, will analyse high school girls’ perceptions of careers in the construction industry and trade.
“NAWIC is committed to building a diverse and dynamic construction workforce in which women can fully participate. Phillippa’s research will help us to advance this mission,” says NAWIC’s national chair, Helen Badger. “This year, we received a record 19 applications. Phillippa stood out in an extremely close field of candidates,” Badger says.
The other shortlisted candidates were Deidre Dennys, who proposed to investigate the impact of taking maternity leave on women and their partners, and the challenges of returning to work. Sally Hsu and Sarah Zhang proposed to examine the key talent diversity drivers that support mid-career women in the construction industry.
The NAWIC scholarship, now in its 10th year, is generously funded by design furniture, lighting and accessory company, CULT. According to the CULT’s managing director Richard Munao, the judges were impressed with the scope of Carnemolla’s research.
“The research will look at girls’ opinions of the construction industry, and also investigate their parents’ perceptions to understand the role they play in girls’ career choices,” Munao says. “Recommendations from the research results will enable NAWIC and broader construction networks to better engage with school-aged girls and communicate the potential for a construction career for women.”
The research paper from last year’s winner, Sara Prendergast, finance manager with Downer, has been released. Prendergast’s research examined attraction strategies to entice women into traditionally male-dominated operational roles within the construction industry.
“Diversity is a key focus area in Downer. We recognise that diverse perspectives and representations drive innovation and financial performance and create a more engaged and productive workforce,” Prendergast says.
Among Prendergast’s findings are the importance of “cascading reporting” from executive to crew level on gender diversity to “change the view of who is accountable for attracting women to operational roles”. Companies need to “cast the labour net wide” to attract female employees, be clearer on role requirements,and ensure external talent and labour hire agencies, as well as internal talent sourcing departments, have key performance criteria attached to gender diversity.
Communication across the organisation is also important, Prendergast says. “The $20,000 scholarship gave me the time and support to undertake this important research. I’m passionate about giving women opportunities to be self-sufficient. This is not just good for the individual women. The benefit of gender diversity is not just the diversity of thought women bring to the table, it is the culture and governance that creates stronger businesses.”
Munao concludes, “The research undertaken through the NAWIC International Women’s Day scholarship program over the past decade has had a measurable impact on women’s leadership opportunities in the construction industry. CULT is proud to be supporting more exceptional research this year.”