Fri, 08 Mar 2024

Interview with Kat Nelson

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At Southbase, we have a strong focus on creating a space that fosters inclusion for all. As part of this, we are working hard to increase the representation of women in construction.

One of our own, Kat Nelson, Design Manager, recently joined NAWIC for an International Women’s Day Panel Discussion. NAWIC is a non-profit association of women who work to encourage women to pursue, establish and sustain successful careers in the construction industry.

We’ve been lucky enough to have Kat as part of our Southbase team for 6 years. Over that time she’s been involved in managing over $100m of design work along with the planning of future programmes of work for key education clients.

She was recognised in 2022 at the Southbase North Island Awards with the Excellence Award and was voted for the Supreme Award by her peers. Kat then rounded off the year by being named runner-up in the NZIOB BCITO Young Achiever of the Year.

In addition to excelling in her career with Southbase, Kat is now working towards her professional accreditation to become a Registered Architect; is mum to an active nearly four-year-old; and an adorable 1 year old baby.

Take a read of what she had to say.

Q: What are your thoughts on the representation of women at the Southbase Group?

A: At Southbase Group I am extremely proud of our women in construction numbers, which are currently 27%. Women are in a broad range of roles, mostly in compliance and finance however we have several QS, Senior QS and Commercial Managers. In my team we are an even 50/50 split. On site we have a female Project Manager, Site Engineers and even an apprentice carpenter! These numbers are increasing but we can do even better, especially when it comes to females in leadership or at our regional leadership level. 

Q: Do you see gender equality being promoted actively within your workplace? How does the Southbase Group encourage and support women in their day-to-day roles?

A: This is still something our industry still struggles with, but it has definitely changed for the better over the years. At Southbase Group we have several women in managerial positions and a handful in senior leadership roles. We are all actively encouraged to progress in our careers and all given fair opportunities for professional development. 

Q: What are the main challenges you’ve faced throughout your career and how have you worked to overcome them?

A: Coming from site, it was quite hard for the guys to take you seriously. Especially being on the coal face every day. The best way women can be seen is through knowledge, knowledge is power and when you are familiar with the site and the industry it’s a massive strength. So, I armed myself with all the knowledge. I went through all the drawings and educated myself on the latest codes. Thankfully when I was starting out I surrounded myself with key industry professional who were willing to take me under their wing and support me on this journey. 

Q: Maternity leave is one of the most significant barriers for women entering the construction sector. What has been your experience with going on maternity leave and transitioning back to work?

A: I had both of my babies whilst working with the Southbase Group, and the transition to and from maternity leave was great. With Florence, who has just turned one, I had a set date I was going to come back and ended up extending it, which the Southbase Group were so good about. The first time I returned to work and within a few months had received a promotion into my current role and the second time came back to a pay rise. 

Q: If you were to talk to your younger self, what would you say about the construction industry now?

A: It is ever evolving, keep going you are on the right track, try and do more now as it gets harder with children.