Women dominating ACT building boardrooms

Katrina Condie12 May 2021
Shelley Mulherin and Grace Ferreira on building site

ACT Strata Community Association president Shelley Mulherin (left) and Master Builders Association of ACT president Grace Ferreira are leading the charge in the property and construction industries. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Women are sitting at the head of the table in many boardrooms around Canberra, with gender bias being thrown out the window in the traditionally male-dominated building, construction and real estate industries.

Grace Ferreira has been the Master Builders Association of ACT president for almost five years, and is the first female non-executive board member of Master Builders Australia in the organisation’s 130 year history.

She also sits on the board of the ACT Government’s Training Fund Authority and the ACT Regional Building and Construction Industry Training Council.

Ms Ferreira said she is thrilled to see more women becoming involved in the building and construction industry, both as tradespeople and stepping up to leadership roles.

“It’s wonderful to see more women joining boards and committees,” she said.

“Women have always worked hard behind the scenes, but now we’re seeing more women making decisions and being out in the field. We need to encourage more of that.”

The Master Builders Australia chief executive officer is also a woman, with Denita Wawn holding the position since March 2017.

ACT Strata Community Association (SCA) president Shelley Mulherin took the helm six months ago and said seeing women around the boardroom table in the ACT “is a real statement around moving away from gender biases”.

“Having the opportunity to be part of shifting some of those social perceptions is energising for me,” she said.

Ms Mulherin is heading up a strata management mock trial in the coming months which she hopes will give up-and-coming female strata managers, among others, increased confidence to advocate for their clients in front of a tribunal.

As a lawyer, she says strata management, like law, has traditionally been dominated by men at the top.

“A change is well overdue,” she said.

Ms Mulherin is one of five women on the SCA Canberra board of seven, along with vice president Nina Cannell and treasurer Rhonda Yates.

“We have a majority female executive and it’s really lovely seeing these women dominating the SCA’s agenda in the Territory,” she added.

Ms Ferreira said times are changing with women at the head of the majority of associations and boards to do with construction in Canberra.

“Having diversity on a board – not just women, but a range of people with different experience and ideas – makes it more wholesome,” she explained.

“When I started in the industry 30 years ago, it was very different. You still get the occasional people that will never accept women doing what is supposedly a man’s job, but overall I’ve always felt very welcome.

“In fact, it was men who pushed me to become president of the MBA.”

The organisation holds training courses to encourage more women of all ages to get involved in the construction industry, in roles as diverse as psychology through to trades.

Both Ms Ferreira and Ms Mulherin have taken on mentoring roles to encourage young women to have the confidence to step into non-traditional jobs.

Women are paving the way in Canberra, with Shannon Battisson heading up the ACT chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects, and Catherine Carter the general manager of Engineers Australia Canberra division.

ACT Property Council’s new president, property developer Arabella Rohde, was elected in March 2021 and she is calling for planning reforms in the Territory.

Adina Cirson is the executive director of the Property Council of Australia’s ACT branch.

Vantage Strata managing director Chris Miller attributes much of his career success to his female mentors.

“My first job in property was working for a strong female business owner who became my first mentor,” he said.

“Along my career in strata I have benefitted from the guidance and support of so many other strong female peers.

“After serving a term as ACT president of Strata Community Association, it was entirely fitting to be succeeded by my incredibly talented colleague Shelley Mulherin, who now continues the tradition of women holding the highest levels of leadership within the strata community, both locally and nationally.”

Original Article published by Katrina Condie on The RiotACT.

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