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InsightBreaking Barriers: a conversation with Whitney Murrie

Breaking Barriers: a conversation with Whitney Murrie

Motivated by her experiences in the construction industry, Whitney Murrie is on a mission to empower women and reshape the sector. As the co-chair of Women in Trades (WiT), a New Zealand organisation that supports and empowers women, Whitney channels her passion into building a better and more equitable future for women.

How did you become the Co-chair of Women in Trades?
I joined WiT as a grant writer in 2020, later transitioning to co-chair to contribute to the organisation’s growth while gaining knowledge in governance and leadership.

What motivated you to join Women in Trades?
I first got a job in the construction industry in 2015 with a modular house building company – it was an eye-opening experience. While I’ve witnessed incredible teamwork and support within the industry, I also saw the challenges women face in a male-dominated space. I heard comments about women’s lack of strength, lack of knowledge to do the job, and their bodies and physical appearance (my own included). These experiences made me realise that we need to drive change within the sector – joining WiT felt like a tangible way to make a difference.

What initiatives or actions do Women in Trades undertake to support women in the construction industry?
A significant hurdle for women entering trade careers is the lack of representation and exposure to opportunities. WiT addresses this by enhancing visibility and offering support. Through nationwide Aotearoa events, we provide a platform for women to explore the industry, connect with professionals, and understand training pathways. We frequently highlight successful women in the field, serving as role models for others considering a trade career.

Our recent event in Taranaki attracted over 300 pre-registered attendees, reflecting the growing interest among women. We also utilise social media, with initiatives like ‘Women in Trades Wednesday,’ sharing inspiring stories from women in the sector. We also advocate for change by engaging industry stakeholders through discussions and workshops.

How have you contributed to these efforts?
As the co-chair of WiT, I wear many hats. I’ve played a key role in securing grants, coordinating events, managing social media, improving processes, and building relationships with industry partners. I’ve also enjoyed connecting women with potential employers and authored articles for WiT publications. One of my future goals is to increase women’s participation at both the governance and entry levels.

How can others, both within and outside the industry, support and promote women’s participation in traditionally male-dominated fields like construction?
Supporting women in male-dominated fields like construction requires collective effort. Ways to contribute include:

  • Attend or sponsor events by groups like WiT to raise awareness and learn about women’s challenges and opportunities.
  • Challenge gender stereotypes in daily life, both personally and professionally, and speak up against biased comments or behaviours.
  • Actively recruit and promote women based on qualifications and experience to create role models and foster inclusivity.

Additionally, men in the industry can support women by:

  • Becoming mentors and advocates for women’s career growth and professional development.
  • Speaking up against sexism and harassment to foster a respectful workplace.
  • Promoting an inclusive culture where everyone has equal opportunities to succeed.

As International Women’s Day approaches, why do you believe it is important, and what role do organisations like Women in Trades play in advancing gender equality and recognition in the workplace?International Women’s Day is a crucial reminder of the ongoing work needed, especially in male-dominated industries. This year’s theme, ‘Inspire Inclusion’, aligns with WiT’s goal of enhancing women’s representation across all levels of the trade sector.

Diversity of thought strengthens businesses, and initiatives like WiT tackle long-standing barriers such as the ‘boys’ club’ mentality by addressing behaviours like cat-calling and the sexualisation of women on site. We provide role models for the next generation and collaborate with men to reshape workplace culture, dismantling stereotypes and creating safer, more equitable environments.

Find out more about Women in Trades.