An employment strategy with diversity and inclusion at its heart has helped construction company Growthbuilt pivot towards new markets, says Melanie Kurzydlo.
Growthbuilt’s director of strategy and business relations, Kurzydlo was the first woman to join the tier two construction firm’s leadership team nearly three years ago. Since then, Kurzydlo has used her position to drive real and progressive change throughout Growthbuilt and the construction industry.
Kurzydlo is a strong advocate for all forms of diversity and inclusion and is an active believer in the power of sponsoring, mentoring and leading the way for developing lasting change.
Her efforts were recently applauded when she was presented with the National Association of Women in Construction’s most prestigious prize, the Lendlease Crystal Vision Award.
Kurzydlo says she embodies diversity: “I’m a woman in construction, I’m part of the LGBTI community and my partner is Indigenous – I understand inclusivity at its core.”
Diversity encompasses age, culture, religion, sexual preference and mental health, Kurzydlo says, but gender is her top priority “because just 11 per cent of the construction workforce is female”.
“Programs like these are essential, because career pathways are often set at high school. By the time young women go to university they have already formed their view on sectors and made their career decisions.”
The diversity conversation must be firmly focused on the bottom line, she adds.
“Business leaders need to listen and act, otherwise they are putting their businesses on the back foot – you need to understand the power of diversity to attract the best people and achieve the best outcomes.”
She points to one recent study from Boston Consulting Group which found diverse management teams are more innovative, which in turn delivers a 19 per cent revenue dividend.
Growthbuilt has always respected and celebrated cultural diversity, Kurzydlo explains. But diversity has become central to the company’s growth strategy.
“Three years ago, Growthbuilt’s business was 80 per cent residential. Since then, we’ve diversified – and we’ve done it through our people.”
Today, Growthbuilt has flipped its business model, and just 20 per cent of its work is in the residential sector. The rest is in commercial, aged care, seniors living, retail, education and hotels.
“We’ve completely shifted the focus on the business and this has been achievable because of the people we’ve attracted”.
Around 30 per cent of Growthbuilt’s people are women, but Kurzydlo isn’t satisfied. Her target is a 40-50 per cent female workforce and for women to represent over 30 per cent of leadership roles.
“The problem we have is there aren’t enough women out there. It means we have to look harder and start educating women earlier as to the incredible careers they can have in construction. We always employ the best person for the job, but we will look harder to find a larger pool to select that person from.”
Kurzydlo, whose father was a builder and who first stepped on a construction site at the age of three, loves her job “and every part of what I do”. She’s worn many hats throughout her career – from interior architect to project manager – but says people are her passion.
“As an LGBTI representative, I have chosen to be myself every step of the way and hopefully people can see, that by being yourself, you can and will achieve anything you want.”
Her advice to young people rising up the ranks is to “back yourself and be yourself”. And her advice to other business leaders?
“Be open to difference, be open to diversity, and innovation and collaboration will follow. True inclusivity can set your business up for success.”