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What is the one thing you find most challenging working in a male dominated industry? Keirra: The lack of respect - I find people don’t make eye contact when I’m talking to them, they interrupt, act disinterested, or will only address my husband. I feel that there’s a misconception that I’m tagging along in my husband’s company, when in reality not only am I the main decision maker, but I’m also responsible for creating all of the systems, procedures, policies, as well as the setting up and managing of the accounts, administration, legal, HR, projects, website, business development, set up of two offices and even IT before deciding to hire an IT company.

Empowering women to thrive in the construction industry


mesh Jethwani, Government Projects & Programs Manager caught up with Keirra Rushford, Director Certifying Solutions; Wendii Williams, Human Resource Manager A W Edwards; and Victoria Kennedy, Formwork Sales Representative Waco Kwikform Group on their personal journey as empowered women. What is “Women’s Empowerment?” Is this about gender equality, or is it more than that? Keirra: Women’s Empowerment is about recognition from both genders. It’s about women being recognised for, and realising themselves, how much they contribute to all aspects of work/ business, family and life overall, and to also start backing themselves for the significant impact they have. I feel that as women, a lot of us don’t realise how much we are juggling and holding together all at once because it has just become the norm for us.


MBA NSW | Issue Two | April/May 2018

Wendi: It’s more than gender equality. It is about being able to make individual choices in your life that change your life. It’s wanting more and achieving it. Victoria: Empowerment is the ability to make your own choices, having the ability to have power or control/ ownership. Yes, I do believe Women’s Empowerment is about gender equality and when given the same opportunity to participate, I think a higher equality between men and women can be established. When you close your eyes and imagine an empowered woman, what do you see? Keirra: For some reason Cleopatra comes to mind. An empowered woman would be standing tall, hands on hips and head held high - taking life by the horns, instead of sitting on the sidelines. Picking herself back up every time she falls and pushing on no matter what adversity comes her way – and not…giving…up…

no matter what! Wendi: Someone that is strong and resilient – knows her “mission”. Victoria: independence. What are the qualities of an empowered woman? And how can women be empowered while maintaining their femininity? Keirra: I believe the qualities of an empowered woman are confidence, self-awareness, positivity, authenticity and drive. Be assertive and never lose your cool, because she who remains calm wins. Wendi: Remain who you are and what you believe in. Don’t change your personality to be accepted. If you are a professional and work fairly, things will happen naturally. Victoria: Independent financially, educated, resourceful and inclusive. Femininity is a socially constructed concept in my mind.

Wendi: Nothing currently, however over the years generally finding a good mentor. Networking is great but sometimes having someone you can work closely with is key. Victoria: We are not given the respect to enable the same bargaining power. Tell us a little bit about your own personal path of empowerment? What was significant? Kerirra: My own personal path of empowerment is fairly long, but what I found significant was my struggles with anxiety. Prior to starting Certifying Solutions with my husband, I worked for a company where I was subjected to sexual harassment, nepotism and bullying. This, coupled with a few other events led me to lose my selfconfidence, self-respect and sense of worth. Certifying Solutions took off a lot sooner than anticipated, and in addition to this I decided to start a second company. I had to learn all about planning, legislation, council requirements etc along the way, on top of building the foundations for what Certifying Solutions is today. This involved working 18 to 20 hour days including weekends, and making a lot of personal sacrifices. I had never fully dealt with the effects my previous job had on me, coupled with the speed at which the business was progressing, and about a year ago my anxiety was so

bad that I couldn’t leave the house. The mind is a pretty powerful thing and it was the scariest thing I have experienced. I knew I had no other choice but to keep pushing on, and took Valium every day for a couple of months to help me get through. I struggled the most with social interactions and especially meetings, and I constantly let people push my boundaries in order to be accommodating. Running a business

successful than a male leader does? Keirra: I don’t feel the characteristics are gender based. I believe good characteristics of all leaders to be assertiveness and self-awareness, at the same time as also being kind hearted, a hard worker, have a sense of humour and the ability to take on constructive feedback. constructive feedback. Wendi: Every individual is different when it comes to their leadership style – male or female doesn’t come into it. To be a good leader you need to lead by example, be professional, respectful and transparent, and work under the agreed conditions of your code of conduct. Victoria: Being inspirational, a good example, focuses on their team, communication, humility and fairness. No, I think all leaders should have these characteristics regardless of gender

has really forced me to face my demons, and I realised the only way I was going to beat this was to tackle it head on. I was the only person who could change things so I put myself into more situations that made me feel anxious, instead of avoiding them, and I changed my lifestyle and focused on learning as much as possible to build my confidence back up again. The difference to how I feel today is huge compared with a year ago, I still have anxiety but I have learnt how to keep it at bay and not let it control my life. I love running a business, and feel it was what I was always meant to do, and I’m excited to continue to grow it and learn from it as well as helping other people tackle their mental health issues along the way. Wendi: Returning to a full time managerial role and accomplishing professional and personal goals whilst raising a family Victoria: After many years I am only now starting to realise self-worth and I am working towards goals with more confidence and with purpose. What do you regard as the characteristics of a good female leader? Does a female leader need different characteristics to be

