Lessons from the leaders

While women are still under-represented in property and construction, Canberra women are making great inroads into the industry.

The local chapters of Master Builders Australia, the Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors and National Association of Women in Construction all have women at the helm. We checked in with them…

Graciete Ferreira

Graciete Ferreira is Manager of Pacific Formwork. Last year, Graciete became the first female president of Master Builders ACT in its 125-year history. She has served on the board for the past decade.

Graciete grew up in Portugal, and says she “arrived in Australia with no real work experience” behind her. It was a case of “sink or swim” she says. Her first job was as an administrative assistant for a formwork company, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Her hardest won lesson has been that “failures aren’t failures” as long as you learn from them. “They are sometimes just very expensive lessons,” she says.

Being elected the first subcontractor and female president of any MBA in Australia has been a career highlight.

“It taught me that you never know what others really think of you because I never thought they thought of me qualified or suitable of taking on the reins of the fantastic organisation that is MBA.”

Her advice for other women considering non-traditional career roles?

“Go for it and don’t listen to the naysayers,” she says.

“There are some very exciting and interesting career opportunities out there. Be a trailblazer and see where it takes you, but make sure you enjoy the ride along the way. Life is too short not to have fun while you are here.”

Graciete Ferreira

Lisa Dart

Lisa Dart is President of the NAWIC ACT Chapter Council, and System Manager of Project Coordination.

Lisa worked in the sporting, hospitality and aged care industries for local and federal government before she fell into construction.

“When I took up a position in a local construction company, NAWIC was a way of connecting with other females in industry,” she says.

Lisa is proud to represent an organisation that is determined to forge an “equitable environment where women can fully participate in to reach their full potential”.

“NAWIC champions and empowers all women in the building and construction and related industries and works with male champions who see the benefits of diversity and inclusiveness.”

Does Lisa recommend a career in construction? The answer is an emphatic ‘yes’.

“For me it has been the industry that just keeps on giving – not only for the people that work in the industry but for the country and everyone that lives here,” she says.

“The Australian economy relies on the industry’s growth and profitability. It provides the jobs, spaces that we all live, work and play in.”

Lisa Dart

Fiona Doherty

Fiona Doherty had her career as a vet mapped out until, aged 15, she was home sick and stumbled across a BBC program about a female quantity surveyor.

“Years later I remembered it as I was looking at career choices and the rest as they say its history,” says the ACT President of the Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors.

A director of Rider Levett Bucknall, Fiona says she recognised early that she needed to “hone my skills and stay focused” to progress her career. Just last week, Fiona was named the Property Council’s ACT Professional of the Year for her outstanding contribution to Canberra.

“It’s taken a while, including three countries and three Australian cities, but I have found a place to call home in Canberra.”

Fiona’s profession, like many other parts of the industry, is not well represented by females, with women accounting for around 14 per cent of QS professionals.

“Leading by example gives other females in the industry role models in leadership positions,” she says.

“Currently the AIQS has three female chapter presidents representing New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT. Hopefully, our leadership and advocacy can attract more women into the profession, because there is nothing particularly blokey about providing strategic cost advice on multi-million-dollar projects.”

Fiona Doherty