A Woman's Insight into Construction



Leora Skurnik


With a background in sports and business management, Leora loves all things outdoors, community and sport. After 10 years in the sporting & wellness industry, Leora has spent the last 2 years on a building site as an all- rounder.

When she’s not at work you’ll find her running, swimming or surfing!






 

“Sorry darls, are you lost?” Usually followed by a glare up and down my scuffed knees and paint-splattered shorts.


Yep, I’m a tradie lady and in a male-dominated industry , I’m usually greeted with that question upon entering any worksite or timber yard. It doesn’t phase me, I respond with a big smile and simply answer “Nope, I’m all good mate.” And continue on with my day.


I’m a 29-year-old woman and have spent the last two years on a building site and I can tell you this - it has been one of the most challenging, eye opening, and rewarding experiences.


I have a background in sports science and business management and have worked for some of the leading sporting organisations in the country - AFL, Nike and Lululemon. After 11 years in the industry I was burnt out.


So I quit.


I left what I’ve always known. And had no plan. I asked “What would my life look like at a 180?”


I can now answer that: a male dominated industry, whose diet consists of meat pies and choccy before 8am. Enter the construction industry.

My brother is an extremely successful director of a building company and he asked me to help him out for three days. Three days came and went, and two years later, here we are.


My days consist of 4.50am wake ups,11am lunches, 8pm bedtimes and a countdown to Friday 3:30pm ‘knock offs’. In winter we shiver through 3 degree mornings and gusty winds, and in the peak of summer we squint at the sun for 8 hours a day and have drenched sweaty T-shirt’s by 9am. Enter slurpees. Your new best friend.


I spend 40 hours of my week around males and the majority of those hours, performing physical work.


I often get asked:“What’s it like being on site?!”

“Are the boys nice to you?”

“Oh my g-d I’d last one hour doing that!”

“Sorry you wake up when?”

“Wait, he said what to you?”



After two years out of my comfort zone , I can confidently say that I have learnt more about the world, men and gender stereotyping than ever before.

Here’s what I know:


(1) You have to have tough skin. - Physically and emotionally.

You’ll be called names, screamed at and asked to do a job that requires 6 people with 2 of you. You’ll have blisters and burnt shoulders. You’ll do one job so many times that you would trade it for year 11 maths. BUT - most things are better when you break a sweat to get them.

So harden up, don’t take things to heart, and remember that the tougher the skin, the softer the heart.


(2) Ask questions.

I knew only what a ladder and hammer were before stepping onto the building site.I was a fish out of water. Still am. I’ve never been so out of my comfort zone. But no one expected me to know anything , it was the internal pressure I had put on myself. So I sucked it up, and when I was sent to the timber yard for screws, nails, sheeting, glue and a variety of timber lengths, I simply smiled, and said “ok, one thing at a time.”


I knew I had their attention, so whilst they were giving me instructions I asked what I didn’t know. Yes, I made an absolute fool of myself the first few months (I still do now!). They’d laugh at me, I laughed at myself and we moved on. I still ask questions everyday- it’s how I learn.. And guess what - I now know the difference between a self taping and a self drilling screw ;)


(3) Actions can be stronger than words.

As a woman - I’ve had to prove myself over and over again in every circumstance. Be it my physical strength, my opinion or opening one’s mind to the “other side.”

I was often told “Don’t lift that. Leave it to the boys” or “pfftt what am I meant to do with you?” It hurt. It sucked. But it made me sink my heels in deeper and prove that I’m more than my gender. I can carry 6m lengths of timber on my own, move doors, and barrow kgs of dirt from the front hard to the back for 8 hours a day. My actions speak for themselves and silence the non-believers pretty fast.


(4) A stereotype is just that, a stereotype.

Most people think the construction industry is full of rough, tough men who drink beer for breakfast, covered head to toe in tatts, swear, grunt and smoke a pack a day. I can tell you how wrong you are. The team I surround myself with have university degrees, read books, discuss climate change and the ever changing landscape of the housing market. They cook for their parents, they play sports, they delve into the stock market, and they’ve all shed a tear over a girl.


What I’ve learnt from this team and being in the construction world is reiterated in my everyday life.

  • Don’t take life too seriously.

  • Don’t over think, there’s no time for that. It’ll do your mental health more harm than good.

  • Sometimes venting to a stranger is the best therapy.

  • A big hug and a cup of coffee can fix any rough day.

  • Men are just human beings, respect them and they’ll respect you back.

  • And most importantly - how you spend your days, is how you spend your life.’


 


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