If there’s one thing Iilish Ross believes you need to be an elite athlete, it’s the feeling of certainty. The rising AFLW halfback said it’s difficult to play your best when you’re worried how you will pay next week’s rent.
So, when statistics revealed that employment for women would be the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Iilish was relieved she had found certainty in a partnership with Fulton Hogan and the Richmond Football Club.
The partnership has not only allowed her to focus on her football training this year through flexible employment, but also allowed her to continue to raise the flag for women in construction.
It’s predicted that women will be disadvantaged by the slow economic recovery, with more than double the amount of men able to return to work by the end of October. This is because the industries and businesses reopening first are traditionally male dominated, construction is one of these industries.
Iilish has spent the last six months seeing her friends and AFLW teammates stress over keeping a job. She wants to see more women enter construction and be role models, encouraging greater gender equality.
“A lot of my friends, especially those who play in the AFLW, have been concerned as their work dries up due to restrictions and it doesn’t look like they will return to work for quite a while,” Illish said.
“I’ve been really blessed to be able to work in construction during this time. It’s kept me in a strong routine and motivated me when football has to take a back foot this year.”
Statistics show that women currently only represent 11 per cent of the entire construction workforce in Australia, Illish would love to see those numbers rise as many look at new career opportunities in the wake of COVID-19.
She said there were many benefits to working in the industry, and with more barriers into being removed with the introduction of flexible working hours women should embrace being on a construction site. “I love the job. I’m always learning something new, or doing something different. I’ve never felt intimidated on site or felt I had to prove myself because I was a female. It’s a really welcoming environment to be in.”
Fulton Hogan Alliance Manager Dean Riha said the alliance has a focus on developing and encouraging more women to enter the construction industry. Fulton Hogan’s partnership with the Richmond Football Club, and subsequent support of its Women’s Football Program, not only provides opportunities for more women to enter the construction industry, but gives the flexibility and financial means for female footballers to focus on their training.
“By offering flexible career pathways within our business we are also providing the industry with role models for young women and school-aged children to aspire to. This will help boost awareness of viable career options for women in construction, and that can only be a good thing for the industry and our workforce,” said Dean.