Do you think men play an important role in supporting empowered women? How have the male figures in your life supported you? Keirra: Men definitely play an important role in our lives, whether they are our partner, relative, colleague, friend or employer. My husband has always had my back at times when others have tried to bring me down, we have had some tough times and I wouldn’t be where I am now without his support. There are so many other supportive male figures in my life that I wouldn’t be able to fit in here! Two of them being my grandad and stepdad – who have always put the women in the family first, even if they haven’t been so well themselves (and despite us driving them a little nuts at times!). I can always rely on them to ‘tell it how it is’. Another supportive male figure in my life was a CEO I worked for many years ago, who recognised I wasn’t on the right path, and who organised for a career adviser to come and talk to me. He is responsible for me making the decision to move from Canberra to Sydney at age 17 and get into the big city to pursue some sort of career. His support and encouragement inspire me every day to keep going and Issue Two | April/May 2018 | MBA NSW




Wendi: A fantastic refresher – we can become stagnant without intention – so this forum has revived the general ideals of my goals and achievements and work principles Victoria: It has helped me realise that I have a voice, I should be heard, I have a lot to contribute and I am an asset to any organisation. Since participating in the Empowering Women to Thrive in The Construction Industry 7-Stage Program, how would you support other women to live empowered lives?

to always strive to be the best version of me. Unfortunately, he passed away before I had the chance to thank him for putting up with me and for believing in what I was capable of. Thank you Brian (former CEO of the Australasian Railway Association). Wendi: Absolutely. My husband is a great support person, we have worked in unison in raising the family throughout our work commitments. In my current role I have a fully supportive Director who works in partnership in the Human Resources domain. Victoria: Yes, I think it is very important - however all people should be supportive regardless of gender. The people in my life support my abilities and ideas, they encourage my independence and participation. Which female leader do you hold in high regard and why? Keirra: To be honest, I don’t really know much about many of the female leaders out there, but one who comes to mind a lot is Oprah Winfrey - because she came from nothing and is now one of the most successful people in the world. Instead of letting the adversities defeat her, she rose above and has helped a lot of people along the way. I grew up with a single mum who also did it tough working and going through uni while raising myself and my sister, we lived in government housing and relied a lot on donations from charities throughout


MBA NSW | Issue Two | April/May 2018

Keirra: Communication! And by sharing my experiences and struggles in the hope that others can learn something from them that assists them on their own path of Empowerment. Too often people struggle in silence and don’t speak up. I will definitely be encouraging more women, and people in general, to take action to better themselves and their lives.

childhood. Knowing that there are successful people out there who have done it tough along the way definitely makes me believe that your past does not dictate your future unless you allow it to. would have faced along her journey. Inst Wendi: Julie Bishop – she is confident, factual, professional, works in a cut-throat environment and seems to maintain a complete and composed “calm”. Victoria: Zaha Hadid – Architect. She didn’t see herself as a woman or minority architect. She saw herself as an Architect. However, if the “Woman Architect” label helped or inspired other women she was supportive of that. I think it is important to not put gender labels on ourselves. We as individuals can accomplish anything. Name two skills you would like to improve in yourself as a female leader? Keirra: I would love to improve my skills in having difficult conversations, and public speaking (my worst fear!) Wendi: I only have one — to be involved and understand the technical complexities of construction more rather

Don’t spend your time trying to please everybody and don’t allow people to push your boundaries for the sake of being accommodating. I’ve also found the audio book The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins to be a life changer and highly recommend it to everybody.

Wendi: I would encourage women to just be themselves – if you know your job / role then it doesn’t matter what gender you are. Believe in yourself and your role – generally the other stakeholders have their own issues as well. In the end no one will ever mind doing business or working with someone that knows what they are doing.

Wendi: Head up – Shoulders back.

Victoria: By encouraging and showing other women what true inspirations they all are.

Victoria: Educate yourself and participate in everything that you want to do. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you.

What advice or suggestions can you give to women walking the path of empowerment?

What is your vision or hope for women around the world?

Keirra: Be yourself and look after yourself! Make sure that your ‘cup remains full’ so that when you are giving, you give from your overflow. When your cup is empty, so are you. It’s OK to say no when others are asking too much or if the answer in your head isn’t a solid yes. Notice when people in your life are taking from you without knowing how to give in return, or even how to receive what you’re giving with respect and gratitude.

Keirra: I hope for women to start supporting each other more, instead of tearing each other down. My vision is to see more women leading alongside men, equality in opportunity between both genders is a must. Wendi: Definitely more education for those that have less opportunity currently. Victoria: That communities, businesses and nations offer more programmes/ policies to support empowering women.

than having a reasonable awareness. Victoria: Time management and communication. How has the Empowering Women to Thrive in The Construction Industry 7-Stage Program assisted you as a woman to be more empowered and assertive in your role? Keirra: Caryn Walsh is a great role model and I admire how she walks into a room and immediately commands respect. The Empowering Women to Thrive course has been the best course I’ve done, I’ve learnt how to be a better leader, a better listener and a better communicator. I’ve also learnt to back myself. The course has given me many tools and a tonne of information that I am currently implementing in my business. I still have a lot of learning and growing to do, I just need more hours in the day!



