'A Sense of Pride' - Women in Construction Q&A

07 Mar 2017

Jillian Rheinberger, a Project Manager at The Building Intelligence Group, tells us why she loves her job.

pic of jillian


What’s your role and where do you work?

I am Project Manager with The Building Intelligence Group (TBIG).  We’re a specialist consultancy delivering projects across a variety of sectors including government, commercial, health and education.  I’ve been with TBIG for nearly two years and am working on a variety of projects being delivered throughout Christchurch.

Prior to moving to New Zealand, I spent over ten years within NSW Government (Health) in Capital Works delivering a variety of projects from new hospitals through to minor refurbishments.  I’m also halfway through studying a Masters in Construction Management by distance and have been on the committee for the Canterbury Chapter for the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) for more than two years.

What made you want to work in construction/how did you get in to the industry?

Funny story.  I’d completed smaller projects and events over the years and the opportunity came up to assist in the planning of a new hospital in my little country town (NSW, Australia).  Many of my colleagues thought I was mad to even consider taking on such a role.  I was primarily coordinating the design process and stakeholder engagement, but then my role developed to include projects under construction until I progressed to a role of managing the entire capital works programme.  It was very early on in the process that I realised I loved my job and had finally found a rewarding career.

What do you enjoy about working in construction?

At a fundamental level, there’s a huge sense of pride in contributing to your community through capital works.  Our deliverables are tangible and create a sense of belonging along with function.  One of the first hospital projects I was involved in brought home to me that construction is about working together as a team to deliver a successful project including quality, cost and programme.  Success, to me, is achieving that and watching people function in the spaces that the team created (with your sense of humour still intact at the end!). 

What challenges do you face as a woman in construction?

There have been some challenges over the years, some potentially unique to women in construction and others just part of the industry.  I have been fortunate though that most of the resistance I’ve felt over the years has usually dissipated over time or with the support of my peers.  Since living in Christchurch, I’m encouraged by the number of women working in the construction sector.  My first 10 years in the industry (in Australia) I was usually the lone female which could be quite isolating.

Are there any advantages to being a woman in construction? If so, what?

It’s long been recognised that men and women generally have different skillsets so I think there’s an advantage to have gender diversity in any industry.  When you think of construction projects in terms of the delivery team, diversity of any kind is usually beneficial.

Is health and safety important for you in your work and why?

Health and safety is important to all of us regardless of the industry.  I fully support the message that health and safety is everyone’s responsibility.  While I sense a reluctance by some to see the benefits of health and safety, it only takes one incident or near miss for the reality of the hazards within our industry to hit home.

If you could give one piece of advice to women thinking about a career in construction, what would it be?

Do it!  There are so many different aspects and professions within the construction industry and it really is a rewarding career.  For me, the benefits have far outweighed any challenges and the quiet sense of pride you get when seeing the finished product is unbeatable. 

And, on my soapbox for just a moment, use the existing networks within the industry.  Learn from others, seek mentors, join organisations like NAWIC and never be afraid to ask a question.