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Encouraging women to work in non-traditional roles in the infrastructure industry is a key strategy to improve diversity for Citycare Water.
Quantity surveyor Mei Li Wang works full-time in the estimating team and is based in South Auckland.
She specialises in understanding the intricate network of underground pipes beneath Auckland so she can accurately estimate the cost of the new construction, repairs and maintenance which Citycare Water provides for Watercare and the residents of New Zealand’s largest city.
While studying for her Bachelor of Construction Economics from Unitec Institute of Technology, Mei Li was often the sole female student at lectures.
It’s part of her role to attend a project site to see and understand the build and budget costings such as labour, equipment, procedures and planning.
It is common for Mei Li to be the only female on site when she is visiting. That distinction is compounded by the fact that Mei Li is of Chinese heritage and English is her second language.
She is an advocate for women to work in construction, laying the foundation for other Asian women to flourish in the industry.
Mei Li is a determined woman, juggling the demands of two young children and a challenging job, but gaining a lot of satisfaction at the same time.
“When I arrived as a new immigrant in New Zealand in 2012, I was interested in the construction industry as I had some experience in China in export sales and estimating for building material supplies companies,” Mei Li says.
“I was looking for a career with good job prospects which would involve my maths skills and strong attention to detail.”
She says she overcomes any work barriers with an extensive understanding of procurement, tendering, the Building Code, construction law, contract law, and cost estimation.
With English as her second language, she works on listening well, taking a lot of notes, asking questions, and ensuring she uses all of her training in construction to really understand what is required for an estimate. It can be a challenge, but it’s not insurmountable.
“On my first job as a quantity surveyor I was nervous as the only female on the site. But we’re all human and there’s no point in worrying about who is male and who is female – just get on with it and do the job and that speaks for itself,” she says.
There are many types of quantity surveyors – residential, commercial and consultants on the client side.
“Previously I worked in residential and commercial roles, all focused on construction above the ground. Now my projects are below the ground,” Mei Li says.
“When I first started at Citycare Water, I was focused on drinking water projects and now that’s been extended to wastewater,” she says.
It’s important to her that she is working in a company which cares about and focuses on the impact it’s work has on the environment.
Some of the projects she has been involved in recently include the Clevedon Hotel pipeline and vacuum pump station; Auckland Airport fire hydrants and valves maintenance work; the Drury South district flow meter; chlorine dosing container modifications in Hunua Views and Drury South; water sampling points; the Ōtara proactive leak detection project; the Auckland Central South water renewal project; and subdivision civil infrastructure water connections in various South Auckland locations.
Young people are needed to work in infrastructure as, increasingly, experienced staff approach retirement in the next decade.
As part of this new generation in the industry, Mei Li is proud to be involved in ensuring sustainable underground asset management.
“I enjoy working at Citycare. I have good mentorship and good support. I am having a very good time here,” Mei Li says.
“The best part about working here is having the opportunities to work on different types of water projects which allows me to learn and quote.
“I think Citycare is a company which allows anybody to realise their potential ability and energy, no matter where she or he comes from. This company has a good and happy work environment,” she says.
Mei Li really enjoys the New Zealand outdoors and during her holidays she loves to travel and explore nature with her children.
Over the last four years, Citycare’s employment statistics show an increase in women in leadership roles.
For example, Citycare Water has had great success considering the proportion of females in its workforce and the ongoing challenge of attracting women to work in drainage.
Citycare Water and Citycare Property foster many initiatives to support women working in our industry including Girls with Hi-Vis, Women Infrastructure Network (WIN), and the Infrastructure NZ Emerging Talent Network.
Keep up to date with news from Citycare Group
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