P (02) 9608 6199 F (02) 9608 6299 W Unit 14-15 274-276 Hoxton Park Road Liverpool, NSW 2170

Issue Two | April/May 2018 | MBA NSW



Your favourite empowering quote from an inspirational person?


internal feeling of becoming an Australian Prime Minister?

Keirra: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

How do you take care of yourself everyday so that you stay balanced and centred?

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

Keirra: Daily meditation and yoga, getting outside during lunch time instead of eating at my desk, eating LOADS of veggies, and making time to do things I love outside of the business. I’ve just recently become vegan – which is funny to say because I used to be very judgemental of the vegan diet and loved

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

– Maryanne Williamson

Victoria: “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” – John F Kennedy If you had an opportunity to interview an empowered woman, who would you interview and what would be the main question you would ask? Keirra: I would love to be able to interview as many empowered women as possible, particularly business women! The main question I would ask them would be “what helped keep you going during times of struggle when all you wanted to do was give up?”

meat/dairy, but I have felt so much better since I stopped eating those things. It all came about after having some gut issues due to not looking after myself the past few years so I’ve had to remove gluten and a few other things from my diet as well. It’s made me realise how important diet and exercise is, it really needs to be everyone’s number 1 priority! We can be so quick to pop pills these days without first changing our lifestyle. Sometimes life gets hectic, and I fall off the band wagon, but I keep putting myself back on there and try not to beat myself up about it too much. Wendi: Eat well, try to get as much sleep as possible and exercise – maintains mental and physical condition when managing many day to day issues.

Wendi: Madonna – I don’t necessarily like her as an artist but I would like to interview her because she has pushed every boundary, has capitalised on her persona, has smashed gender stereotypes – all be it unapologetically.

Victoria: Allocate a small moment every day to be alone to breathe and relax my mind.

Victoria: Julia Gillard – What was the

Being able to help other people to grow


MBA NSW | Issue Two | April/May 2018

Happy customers, happy staff and having a reputable company – our goal of being the Private Certifier of choice for NSW/ ACT, and an employer of choice as well. Our staff – because they are all smashing goals together and being the best team we could ask for. Getting out in nature, which allows me the time to reflect on all aspects of my life and the business, and space to think about what my next steps are, and what improvements/ changes need to be made. I’m also inspired by other business owners, people who have done it tough and who are now succeeding. I love hearing about the challenges they faced and how they dealt with them.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Wendi: “You should never accept anything less than that which you feel you deserve.” – unknown

and succeed every day, and seeing them make changes for the better because I have influenced or inspired them in some way.

What inspires you? Keirra: So many things!

My grandma, who was paralysed from the waist down and told she would never walk again, is walking today. She has also been through 9 brain operations and a stroke, and is still the most determined lady I know. She doesn’t let anything (or anyone) stop her! If she can get through that, then I can get through anything. The most significant inspiration though, would be the constant realisation that I don’t want to be at the end of my life and regret the life that I had or the opportunities I missed. Wendi: New challenges. I love to achieve. I have to personally see achievement happening – this keeps me motivated and hence inspires me to move onto other challenges. Victoria: Courageous efforts by people who have purpose and the will to succeed. The “Economic Empowerment & Leadership of NSW Women In MaleDominated Trades” project is supported by the NSW Government through Women NSW. Caryn Walsh, Empowering Women to Thrive

ASBESTOS TRAINING MBA Ulladulla held an Asbestos Removal and Supervisors course in March. This course is designed to help you learn how to identify and dispose correctly of asbestos and material containing asbestos in a safe and correct way to ensure the safety of both you and the people around you are protected.


COUNCIL DA DELAYS O ver the past few months, there has been a lot of discussion at Division Meetings from members having issues with their Council on delays to DAs.

Everyone is well aware the building industry, not just in the Southern Regions but many regional areas is going through a major growth and one would clearly expect the Councils to offer a much faster and more efficient approval system in processing plans to meet the demands. This issue has been a concern for members for many years and is still an ongoing concern. The Southern Regions have invited guests from a number of Councils who have accepted our invitation to attend Division Nights to listen to the concerns members have and to try to work together to make things flow much better.

MBA support for Tathra T

he Master Builders Far South Members with the guidance of MBA Council of Management Representative Chris Briggs have come together to offer assistance where needed to those families who were affected by the devastating fires on Sunday 18th March in Tathra where over 70 houses were damaged or completely destroyed. The MBA Shoalhaven Division President Bill Stephens, Committee and Members agreed to donate $5,000 to the Mayoral Appeal to assist where possible.



Empowering Women To Thrive In The Construction Industry  

The personal journey of three empowered women working in a male dominated environment and their passion for the Building and Construction In...

Empowering Women To Thrive In The Construction Industry  

The personal journey of three empowered women working in a male dominated environment and their passion for the Building and Construction In...