International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women worldwide. To mark the occasion, Mi (Miki) Zhang talks about her experience as a woman in construction.

Mi Zhang, or Miki as she is known to her workmates, became part of the Duratec team a year ago. While she grew up in Taiyuan in the Shanxi province of China, Miki attended Curtin University in Perth, WA, and received her Bachelor of Civil and Construction Engineering (Honours) in 2019.

When COVID-19 hit Australia in 2020, Miki returned to China to be with her family and wait out the most severe part of the pandemic. While there, she undertook a two-year graduate program at Beijing Urban Construction and Zhong Nan Group of Civil Engineering Co, where she gained experience in the preparation and delivery of estimates and cost plans for construction projects.

At the end of 2021, Miki arrived back in Australia and began her search for a job. A friend of hers, who was already working for Duratec, referred her for a site engineer role. Miki got the job and jumped right in – first stop, Kalgoorlie, to work on a remediation project at BHP Nickel West.

When the project wrapped up nine months later, Miki set off on another adventure – this time, to Boddington Gold Mine. She settled into village life quickly and currently works a five-and-two, drive-in/drive-out roster, returning to Perth on weekends to spend time with her partner.

At Boddington, Miki works under formidable Duratec project manager Venus Carruthers who has been a trailblazer for women at Duratec since she started with the company eight years ago.

“As a fellow woman in construction, Venus has given me a lot of great advice,” Miki said.

“She encourages me to approach tasks with eyes wide open, to look at the bigger picture and not
focus on just one thing – she tells me to look around, to dig deeper.

“Venus has also told me that in a manager’s role, I will need to learn to deal with different personalities – this advice has really helped me.”

Miki is a champion for women in construction and believes they have much to offer.

“Women have a different way of communicating and a different way of thinking – they can show a lot of empathy,” she said.

“We might put forward ideas that haven’t been previously considered and this may lead to improvements that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred.”

As Miki’s experience in construction has been a positive one so far, she encourages other women to
consider entering the industry, particularly because of the diversity of roles. Miki has always been
mathematically minded, but that doesn’t mean the only choice for women is finance or accounts (even though both are paths to rewarding careers).

“There are all kinds of roles women can choose from in the construction industry,” Miki said.

“And Duratec is happy to help you take the first step.”