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Women at Work: Sarah Lebner

Sophia Bouzas

“I wanted to spend my life doing something that had the potential to leave the world better than I found it. Architecture, and the opportunity to influence the construction industry, seemed perfect for me.”

Last year’s winner of the National Association of Women in Construction’s (NAWIC) ‘Future Leader Award’, Sarah Lebner, attributes her knowledge of science, passion for art and country upbringing to her success in the construction industry.

“At school I was good at science and problem solving, but enjoyed art and design. At home, on the farm, I learnt to be passionate about the environment, pragmatic, and self-motivated,” explains Sarah.

“I wanted to spend my life doing something that had the potential to leave the world better than I found it. Architecture, and the opportunity to influence the construction industry, seemed perfect for me.”

Sarah was incredibly honoured to receive last year’s ‘Future Leader Award’.

“I hope that when I look back on my career it’s not so much my formal design skills that I’m proud of, but that I was able to educate and influence the industry into smarter sustainable housing, and increase the accessibility of intelligent design services. Winning the Future Leader Award was a very humbling affirmation that maybe I could shoot for that goal,” says Sarah.

As one would expect, being a woman in a male-dominated area can be a challenging and sometimes an uncomfortable task.

Sarah Lebner

Sarah Lebner

“I’ve never stepped onto a building site with a female tradesperson, and often I’m also the youngest there. For people who don’t appreciate how that feels I would ask them to imagine a time when they were the odd one out; perhaps a father supervising their daughter’s teenage birthday party, or being the only foreigner in a restaurant where you’re sure people are talking about you. That’s what stepping on to site feels like,” Sarah explains.

“I think it’s taken me three years in the residential industry to get over feeling nervous and anxious before a site visit. For me, facing the extreme ‘odd-one-out’ feeling has been a bigger hurdle than shaking off the occasional stupid sexist comments, harassment, or pre-conceptions.”

But that was never going to stop Sarah in her pursuit to achieve her goals, and she offered some advice for other women wanting to do the same.

“Just be true to yourself, and ask for help where you need it – the other person will either appreciate being given the opportunity to help you grow, or not be worth caring about what they think of you.”

Canberrans are invited to come along to the NAWIC Annual Awards for Excellence dinner, to celebrate people like Sarah and the outstanding achievements of women in the construction industry.

There are eight awards announced on the night, including Crystal Vision, Outstanding Achievement in Design, Professional Woman of the Year, Tradeswoman of the Year, Outstanding Achievement in Industry, Future Leader, Construction Support Woman of the Year and Diversity and Inclusion Champion.   

Tickets are still available at www.nawic.com.au.

the essentials

What: NAWIC Annual Awards For Excellence
When: Friday, 19 August 2016 at 7pm
Where: QT Canberra Ballroom,1 London Circuit, Canberra
Cost: $120 for members, $150 for non-members
Find out more: www.nawic.com.au/NAWIC

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Sophia Bouzas

Sophia is a local Canberra girl half way through her Public Relations/Law degree. But when she’s not studying, paralegal-ing or interning for the lovely team at HerCanberra, you will probably find her enjoying Canberra’s selection of cafes, watching cheesy romantic comedies with a tea in hand or planning her next adventure. More about the Author

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