When Rebecca Welker googled ‘female builders in NZ’ a few years ago, the search engine drew a blank. Rebecca, better known as Bex, was in the sports and recreation industry but says she was spending too much time behind the computer.

“The office part of my previous role drove me mad; I’d look out the window on a beautiful day, and we were all inside, tied to our screens. I was stagnant for 80% of the day.”

She wanted something different. A job where she could be outside and be social. Construction was booming, she had seen some trailblazing Kiwi women in the trades on Instagram, and she was curious. Fortuitously, she was introduced to Troy Jury from Qualified Building Solutions Limited (QBS) through a mutual friend. Troy has three daughters and didn’t hesitate to offer Bex an opportunity. “If you can carry a sheet of gib, you’ll be fine,” he told her.

“Being stuck in the office drove me mad; I’d look out the window on a beautiful day, and we were all inside, tied to our screens.”

Four years on, both parties are enjoying a great working relationship. Bex has completed her apprenticeship, and by all accounts, more than keeps up with the lads with her fitness and mental fortitude. She also goes about her work with an infectious, beaming smile.

“I can do everything that’s expected of a QBS builder,” Bex says. “Sure, it’s a hard job; I don’t want to undersell it. But at QBS, we work smartly and safely… and the team of 35 builders helps with any really heavy lifting required!”

Bex acknowledges her small stature could be a limiting factor in some building enterprises – perhaps those with very small crews that expect concrete to always be wheelbarrowed rather than pumped; or are averse to booking machinery for excavations.

Bex is also a member of the NZ Army Reserve Force, completing twenty service days a year, including some brutal training sessions that test her mental and physical endurance.

“Although throwing grenades around at a high explosives session is cool, I joined up for the challenge. I wanted to test my boundaries,” she says.

Undoubtedly, this has enhanced her onsite resilience, which Bex stresses Troy has also fostered through her building training.

“Troy is good at pushing you with new tasks and responsibilities. Now, I’m at a stage where I’m running a commercial office fit-out, dealing with subbies, orders, site management, and keeping morale high at 11 pm!”

Between building and Army commitments, Bex somehow manages to find time for a few offsite pursuits. She shares a small Mac 360 boat with her partner, and they enjoy the odd Sunday session chasing snapper around Rangitoto Island – although she assures me that they’re both ‘amateurs’. She’s also into board sports, growing up in a family that regularly skated, surfed, and snowboarded.

We should tackle the elephant in the room, though; what’s it like working with a bunch of dudes in such a typically macho industry?

“It’s great. It feels pretty normal. I think having grown up with two older brothers has made it easy for me. I have to admit, though, that it occasionally feels a little bit lonely, particularly in the lead-up to my wedding when there was nobody to discuss dress choices with!”

Bex says Troy has recently hired more women, which she has really enjoyed. Troy has also come to the party with female portaloos on all their sites! And Bex is doing her part to inspire more ladies to take up a job in construction through her social media account @bexthebuilder.

“Construction needs more people – the easiest way is to target the other half of the population.”

“I was initially inspired through Instagram, so I feel like giving back through the same method is the right thing to do,” she says. Her advocacy work isn’t limited to social media, though; Bex has worked with the Ministry of Education and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce on their Careerathon to show that building can be an enjoyable and rewarding line of work for the fairer sex.

“Construction needs more people – the easiest way is to target the other half of the population,” Bex rightly notes.

Employers play a crucial role too. Ultimately, it is their decision about whom they hire, so Bex is passionate about breaking down some misconceptions and showing that lasses can make great builders too.

“It’s not hard for employers to order a smaller uniform, and I’m pretty sure separate portaloos aren’t a legal requirement!”