Reflecting on her career of over 15 years within the construction industry Joanne Treacy, the new Head of Southern Region Services with the CIF, is enthusiastic about the challenge ahead.
“There is a passion and pride within this industry. That hunger to improve the world we live in,” she says. “The world around us is a built environment and it’s the industry that builds it.”
Her focus now is to listen to the members and their concerns.
“Members make up the CIF, we have to listen to them and I intend to be a reliable and consistent support to our members. Everyday I need to prove my reliability to our members and I look forward to doing just that,” she adds.
Consistency is key for Joanne, as she says, trust is something to be earned. She’s aiming to do that with members in her first year.
“I’m energised,” she says. “There is still lots to achieve and I believe all of it is
within reach to achieve.”
Working on the industry-wide level that the CIF operates in represents new terrain but she describes unflinchingly the responsibility of her role and the expectations of those she represents.
“As Head of Southern Region Services with CIF my responsibility is to the Southern Region that I call home and to the members who share that same home with me.”
Looking forward to the International Women’s Day Conference hosted by the CIF on March 8, and commenting on the theme of this month’s CIF Construction magazine focusing on women in construction, she says: “There is a huge challenge in the industry to address the gender imbalance in construction.”
She is confident the industry has the ability to tackle that challenge but it will require an honest review of how things currently stand.
“Anecdotally, even in my own experience in HR we would have advertised year long for engineering roles and in a year you might only see two women apply.
“It’s one thing to say the industry isn’t hiring enough women but the fact is you look before that stage at how many young women are pursuing construction related fields of study.
“You need to look further still to find that at the earliest educational level girls are not being provided with the same access or opportunities to pursue the underlying education that could facilitate an entry into the construction industry.”
She adds: “It really is from a primary level that the world view needs to be opened up to all younger people to ensure they’re not being funnelled away from the rewarding careers that are available in the construction industry.”
That is not to say that these societal pressures are entirely at fault for the level of women entering the industry. These pressures, Joanne makes clear, do not abdicate the responsibility of the industry to address gender imbalance at the top.
The glass ceiling
“Is there a glass ceiling for women in the industry?” she asks. “There are unique challenges that face women at every milestone of their life that we need to examine the impact that has on career progression.”
Whether it lies in the decision to start a family or the natural aging process.
“Only until recently it was taboo in Ireland to speak about menopause, so we need to talk about and address the impact that can have on women progressing their career in the industry.”
She notes while this is not unique to construction, the nature of the industry as a traditionally male-dominated work environment creates an imbalance on the stalling impact that can have on a woman’s career when compared to that of a man’s.
“Ultimately, career progression is based on merit, the best person for the job, man or woman, should get the job. It is possible though to have greater representation and that should be pursued.”
Has she ever felt like a minority working in construction? “Well the more obvious answer is to say that yes I was a minority and so I did notice and feel that but a more pertinent question would be to ask if I was ever made to feel like my opinion, my contribution, was less valued because I am a female?
“The answer to that is no.”
It may have been luck, she admits, that her personal experience is of being treated with respect and equal dignity in the industry, for 15 years with EPS Group and now with the CIF.
“This is a changing world and there is a greater recognition that women are just as capable as men,” she adds.
The potential, Joanne Treacy agrees, of a woman or man is the same, it’s just about whether that potential is met.
“It’s about balance of having male and female views, because everybody’s views is important and nobody can think of everything so you need balance if you want to build holistically.”