Matildas van Egmond on a better way for women in water

Coates Ambassador and Matilda Emily van Egmond is playing a vital role in inspiring women in construction and water.

Australian sport is undergoing a remarkable evolution, breaking traditional gender barriers and creating opportunities for women to shine. Can male-dominated industries do the same? Coates Ambassador and Australian professional footballer Emily van Egmond shares her insights into the lessons women in these blue-collar industry sectors can learn from women in sports.

Matildas star Emily van Egmond shares Coates’ passion for empowering women. The company’s new ‘See It. Be It.’ initiative spotlights some of its exceptional female employees and aligns with van Egmond’s belief in the importance of role models.

“Role models can help young women set and achieve their goals, often modelling the type of behaviour required to reach their goal, even if it’s in a totally different field,” she says.

Despite the lack of high-profile female footballers growing up – the men’s game dominated the airwaves, so she aspired to play like Zinedine Zidane and Steven Gerrard – van Egmond says she was blessed with a supportive network in her corner.

“I was lucky to have so many good role models around me as a young player—keeping me humble and my dream alive,” she says. This is why I must now give back to young girls who want to be that next professional footballer and live their dream.”

But what makes a good role model? van Egmond suggests they should be inspiring and motivational.

“Good role models make the impossible seem possible,” she says. “I’m passionate about supporting women and showing them what is possible when you work hard, stay focused on your goals, accept feedback to continuously improve, remain open-minded, and be a good teammate.

“These are all important qualities that lead to success, on or off the field.”

But even role models need their own leaders, and vice versa. Whether in a sporting or construction context, role models don’t have to be department heads, captains, or coaches. They can be close friends, colleagues, or teammates who have already achieved certain goals. So, how do leaders create a culture that enables people from all levels to step up and inspire others?

“Leaders play an important role in creating an environment where everyone can thrive and become their best, striving to achieve their personal goals and the team’s goals,” van Egmond says.

“Each team member should feel recognised for their contribution and given the opportunity to develop personally and professionally. The same approach applies whether you are in the workplace or a professional athlete like me. We all need the same support and encouragement to realise our full potential.”

Cracking into male-dominated industries

Of course, carving out a career in construction can be easier said than done. Women comprise only 13 per cent of the workforce in Australia, and support and encouragement haven’t always been the norm.

Progress is being made to close the gender gap – Coates, for example, has set a goal of 25 per cent female representation by 2025, with 22.6 per cent of roles currently filled by women, and is creating leadership pathways for women via its LEAP program. However, women remain underrepresented in leadership roles across almost all industries in Australia.

“Pleasingly though, positive change is happening [in women’s football] with more women stepping up into Head Coach roles. I’ve loved playing under a female Head Coach at San Diego Wave for the past two years – and while I’m no expert on the construction industry, I know organisations like Coates are making great progress in attracting more women to exciting careers in construction,” says van Egmond.

“There are still challenges to create a level playing field. However, progress has been steady in sport and male-dominated industries to address some of the challenges.”

She also believes the success of the Matildas can be a catalyst for gender equality across industries.

“It’s pleasing to see women’s sport get the recognition it deserves. There has been a massive shift in the last five years, particularly in football. It’s only going to go from strength to strength. Hopefully, that inspires the next generation of female athletes to pursue their careers and sends a powerful message to women considering careers in other male-dominated industries,” van Egmond says.

Flourishing as women in the workplace

Embarking on a career in a male-dominated industry may seem daunting, but there are plenty of ways to get the most out of the opportunity.

van Egmond says resilience is vital for anyone tackling adversity and inequality.

“My advice to women in construction is to stay focused, resilient and connected,” she says. “Build a strong support network, both professionally and personally, and seek out mentors and allies who can offer guidance and encouragement during challenging times.”

Having watched the growth and support for women’s football in Australia and other sporting codes like the AFLW and Women’s Big Bash League, van Egmond hopes women around the country will feel empowered to tackle their own challenges.

“Breaking into any male-dominated industry or sport can be daunting, but I think it’s important to just have the confidence within yourself to give it a go and believe you can do it,” she says.

“Hopefully, women can draw inspiration from women in sport in terms of our passion, determination and the importance of self-belief.”

This confidence will likely be met with the occasional doubter who fails to see women in sports or construction as equal, so it’s essential to know how to handle such bias in the workplace.

van Egmond suggests that actions speak louder than words for doubters.

“By demonstrating our commitment, consistently delivering results, and refusing to be limited by others’ perceptions, we can challenge stereotypes and pave the way for greater inclusivity and recognition of women’s contributions in sport, construction and beyond,” she says.

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