Caroline Andrews, Contract Administrator at FDC Construction & Fitout, recently won the Master Builders’ Housing & Construction Award for Women in Building. She has worked in the construction industry since 2003 on small and large scale projects.

Architecture and Design spoke to her about what winning the award means to her, challenges for women in the construction industry, and achieving a work/life balance.

You recently won the Master Builders’ Housing & Construction Award for Women in Building. What does winning awards like that mean to you?

Winning an award like this is extremely satisfying on both a personal and professional level and it’s fantastic to receive recognition for all the hard work that I have put into the industry over the last 10 years. Given that the industry is male dominated, it’s good to see that the industry body is recognising the important role that women play within it.

What’s the greatest challenge for women in the industry at the moment?

Stepping into more senior managerial positions such as general manager or construction manager. Women seem to get to a certain point and then it’s hard to progress further into the upper echelons.

Can you tell A&D about any negative experiences you’ve had in the industry as a woman and how you dealt with it?

To be honest, I’ve been lucky to have not been involved in any unfortunate experiences during my time in the industry. Whilst in the beginning there may have been small conflicts, I think times have changed and men have the same level of respect for women in the industry as their male counterparts and are treated as equals. If you’re good at what you do you’ll get the respect you deserve.

In an ideal world, what would the construction industry look like in terms of gender equality?

More of a balance, in terms of women in managerial roles, would be ideal. If we can get women in those more senior positions, that would be my idea of gender equality within the construction industry.

You like to raise awareness about work/life balance. How hard is it to achieve that in the construction industry?

It can be very hard at times because projects don’t stop when we stop. For example, we might be working an 8-5 day but quite often, projects start well before and after those times. Because we are often ‘on call’ outside of our normal work hours, it’s so important for our mental wellbeing and productivity to take some time out and switch off.

At FDC, every couple of Fridays we have a BBQ in the morning so employees can step away from their desks and take some time out to socialise and recharge. It can be difficult at times to remove yourself from your work, but you have to have those opportunities available to you to take a social break with your colleagues.

What tips for working in the industry do you have that people might not have thought about before?

I guess in my role as a contract administrator, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of other people. For example, I treat the company’s money and resources as if they were my own. So, whenever I’m working on a project I think; “If this was my personal project, would I want to be spending that money or using those resources?” That way, whenever I have to make decisions, I know they are the right ones because I know it’s not a waste of my time or the company’s money or resources.

I also treat people the way I like to be treated and that, in turn, builds positive relationships.

What is one personal challenge you’d like to tackle in the next two years?

One of the many aspects of my role sees me mentoring and guiding FDC’s junior staff and cadets, so a personal challenge for me is to ensure some of those younger employees step up from cadet positions to become contract administrators. I love guiding and mentoring those new to the industry so I would love to be key contributor to helping them get their careers off the ground.