History was made in the west Auckland suburb of Whenuapai recently with the build of a four-bedroom, two and a half-bathroom home that was entirely planned, designed, engineered and built by women.
BUILDhers is more than just the build of a new home, according to Fletcher Living Auckland North branch manager Aurelie Le Gall — the woman behind making BUILDhers a reality.
It was a build set to challenge stereotypes by providing female tradespeople with a platform to show what is possible, and to encourage women interested in a career in construction to give it a go.
“Everything from the architectural drawings and laying the foundations, through to the eventual sale of the ground-breaking BUILDhers home will be carried out by a team of more than 40 women,” Le Gall says.
“The idea behind this female-led BUILDhers project is to use it as a tangible example of what women can do by highlighting the diverse skills of women already successfully holding their own working in construction.
“At the same time though, we’re passionate about normalising the presence of women on a construction site through inspiring women of any age to consider pursuing a career in the male-dominated sector.”
According to Statistics New Zealand only 15% of people employed in construction are women. Le Gall admits for the team at Fletcher Living, Fletcher Building’s residential business, finding enough women to fill each role needed for BUILDhers was a hard task.
“We’ve put a lot of time and effort into working with our networks to get the word out there to find women for each job.
“We are emphatic that there will be no compromise on quality or duration on the build and, honestly, it’s been hard sourcing a female crew with the necessary experience.
“But we also see this as an opportunity to give female apprentices a boost. They will be asked to take on more responsibility than they would usually get, while being mentored by more experienced builders.”
Championing women and working towards greater gender balance is a particular focus for Fletcher Building as a whole. In the past 12 months the number of females in operational roles increased by 296, and 36 more women started leading operational teams.
One such female operational leader is site manager Jasmin Lawrence, who has been helping assemble the BUILDhers team.
She says build partners have jumped in steel cap boots and all when it came to helping on this legacy project.
“Project managing an all female-led build has a great ring to it! We’ve already had such a positive impact, with some contractors hiring women especially so they could contribute to building this unique home,” Lawrence says.
“We’re well underway. The foundations started back in June, with the slab poured in July, ready for frames at the start of September.
“However, we are still in need of more women to be part of the build, so please get in touch,” Lawrence says.
Qualified roof installer Liz Watson, who owns her own roofing business in the Waikato, got in contact as soon as she heard about BUILDhers — and she’s now the roofing subcontractor.
“Part of the attraction of taking part in this legacy build was to be able to show that women can do one of the most difficult of all trades — roofing — and that women can do anything. If they can see it, they can do it,” Watson says.
BUILDhers is also being applauded by construction industry bodies Women in Trades, and National Association of Women in Construction NZ (NAWIC).
“Seeing the launch of BUILDhers is incredibly exciting,” NAWIC Auckland Chapter’s Lenie Buis says.
“The team behind BUILDhers should be enormously proud of what they are achieving by empowering women to come together to achieve one goal.
“Without a doubt it will help encourage women to pursue and establish successful careers in the construction industry.”
While completing the Whenuapai build is the current focus, Le Gall believes it won’t be the only job for the BUILDhers team.
“I don’t intend for this to be a one-off build. Many women already believe they belong in the industry, and BUILDhers is giving them the platform to grow that belief.