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IWD 2023: Encouraging the next generation of women into the tech industry

At my very first job as a Quantity Surveyor, I remember prompting a senior colleague to join a scheduled meeting. He looked at me surprised, stating the meeting was not in his calendar, turning to his spiral paper desk calendar, which, as he rightly stated, did not have a meeting inked in. I clarified the meeting was in his outlook calendar. He turned to his computer screen with his inbox open and declared that outlook didn't have a calendar. Once I pointed out the mechanism to toggle to the calendar function, he was at every meeting following. At the time, Quantity Surveyors were still using scale rulers more often than a mouse.

For someone fast approaching 50, whose initiation into tech was borrowing a Macintosh computer in year 12 to type up assignments, I think of myself as relatively tech-savvy and, more importantly, willing to learn. That is, until I sit in a café somewhere and see a one-year-old dig through the mess of bags in a pram and pull out an iPhone, use a pin code to open and then navigate to their game of choice, all while their parents sip at a latte. I've heard almost all children begin expressing their gender identity at around 2-3 years old. This means their engagement in tech is happening earlier than their gender identity is being formed, providing an opportunity to maintain a neutral gender playing field for those interested in the field of technology.

However, as the one-year-olds are getting better and better at embracing technology, the Construction Industry is still proving to be a slow technology adopter. Technology such as building information modelling (BIM) and cloud infrastructure is commonly utilised on projects. However, maximised advantages are infrequently achieved. Those in the Construction Industry must overcome scepticism and adoption apprehension surrounding AI and AR to reverse the downward trend of the industry's Labour Productivity Index (LPI).

The Construction Industry, including the quantity surveying profession, is dominated by people like me or people with even greater limitations in technology adoption. New critical roles are being developed where the existing industry leaders suffer significant skill gaps. It's an industry reliant on experience for career development; however, technology in the quantity surveying profession is a discipline where that is yet to exist.

While women make up 51% of the population and half of the workforce, they account for just 16% of the Quantity Surveying profession. At a management level, that percentage is even less. While this number is slightly higher than the 12% of women comprising Australia's construction workforce at large - the current skilled worker shortage requires an additional 105,000 construction workers to complete current projects. 

By encouraging girls through to STEM, we can then encourage more girls to enter career pathways like QS, where tech is being increasingly utilised. Tech also allows for more flexibility in construction and QS roles, making them more appealing to women that may also play primary care roles at home.

The current technology skill gap, combined with the workforce shortage, creates the opportunity to bring more women into the industry and fast-track their progression to management/leadership roles. The Australian Institute of Quantity Surveying wants to get the message out to females that huge career opportunity exists in the profession for females embracing technology. Tech will create an unprejudiced path for females to be leaders in the space, as the use of tech, particularly in QS, has a massive way to go. In Australia, it's still in the early phase of adaptation, so there is the possibility for huge growth, huge potential, and it leaves the playing field wide open for males and females equally. 

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