Women in Construction

The construction industry is an evolving landscape, embracing developments in technology, economy and culture. Women in construction may have been unheard of years ago, but over time, it has become increasingly common for women to partake, diversifying and enriching the industry even further. In this series, we speak to women in varying roles in the industry about their lived experiences and the challenges they overcame to turn their differences into opportunities.

Louise Selby

We start with our very own Louise Selby, Field Service Advisor at CASE VIC. Louise is responsible for organizing the field service team, making sure customers get the support they need onsite. Her incredible work ethic and organization skills keep the field service department running. A real people person, she drives the service team to pull together and ensure customers experience as little downtime as possible.

Workplace Culture

Louise started her career in machinery service in 2005, joining CASE VIC in 2016. When Louise Selby first entered the construction industry, she found she had extra hurdles to cross in her job. “People just didn’t trust me enough to be capable of handling the heavy-duty processes and operations of a construction company,” she recalls. It also didn’t help that the team wasn’t always very communicative and approachable. However, now that she had overcome the barriers to entry and entered the workplace, she was determined to grow and prove herself more than capable.

One thing that she found incredibly useful in making a place for herself was reiterating from time to time that she has been in the industry for quite some time now, and this has provided her with the expertise that she needs to do a good job. Being openly communicative and letting people know that she’s an expert at what she does and actually showing that through her work helped her build trust and respect.

Fighting the Stereotypes

Oftentimes, work is stereotyped by gender. Stereotypes around perceived feminine strengths such as relationships and administration rather than leadership and management can create extra hurdles for women in roles that do not fit into these categories. For Louise, this means reiterating that yes, she is the authorized personnel you were trying to reach, and no, this is not reception. This exchange often takes place over the phone, when she deals with new customers or suppliers and they automatically assume that they got the reception when they hear her voice on the other end. This general attitude was often felt from her own team as well in the early days of entering the industry. Patiently handling these transgressions, Louise has made a space for herself by developing mutual trust and respect, letting people know that she is an expert at what she does and need to be taken more seriously.

Developing interpersonal relationships at work

At CASE VIC, Louise has developed close work relationships with numerous people in the company, especially her team of field techs.

“Letting people in on your life and talking to them about how you have achieved your position helps them share the same things with you,” she explained. “It helps the technicians know that you are here to help them regardless of the stereotypes or gender bias,”

Louise has used this approach to develop an environment of trust and respect, one where you know that the other person, no matter their gender, is capable and confident in their expertise.

Utilizing an Education Background

With a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Louise has brought more to her job role than what is required. “Being able to understand the other person’s emotions, stress, and thought process makes you an empathetic person who can clearly break down a process for them in a clear and constructive way,” she discussed. This empathetic approach has proved to be an efficient way of managing her team.

In cases where the field techs feel under-confident in their abilities to get the job done, Louise first attempts to address the pressure and stress they feel. “This often stems from being overwhelmed, or presented with new challenges.” she said. “So first I would say to them, if you can’t tackle it right now that’s totally fine. I find that this takes a weight off their shoulders, and with that pressure removed they often come up with solutions on their own!” Other times, she has found that breaking down a big project into small manageable tasks for a field tech helps them tackle the job quicker because they feel more capable of doing so. Finally, she also believes in sitting down with her team and communicating constructively about projects that have room for improvement. This helps Louise identify her own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of her team and has helped to create a work culture of mutual growth and cooperation.

Moving Forward

Looking ahead, Louise intends to keep growing in her career and continue to build a more accessible environment. She has come a long way from when she started by gaining her team’s trust and navigating everyday hurdles. In doing so, she has truly made a place for herself in the construction industry. Watch this space to see other tenacious women thriving in a male-dominated industry!