Fulton Hogan has engaged some of Australia’s best AFLW athletes to diversify its workforce and provide much-needed opportunities.
Phoebe Monahan arrived in Melbourne to join the Richmond Tigers’ AFLW team, looking for more than on-field results.
Monahan wanted to set herself up for life after football. The defender arrived at Punt Road from the GWS Giants and noticed her teammates were employed at Fulton Hogan.
“I saw the opportunity come up and, as a qualified carpenter, thought it was a good opportunity to get back into construction and back on the tools,” she said.
“I jumped at it, and that started my journey.”
Tayla Stahl was one of Monahan’s teammates who embraced Fulton Hogan’s pathway program.
“I kind of fell into it, the opportunity came up to work at Fulton Hogan through Richmond and jumped at it,” she said.
“Three or four years later, I am still working with them and enjoying it.”
Grace Egan was in a similar situation after joining Richmond from Carlton’s AFLW side.
After 12 games for the Tigers last season, Egan has found an opportunity to be set up with the help of an employer who values flexibility.
“There are a lot of challenges that come with playing AFLW, and it’s a tough conversation we have to have with our employers to find that balance,” she said.
“It makes a huge difference to have a stable job outside of football because football isn’t forever.”
More than their feats on-field, the three athletes’ pathways into industry could be the blueprint for greater diversity.
FLEXIBILITY IS KEY
Many industries, quarrying and construction included, are eager to diversify their workforces.
Data shows that these industries have remained mainly male-dominated.
A report from Ernest and Young, Women in Mining 2022: You can’t be what you can’t see, showed mining and construction have the lowest proportion of female employees.
Fulton Hogan operations manager Marty Roszka said flexible working conditions would only help to diversify the industry.
He pointed to flexible hours, reduced working hours or job sharing as potential methods to increase flexibility.
“The stigma in construction is long hours and a shortage of resources at the moment, not only for general labourers but also skilled labourers.
“We need to find new ways to bring people into the business if we want to make the business and industry more diverse.”
Fulton Hogan has been a long-time partner for Richmond AFLW’s team with its flexible pathway programs. AFLW players have very particular circumstances for employers to meet. They need access to flexible schedules and certain days off and can be out of work with injury as they juggle professional sports and a day job.
This is why Fulton Hogan has provided flexible working opportunities in the season and full-time work during the off-season.
Fulton Hogan has supported players after they’ve left Richmond to access opportunities in other states as they move clubs.
Monahan travelled across Australia for an AFLW opportunity again in 2021 after being delisted by Richmond.
The defender found a home at the Brisbane Lions’ AFLW side. Fortunately, Fulton Hogan provided her with the support and flexibility to continue pursuing construction in the Sunshine State.
“Moving to Brisbane was definitely a big deal,” she said.
“They’ve been flexible and supportive with us girls and the training load we have as semi-professional athletes trying to maintain a career.
“The support to have that flexibility is huge. Unfortunately, some girls don’t get that, and you can see the toll it takes on them.
“Fulton Hogan’s support has been incredibly beneficial for me.”
Fulton Hogan Alliance Manager Dean Riha said having many pathways open to female workers was significant.
“Female athletes make wonderful employees; they come from a fast-paced background, and they’re very strong leaders, and they love dealing with change,” he said.
“The sporting industry is quite cutthroat, especially when you look at AFLW careers. They can be pretty short in nature.
“Knowing that when that sporting career may come to an end, you’ve got that long-term career ahead of you is imperative and is a great outcome.
“If we can expand these opportunities, I think it will be a fantastic outcome.”
Working conditions, including flexible hours, job stability and working arrangements, have been shown to help employees.
A recent report from Randstad showed that 83.2 per cent of Australian workers consider flexible working hours necessary.
While specific industries, including quarrying and construction, can struggle to offer remote work, they can provide other benefits, including job stability.
Stahl retired from AFLW after being unable to get a medical clearance to return to the field. While it could have been a nerve-wracking moment for some, her employment outside of football provided peace of mind.
“I knew that when I got that news that I couldn’t play anymore, I still had a full-time job with Fulton Hogan,” she said.
“The security of that was really important to me.”
Richmond’s head of women’s football, Kate Sheahan, said the stable employment had benefitted the players’ performance and was essential to the club in the future.
“We’ve been fortunate in this partnership, and through the years, we’ve had many players and staff come through this pathway,” she said.
“The flexibility they’ve provided has been so significant to the success of our players.”
“I think they can see the benefit of having more females in your work environment, and they make the workplace a better workplace to be in.
“I think Fulton Hogan has set the tone for employment for females.”