Managing Motherhood in the Australian Construction Industry: Work-family Balance, Parental Leave and Part-time Work

Helen Lingard, Jasmine Lin


A survey of women in the Australian construction industrywas undertaken to examine women's work experiencesin construction. Questionnaires were distributed to threehundred women in construction occupations and 109completed and usable questionnaires were returned.Women were found to be seriously under-represented insite-based roles. Site/project engineers worked longer hoursthan other occupational groups and expressed significantlygreater work-family conflict. Lack of flexibility and theinability to balance work and family were common themesin the qualitative comments made by many respondents.Even when women indicated that part time work options andmaternity entitlements were provided by their organizations,many expressed a reluctance to use them and perceivedcareer penalty associated with this usage. It is concludedthat more flexible work schedules and the implementationof family-friendly policies may encourage more women intosite-based roles in construction. The paper concludes thatthe rigid work practices presently in place act as a subtleform of discrimination. The provision of such policies willonly be effective if cultural and attitudinal change is alsoachieved.

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