by Rebecca De Cicco, Global Chair of Women in BIM
Women in BIM (WIB) held its first major one-day event in Melbourne, Australia at the Immigration Museum on the 27 October 2022 as part of our global series of events celebrating 10 years of WIB.
This event was truly inspiring – capturing what is at the heart of WIB in terms of our discussions, topics and panel debates where we talked all things digital in the built environment, together with diversity, skills, change and the understanding of what a future industry may look like.
With industry professionals speaking from government, industry and academia, the event was an excellent summary of where we are today, and what we can be in the future.
In my role as Global Chair of WIB, I opened the day with the history of WIB and how we have come together as community inspiring change – as this was one of the first events we have been able to host for some time due to the pandemic, the themes and discussion points were relevant to how digital will continue to shape and transform our roles and requirements as an industry.
Our chair for the event, Emily Rice from Channel 9 news, inspired the audience with her professionalism and interest in the digital built environment, focusing her questions on how we as an industry can begin to change and alter the delivery of what we design, build and manage as well as the requirements for the industry in terms of skill and retainment.
Our major sponsor, Autodesk and our insightful regional lead Kelsey Stein also inspired the audience touching on how her roles, her journey, and the work she has actively been a part of, has been influenced by the technologies we have at our disposal. Working across multiple regions and with clients all over the world, Kelsey was inspiring and professional as she addressed the audience in ways we’ve not seen at events for some time
The keynote speech, delivered by Karlee Scott-Murphy from Microsoft was outstanding, she discussed the challenges we face broadly across the work environment in terms of how we work, flexibility and the use of technology to allow for greater efficiencies. Her presentation titled ‘Hybrid Work is just work – are we doing it wrong’ provided key statistics to listeners around employee worth, leadership and flexible working but also summarising what we need to do to inspire, retain and encourage our employees to be more innovative, and to enjoy the work they do.
This is truly relevant to WIB as it provides an outlet to our members around why it is we do what we do and understanding highly innovative methodologies to support the future of work.
We continued the day with a series of panel discussions, one from our Regional Leads across Australia and New Zealand, moving into discussions around government drivers, skills shortages and even our very own Mentoring Scheme, where we invited Mentors and Mentees to the stage to support discussions on these themes. The panel sessions were inspiring and honest, showing that the speakers who did provide insight were able to be open and truly inspiring to our listeners in the environment we hosted this event became.
Our first panel very much focused on the importance of WIB as an initiative in Australia and New Zealand, touching on personal stories and relationships we all have with each other, our roles and the wider industry. This session very much helped our audience understand the impact that WIB has had on each of us both personally and professionally and our Regional Leads inspired the audience by discussing the relevance of the group and how we can continue to lead and inspire change across the digital built environment in Australia and New Zealand.
We were lucky enough to have two other main speakers at our event, Laura Buckley from Rail Projects Victoria and Lisa Hogben who both gave equally inspiring sessions touching on local government drivers for digital but also the wider diversity piece around how we can actively change the approach we have toward equality and inclusion.
Laura gave us a presentation around the Digital Engineering Transformation Program in Victorian Projects. The presentation dived into the realistic picture that Victorian transport is facing with legacy issues, hard copy documentation and thousands of documents which currently exist around these assets. She was realistic in her approach discussing the transformation programme strategy around a staged approach toward implementation and how industry can do its part to help. We all know this is a major piece of work in Australia and the challenges faced across digital are well entrenched in transport clients all over the world.
The panel around Government drivers for digital and how government can support a more inclusive and equal workplace was chaired by myself, but with an esteemed panel of industry experts with Andrew Curthoys, Belinda Hodkinson, Carys Evans and Luke Belfield, all working across government to support transformational change.
We discussed the building equality policy and even around diversity in skills and people all helping to drive change. This panel very much inspired our audience where we discussed not only the drivers supporting government, but also how industry can help to support these drivers around equality. We have a way to go but this panel certainly left the audience wanting more, discussing STEM and pathways to digital careers, diversity in thought and even procurement and project delivery drivers.
Our other panels were equally exciting, with discussions around skills, capability and how support networks can encourage and nurture our industry. Our skills panel brought together industry, government and education in one discussion around what we’ll need to nurture these new skills and provide support to those looking to pivot to new roles.
Facilitated by our first ever award recipient Amalia Athanassopoulos from Resolve Insight this discussion touched on the skill requirements needed to support the future of our digital built environment. We were very fortunate to have the likes of Dominik Holzer, Ben Fox, Fabiana Santos de Almeida and Helli Kotasek discussing their view on lifelong learning, internal diversity initiatives and even how higher education can bridge the gap between existing skills and the future skill requirements.
Our second main speaker, Lisa Hogben, gave an inspiring presentation around her role as a woman in the Construction industry being from the United Kingdom and brown skinned and how she has dealt with challenges in the industry in the UK and here in Australia.
It was incredible to see how raw and how amazingly honest she was, and we were all brought to silence listening to her incredible presentation around being more open and speaking up against our cultural problems in the Construction Industry. Lisa also gave our audience key take aways for how to build a diverse team and the requirements around these areas, and we look forward to collaborating more with Lisa as she also sits on the board for the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) in Australia. I am personally thankful to Lisa as she was so humble in her presentation and her demeanour and left everyone wanting to engage with her as she left the stage.
