Levelling the playing field in sport and construction

Levelling the playing field in sport and construction
Emily van Egmond, Coates Ambassador and professional footballer. (Image: Supplied by Coates)

As a Coates Ambassador and professional footballer representing Australia, Emily van Egmond embodies Coates’ commitment to empowering women. Through the company’s ‘See It. Be It.’ initiative, not only does it spotlight remarkable female employees, but it also resonates with Emily’s belief in the importance of role models.

“Role models can help young women set and achieve their goals, often modelling the type of behaviour required to reach their goal, even if it’s in a totally different field,” says the Matildas star.

Despite the scarcity of high-profile female footballers during her formative years – with the men’s game dominating the mainstream – Emily van Egmond says she was blessed with a supportive network in her corner.

“I was lucky to have so many good role models around me as a young player – keeping me humble and keeping my dream alive,” she says. “Which is why it’s important for me to now give back to young girls who are really wanting to be that next professional footballer and live their dream.”

But what makes a good role model? Emily suggests that they should inspire and motivate.

“Good role models make the impossible seem possible,” she says. “I’m passionate about supporting women and showing them what is possible when you work hard, stay focused on your goals, accept feedback to continuously improve, remain open-minded, and be a good teammate.”

“These are all important qualities that lead to success, on or off the field.”

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However, even role models require guidance themselves, and vice versa. Whether in a sporting or construction context, role models don’t have to be heads of departments, captains or coaches; they can be close friends, colleagues or teammates who have already achieved certain goals. So, how can leaders cultivate an environment where individuals of all levels can inspire others?

“Leaders play an important role in creating an environment where everyone can thrive and become their best, striving to achieve their personal goals, as well as the team’s goals,” says Emily. “Each team member should feel like they’re being recognised for their contribution and are given the opportunity to develop personally and professionally.”

“Whether you are in a workplace, or a professional athlete like me, the same approach applies. We all need the same support and encouragement to realise our full potential.”

Cracking into male-dominated industries

Breaking into male-dominated industries poses its challenges. In Australia, where women still only make up 13 per cent of the construction workforce, it can be easier said than done to carve out a career in the industry. Yet, strides are being made towards closing the gender gap, exemplified by Coates’ goal of achieving 25 per cent female representation by 2025 (with 22.6 per cent of roles currently filled by women) and its creation of leadership pathways for women through initiatives like the LEAP program. However, women remain underrepresented in leadership roles across almost all industries in Australia.

“Pleasingly though, there is positive change happening [in women’s football] with more women stepping up into head coach roles,” says Emily. “I’ve loved playing under a female head coach at San Diego Wave for the past two years – and while I’m no expert on the construction industry, I know organisations like Coates are making great progress in attracting more women to exciting careers in construction.”

“There are still challenges to work through to create a level playing field, but progress has been steady both in sport, and in male-dominated industries, to address some of the challenges.”

Moreover, Emily sees the success of the Matildas as a potential catalyst for gender equality across various industries.

“It’s pleasing to see women’s sport get the recognition it deserves,” says Emily. “There has been a massive shift in the last five years, particularly in football.”

“It’s only going to go from strength to strength and hopefully that inspires the next generation of female athletes to pursue their careers, and sends a powerful message to women considering careers in other male-dominated industries.”

Flourishing as women in the workplace

Embarking on a career in a male-dominated industry may seem daunting, but there are plenty of ways to get the most out of the opportunity. Emily highlights resilience as key for tackling adversity and inequality.

“My advice to women in construction is to stay focused, resilient and connected,” she says. “Build a strong support network, both professionally and personally, and seek out mentors and allies who can offer guidance and encouragement during challenging times.”

Having witnessed the growth of women’s football and other sporting codes like the AFLW and Women’s Big Bash League in Australia, Emily hopes women across the country will feel empowered to tackle their own challenges.

“Breaking into any male-dominated industry or sport can be daunting, but I think it’s important to just have the confidence within yourself to give it a go and believe you can do it,” she says. “Hopefully women can draw inspiration from women in sport in terms of our passion, determination and the importance of self-belief.”

Such confidence may be met with the occasional doubter who fails to see women in sport or construction as equal. Consequently, knowing how to address bias in the workplace becomes crucial.

Emily van Egmond adds: “By demonstrating our commitment, consistently delivering results, and refusing to be limited by others’ perceptions, we can challenge stereotypes and pave the way for greater inclusivity and recognition of women’s contributions in sport, construction and beyond.”

The post Emily van Egmond: Levelling the playing field in sport and construction appeared first on Inside Construction.

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