By Sacha Harwood et al.
Gender inequality in the workplace is a long accepted reality. There are additional challenges faced by women in employment, and we only have to look at recent media reports to realise this issue is very much still at the forefront of international employment relations.
In an industry commonly viewed as male-dominated, Prendos is unusual. There are women at senior levels in both technical and management positions, and a number of women in other less traditional roles throughout the company.
Maree Stevenson, National HR Manager, believes this is a direct result of initiatives to genuinely employ the best person for the position, despite traditional stereotypes. It is her view that industry and company policies have a huge impact on the employment of women.
“Women in management and non-traditional industries, such as property and construction, tend to be outstanding in their field as they have most often had to prove they are better than their male counterparts to compete and survive. Women in non-management positions in these same industires are also often sought-after, but ‘dop out’ due to family reasons or changed circumstances. Often companies will not have the structure in place to facilitate their return to work. This reduces the likelihood of women moving into management positions, and without strong leadership and support these existing patterns will not change.” Maree comments. It is a sentiment echoed by many of the women at Prendos.
It is clear, however, that attitudes are evolving. This is evident in the experience of Marianne Moloney, IT Facilities Manager for Prendos who has been with the company for over 10 years. She comments: “I have seen enormous changes in the way women are viewed in the workplace while I have been here. Women have a far more positive experience now”.
It is Marianne’s view that company growth was a catalyst for change.
As the company has grown, Prendos moved away from more traditional Kiwi company values, where the women predominantly did secretarial and typing work and the management roles were predominantly held by the men in the office. The company has benefited from a wide range of skilled employees and consultants – men and women from New Zealand and around the globe – all of whom have bought valuable knowledge and experience to the company. By recognising the benefits of diversity, Prendos has been able to accommodate and retain these skills and many women working for the company have since had families and returned to Prendos.
Prendos boasts two female directors in architecture and structural engineering, and the IT, CAD design and Quantity Surveying teams are also headed by mothers with young families and the Wellington Regional Office now had its first female manager, registered building surveyor, Hayley Parkes.
Women are moving up the career ladder within the company, and being supported in study and further education, all whilst recognising the importance of children and family life.
Gender inequality in the workplace has been experienced by many of the women at Prendos, however, as attitudes evolve, the skills and experience they can offer are becoming more widely recognised and they are being given the confidence and flexibility to excel in their roles.
It is clear that Prendos is making significant inroads by breaking down the stereotypes and traditional barriers to these non-traditional industries and roles.