Investing in women to perform at the professional level

In this month of International Women’s Day (IWD) we spoke to some of the inspiring women in our cricket community about investing in women, in line with this year’s IWD theme ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women – Accelerate Progress’.

Sport and the construction industry – you may not ordinarily put the two in the same sentence, but there’s one woman who believes they’re a strong match.

ACT General Manager of Kane Constructions and Founder of Build Like A Girl, Jo Farrell, has been drawn to all sports for as long as she can remember.

She played soccer and AFL and has always been involved in team sports.

Diving deeper, Jo is passionate about levelling the playing field for women in all professions. This is why Jo, and the team at Kane Constructions, jumped on board as partners of the ACT Meteors in 2022.

It was an important investment, not only in our ACT Meteors and cricket in the ACT, but in women in sport.

When asked why she wanted to lend her support to the Meteors, Jo pointed to their underdog status, but also their dogged determination and depth of talent, nationally and internationally.

Jo met Cricket ACT CEO Olivia Thornton a few months earlier at an event and started chatting about the synergies between construction and sport.

“Not long after I came and met the team, and it was love at first sight; I became their number one fan.”

L to R: Jo Farrell (Kane Constructions), Carly Leeson (ACT Meteors), Rick Bawden (Intravision) and Rudy Kalele (Abode Hotels).

Jo is more than aware of the challenges women in sport face in attracting sponsorship dollars and the same level of respect for their sporting abilities as their male peers.

It’s not too dissimilar to the challenges women in the construction industry, or wanting to join the construction industry, face daily.

This is why Jo established Build Like A Girl in 2020. She became so frustrated hearing stories of women being turned away from apprenticeship roles, or discouraged to pursue a trade career, that she decided to create a movement where this would change dramatically.

Jo’s career spans over two decades and across multiple spectrums of the industry. A qualified carpenter by trade, licenced builder, certified building designer and now General Manager at Kane Constructions ACT.

But it wasn’t easy, she faced a barrage of rejections, all with hallmark comments, like:

“We don’t employ girls”, “You’re not strong enough”, “If you want an apprenticeship, go and be a hairdresser”.

Jo persevered and eventually wore down a builder who offered her a 3-month trial…if she was willing to work for free! She did, and it marked the beginning of a long and challenging, but ultimately successful journey into the world of Building and Construction.

It’s been a similar battle for women playing male dominated sports like cricket, AFL, Rugby League and Rugby Union.

However, the tide is starting to turn, and it’s turning because of people like Jo and her industry, who are determined to make a difference.

“The construction industry generally is a big supporter of numerous sports teams locally and nationally,” Jo said.

“We see an opportunity and a positive investment in sport.”

But for Jo, it’s more than sponsoring sport, it’s about creating awareness and change.

“Female athletes and construction workers have both been a part of history in terms of the challenges they face; in terms of being recognised and having the same ability to perform at a professional level, and to step into those roles.

“It’s the fact that we’re closely aligned in terms of what we’ve had to overcome, in construction and sport, that brings us on board.

“Whatever Kane can do in terms of leading the way in construction and in the sporting realm, to provide greater opportunities for women at the professional level, that’s absolutely where we want to be.”

For Jo, it’s about linking the resilience of individuals.

“The ACT Meteors are a fabulously diverse group of women. You can see their absolute resilience in the way they play. They support each other, even when they’re behind. There’s mental and emotional strength initiated among this playing group.

“And this is what I’m trying to do for young women in building and construction; to help find those people and that network that will help them through their challenges.

“In the world of sport you lose a game and it hurts, but you’ve got to pick yourself back up, learn from your mistakes and keep going; you’ve got to get back out there and play.

“In construction it’s a similar thing, you’ll stuff something up, or something will go wrong, but you’ve got to pick yourself up and complete the job.

“So, having that resilience and having a team around you; that’s where the magic is.

“All of these women have got the skills and the heart; they just need the support and belief to add to the recipe.”

For Jo, investing in women is a no brainer. She’s proud of the pathway she’s built in the construction industry for women but said there’s still a long way to go.

“In 2023 nationally, we had one of the biggest uptakes for first year female electrical apprentices, but the dropout rate after year one is 72%.

“Because of entrenched cultural issues in the industry we lose them.

“There’s still so much work to be done around how we conduct ourselves on work sites and how we welcome women on site.”

And this is why Jo and the team at Kane are committed to investing in women and their professional pursuits, be that sport, construction or any profession.

“This year’s IWD theme has got me focused on what the next steps are, and that’s more visibility and engagement, coaching and umpiring, executive and leadership roles.

“We need to broaden the base, look at those next professional steps and ensure we’re part of the conversation.”

Article by Brett McKay/Dinah Bryant

Principal Partner

Platinum Partner