People often ask me, “Why construction law?” and sometimes this is difficult to answer – as it was not an area I chose, rather it was an area that chose me. When leaving university, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I thought that meant that I had to work in the big city law firms, and I thought it meant I was going to do business law. However, as an 18-year-old, I really had no idea. I remember in 2003 I started a job as an article clerk (as it was called back then) in a big city law firm and I thought I had made it. Why? I’m not sure, maybe simply because I was working as a lawyer, or maybe it was because of all of those Ally McBeal episodes I’d watched over the years – because that’s reality, right!? Little did I know! Right from the get-go I was put into construction (the department apparently no one wanted) because I was told there were no positions in corporate. Well, as it turns out, this was the best thing that could have happened. In the construction team I met some lifelong friends and worked for some amazing clients. But more importantly, I fell in love with the construction industry. Why? Because they build dreams! Whether it’s for families building their homes, for the Department of Defence to protect our country, for Transurban to build better roads for us to travel, or other commercial corporations who build gas pipelines, prisons and other facilities – it was all to make life better for someone. Who wouldn’t love doing that every day?!
At the time, the construction industry was extremely male dominated. More often than not, I would walk into a mediation meeting and I would be the only female. And as an 18-year-old, that was quite intimidating. Even just last year, the Top 100 Women estimated that there was just 3% of the building and construction workforce made up of women!
Working in the construction industry, you no doubt need to have tough skin, but you still have the right to feel safe, protected and comfortable in your environment (just like any environment). So, when I was told about Top 100 Women I was intrigued. The mission of Top 100 Women is simple – to build up women in the construction industry. That is not to say that women are better than males, but it is simply to make things more equal. I have never been someone who believes you should hire a woman because she is a woman, you should always hire based on expertise and skills. But I strongly believe you shouldn’t not hire someone because they are a woman – and that is a big difference.
I have been fortunate in my career to work alongside some amazing professionals who have guided me and shaped me into the lawyer and woman I am today. So, when I learned about the Top 100 Women, I saw this as an opportunity to help steer change in the construction industry for women.
- I want to help other woman have a voice to fight for what they want, and if that means they want to work in the construction industry where they may be the only female in their team – then I’m here to support them
- I want to provide legal services in a comfortable environment for all. There is no doubt about it, being a construction lawyer, most of our clients are males. But we want our clients to feel they have a voice and that we will promote them in the construction industry – which as everyone knows is going through an extremely hard time at the moment
- It has also meant that I have become a mentor for the Society of Construction Law to support the younger generation of female lawyers
In the Builders Academy Australia’s news article on Tamika Smith (the founder of Top 100 Women) (7 June 2020), Tamika identified the amazing work that Top 100 Women seeks to achieve:
- Working to determine at risk groups and maximise the benefit of the support through early intervention
- Helping women who have entered building and construction get more out of it
- It is important to encourage trades which include people from different walks of life, from different backgrounds and who have different experiences
- Women generally bring their own attributes – they are great at communicating; they nurture when they need to and fight with passion at other times
I would encourage everyone to check out the article themselves: https://buildersacademy.com.au/meet-tamika-smith-founder-and-director-top-100-women/