Women Just Need ‘A Good Wife’, Master Builder Penelope Haley Says

WHAT women need to succeed at work is “a good wife” says Penelope Haley, builder and boss of Tasmania’s Valley Workshop.

She’s borrowing a popular notion saying for women to succeed as men they need domestic support.

Penelope has won this year’s Master Builders Tasmania Women in Construction award.

She’ll officially be given the honour at Friday’s Master Builders Awards for Excellence, and is one of two women featuring in the awards – live on YouTube due to COVID-19.

Fairbrother Constructions’ Melanie Ransley is a finalist in the Apprentice of the Year and Hands-on Skills Apprentice of the Year.

But with crews in the north and south and a workshop at Westbury, Valley Workshop is an award-winning team of architects and builders making unique, hyper-insulated timber houses prefabricated and delivered to site – sometimes via helicopter.

Penelope says women comprise 12 per cent of the construction industry, and figures show companies with women enjoy higher profits, and better staff health and wellbeing from the diversity and inclusiveness.

The industry can be better promoted to girls in secondary schools and colleges, and female networks leading to work opportunities for women need to be developed, as well as promoting women into decision-making roles, she says.

“But a big one, for older women to stay in the industry, is the construction industry’s hours aren’t friendly for a woman when she’s got children and household to run,” Penelope says.


“Times can be demanding when you have to be on site for handover, and you’ve got long hours.


“A woman might fall down then if she’s got children at home and a household to run.


“If you’ve got a supportive partner or husband or family then it negates the issue.


“But it’s an obvious problem for women continuing in our industry.”


The Wife Drought

Penelope is a fan of journalist Annabel Crabb, and subscribes to her view put in a book titled The Wife Drought.

“It’s a common joke for women in my generation that we all need a good wife,” Penelope says.

“So we need to explore ways to relieve women of the domestic burden.

“Women have taken on too much, and its time to look for another way.”

Melanie, a young woman entering the industry, agrees with Penelope about the challenges in keeping women in the industry. especially as they age.

“Something we see is that women don’t hang around very long in the industry,” Melanie told 7 Tasmania News at an event to highlight a $2.5 million state government initiative to promote women into male-dominated fields.

Master Builders Executive Director Matthew Pollock said: “It’s vital we are providing the mentoring, providing the support through those initial years, through the apprenticeships, to make sure we can boost these completion rates.”

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Valley Workshop was recently awarded a $90,000 business innovation grant to improve production efficiency at their sustainable houses workshop. It claims to be the only Australian company building flat-pack hyper-insulated houses.

The business bought a computer-precision cutting machine with a nine-meter bed that allows holes to be cut on building components, to take in windows and the like, within tolerances of 0.5mm.

“The machine’s precision allows for the building to made more efficiently in the workshop and assembled more efficiently on site. It increases your capacity to deliver your product – securing more jobs,” Penelope says.