Our final panel session for the day discussed the WIB mentoring scheme with representatives from our scheme on the stage to support the relevance, importance and overarching ambitions of the mentoring industry.
It was a beautifully honest discussion around how men and women are able to support each other, looking at some of the challenges we face in terms of the barriers to adoption and culture conditions in the industry. This panel, facilitated by our NSW Regional Lead Jenny Tseng gave our audience wonderful insight into this scheme with many people wanting to know more. The panellists included my very first Mentee, Tayler Hubber-Davis, and Mentors Matt Kehoe, Alastair Brook and Marelise Knobel bringing together government and industry representation.
A final touchpoint for our event was our inaugural WIB Impact Award, where the core team, sponsored by Autodesk, nominated an individual who we felt stood out from the crowd regarding her skill, knowledge and views on diversity in the workplace. Amalia and her organisation, Resolve Insight, take pride in employing well above the average of female professionals in BIM and this is to be applauded. We felt she was worthy of this award and will definitely encourage other women to reach out to Amalia as a great role model to our industry.
As our 10-year anniversary celebrations come to an end, and with our global connection, support in industry and regional representation in countries all over the world, WIB continues to grow and support the construction industry in ways unimaginable 10 years ago.
We always thank our supporters, sponsors, Regional Leads and any person or organisation who acknowledges the work we do in making the future of construction bright and changing the mindset in an industry so set in its ways.
I look forward to next year and can’t wait to celebrate 11 years in 2023!
by Rebecca De Cicco, Global Chair and Founder of Women in BIM
Digital impacts everything we do from the homes we live into the roads we travel on, to the places we work in.
The construction industry is, and continues to, transform itself in ways unimaginable and we know that the digitisation of the built environment will help us achieve greater results from the way we design, build and operate— maintaining and repurposing the assets all around us.
The rise of new technologies such as Digital Twins and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are converging the physical and digital worlds in the form of smart cities and connected assets. This presents huge opportunities for tackling pressing global challenges such as the climate crisis, productivity and rapid urbanization.
The challenge we face as an industry is the skill and capability to enable these activities and building information modelling (BIM) and digital engineering processes are just one part of how we make this happen.
WIB wasn’t created to address all of these challenges but rather to enable a diverse and wider reach for women in the built environment to achieve goals to engage with this as there are still major challenges with three areas:
All of our core values at WIB are further underpinned by the United Nation’s sustainable development goals where global enforcement through the Member States have recognised the global importance of gender equality.
Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls stated that the achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities. Women and girls must enjoy equal access to quality education, economic resources and political participation as well as equal opportunities with men and boys for employment, leadership and decision-making at all levels.
In our early years our aim was to connect and explore opportunities for building relationships and harnessing our network to support key projects. Which enforced our core themes. Our first five years built our network and position across the built environment sector in the UK with the next five-year harnessing growth on a global level to address the gender imbalance across the built environment as well as support nurture and grow our skills to be able to share policy processes technologies and innovation in a way not seen before across the built environment.
Our global network continues to expand in regions we feel are incredibly important for growth with even fewer women in these roles such as Asia and the Middle East.
We engage and identify opportunities to go further by extending our work into secondary schools and education networks to break the barriers between what young girls feel they should do versus what we know they can achieve.
Much of our research suggests that the decisions for career pathways for young women are determined by the time they reach high school, so we know connecting with secondary schooling is just as important to us as connecting with industry.
The dilemma we are finding is also identifying the roles and subsequent remuneration to address the global gender pay gap. A vision we have is that policing equal pay per digital roles across our organisations will target this precise problem because let’s face it women generally will not highlight their worth as much as they should do. A key project for us is a research initiative focusing on this exact topic.
As a global community policy is also at the forefront of our work. Compliance toward industry standardisation to effectively be able to trade insight lessons learnt and knowledge is a huge driver and assessing the maturity of compliance or policy toward these standards us a topic many of our Members are interested in investigating.
For me personally, I feel humbled and astounded by just how far we’ve come and continue to go. Supporting growing educating innovating and connecting is what we set out to achieve
What does the next 10 years hold? Unfortunately, as a result of the global pandemic we haven’t moved ahead in addressing the global challenge of gender equality but for me I will continue to strive forward to grow our network to support industry as this was my calling and I’m proud to say I’m a true woman in BIM.
On September 9, organized by the Regional Lead in Portugal Cláudia Antunes, the first national meeting of the group Women in BIM was held in Lisbon.
The aim of this meeting was to establish solid foundations among the members of the group and to become a reference for the exchange of ideas and experiences among its participants.
Included in the 10th anniversary of women in BIM international group, this networking event brought together about 50 participants in a relaxed moment of friendliness and sharing. After a brief WIB presentation, each participant had the opportunity to introduce themselves and share great insights into their personal career journey and progression, covering topics such as the role of BIM and being a woman in construction industry and it was followed by a networking lunch.
Cláudia says that “It was really existing to witness the growing presence of female digital leaders at this event that celebrated the achievements of diverse industry professionals.”
A few days after, great feedback and positive things happened, such as jobs opportunities, partnerships between companies and new businesses. Taking advantage of the momentum and willingness to repeat this experience, let´s keep in mind the message of Rebecca De Cicco, Founder and Global Chair of Women in BIM, “Why not support each other? Why don’t we grow together?”