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!

View a gallery of photos from the day