Ariana Stuart, Kensington Swan
For Ariana Stuart, joining the industry as a law graduate at the height of the GFC brought its own set of challenges. She took on further study, before eventually getting interested in infrastructure, especially on procurement and project advice and dispute resolution. Since joining Kensington Swan in 2013, she has grown to specialise in resolving construction and infrastructure disputes, including currently working on the largest leaky building claim in the country. In recent times she's become interested in social infrastructure projects and is increasingly involved in performance bonds and litigation.
For Stuart, her diversity comes not just from being a young woman in the industry, but also from her Type-1 diabetes, which she was diagnosed with as a child. Her position has allowed her to provide new insights and views. "Whatever situation I am in, I strive to provide a different perspective on this basis and challenge the 'status quo'".
She says her diversity has encouraged her to foster a strong set of relationships, improving her access to opportunities in the industry. When not focused on work, Stuart finds time to sit on the national advisory board for Women in Infrastructure, giving her the opportunity to help other women in the industry.
Hannah Woods, Brian Perry Civil — Fletcher Construction
Graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering with first class honours, Hannah Woods was determined to seek out a career that was challenging, rather than roles that were more familiar, as a means of further enhancing her leadership skills and continuously improving. Currently working with Brian Perry Civil as a Quality Engineer, on an internal transfer within Fletcher Construction, Woods speaks of having had "a pretty good ride to date", and having been fortunate enough to "not face any blatant sexism". However, she recognises this is not the case for all women in the industry, and acknowledges the transition to a workforce representative of both genders is a slow one, particularly in leadership positions. "For example, on my project around 25-30 per cent of site to project engineers are female, but only 5-10 per cent at the tier above." She says education is a contributing factor, "The only reason I started looking into it as a career option is because a career quiz outlined it as a good option… Being good at science and maths I was generally steered towards medicine." Taking an active role in breaking down this barrier, Woods has delivered presentations to high schools to educate and encourage students to consider working in the industry.
Amy Barrett, Hawkins
As if juggling the giant workload of big infrastructure projects wasn't enough, Amy Barrett did it alongside raising a family. Now National Business Development Manager for Hawkins, she says leading Public Private Partnership (PPP) bids while also being a mum to two young children was the hardest job she's ever taken on. "Bidding PPPs uses every waking minute… All hard enough, but squeezing in time to feed babies, change nappies and read stories definitely took the challenge to the next level." While Barrett says, "it's no secret that the infrastructure industry has a reputation as an 'old boys' club," she sees the benefits in diversity.
As "not your typical construction contractor," she's been able to build a more diverse network of connections, especially with clients in the public sector, where there is greater gender diversity.
She says those stronger relationships have given her and Hawkins access to opportunities that might not have existed if she simply fitted the typical employee mould.
Barrett remains passionate about the industry: for her, infrastructure is unique in its multi-disciplinary collaboration and its direct impact on people's lives, and she sees it as "one of the most exciting spaces anyone could work in".
Michelle Qu, Fletcher Building
When Michelle Qu was announced as a finalist for the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Excellence Awards in 2018, she was the first Chinese woman to have received such a nomination. Qu says that milestone meant a lot to both her and the Chinese community. When she entered the industry 12 years ago she was a migrant who spoke little English. "It was a matter of surviving rather than thriving". Today in her role at Fletcher Building she manages procurement packages worth over $300m for the Puhoi to Warkworth project, one of the country's largest roading contracts.
Qu came from a non-construction background, with degrees in cultural diversity and translation, and began her career in import-export, before using her expertise in international procurement as more New Zealand companies looked abroad for materials.
She says her diverse background allows her to have an attention to detail, a willingness to adapt and a determination to succeed. She sees significant value in getting more women involved in her industry. "Women have a strong spirit, hard as steel, bringing determination, a hard-working ethic, and the ability to perform under pressure. A gentle charm, soft as water, bringing resilience, and flexibility."
Parekawhia McLean, NZTA
Working in a wide variety of roles, including being an advisor to three Prime Ministers, CEO of a major tribal entity, a successful business woman and director on a range of boards, Parekawhia McLean has found she's often been the only woman or Māori around the table. Consequently, she feels she's been able to provide different perspectives and has challenged the status quo in an industry where she is still under-represented in more ways than one. McLean served for five and a half years as CEO of Waikato-Tainui, where she oversaw the implementation of social, cultural and environmental initiatives across the iwi, and was also involved in the establishment of Maori TV. She says in all these roles she is motivated by the values her parents and grandparents instilled in her: hard work, compassion, persistence and humility. Now working in the senior leadership team for NZTA and impacting on NZTA projects and relationships in the Central North Island, she believes in investing not just in infrastructure, but in the next generation of leaders too.
In her family, she gives guidance and support to her two daughters and nieces and nephews. And in her professional career, she takes time to mentor other Māori women to help them achieve their goals and dreams.