Dismantling the Glass Ceiling

March 8, 2021

Pip Smith is an architect, a CADDS leadership team member, Immediate Past President of the BDAWA, a content contributor to The Architect magazine, a bid manager, and a woman. Her career throughout CADDS Group now spans over thirteen years and includes working across an increasing number of service offerings within the company.
At the start of her journey with the Group in 2008, Pip began as a part-time architectural designer, learning MicroStation drafting on a RTIO housing refurbishment project from the company founder, Alan Moody. In the smaller team environment of CADDS back then, Pip had the opportunity to learn about all aspects of design in a practical sense, while she completed her architecture degree. After graduating, Pip transitioned from part-time to a full-time architecture graduate in 2011. This initial transition would be the first of many career progressions throughout Pip’s time at CADDS.

After 2 years of part-time study on top of full-time employment, and with the support of the Group, in 2013 Pip passed her post-grad exams and became a registered architect. Whether it was training on-site or in the office, the continually varying projects and scopes, or the evolution of building technology and products, Pip was focused on being able to constantly learn and improve.

In 2016 when the Architectural Department Manager position became available, Pip put her hand up for the role despite the uncertainty of taking the step from production to management, knowing the opportunity far outweighed any risk. The new position included developing a new skill set, shifting attention from design deliverables to the management of people, clients, and projects.

Her strategic focus, passion for the industry and ongoing support of the CADDS team at all levels allowed the architectural department to grow and tap into new markets. It was throughout this time that Pip also became the President of BDAWA (Building Designers Association of WA), closing the gap between architects and building designers and advocating for a better-built environment in WA, regardless of genesis.

Through the years, Pip assisted the Leadership Team by putting bids together whenever the support was needed. Combined with being a CADDS team member for so long, this experience afforded Pip a great appreciation of the wider network of services within the group, outside of the architectural division. The idea of being across ‘everything’ within such a wide company can be daunting, but for Pip, it was an incredible opportunity to once again, learn more.

Now, as Pip transitions into a new role, both for herself and CADDS in bid management, she is once again starting over in a function that will require unique dedication and growth from her. Pip admits that she will be learning for a long time in this role, but the opportunity to learn directly from subject matter experts – whilst simultaneously providing a service built solely to drive and diversify the company’s growth – was too great to pass up.

From moving into a business leadership role, and a new area as Bid Manager, she believes she can gain as much as she can give. The goal of constantly pushing herself, attaining as much insight and understanding as possible, and constantly evolving in her professional life is at the forefront of why Pip does what she does.

Her ability to adapt and absorb information has propelled Pip’s career, but her driving force is her desire to see growth for women, and opportunities designed to favour people equally. When asked why she would always take on the next opportunity, Pip explained that she is too restless to ever stop learning.

The opportunity to flourish through greater roles sparked the desire to push more boundaries and continue to dismantle, and hopefully, one day shatter the glass ceiling experienced by many women in their careers. When we sat down with Pip, we had a few questions we wanted to ask her about her career and International Women’s Day.

What does it mean to be a woman in your industry to you?

The mining engineering and construction industry is defined by the need for immediate solutions and clients who, quite literally, operate 24/7. When you factor in project deadlines, predetermined shut or build schedules and remote site work, it’s clear that the framework for success in this industry is designed to benefit those who can fulfil these inherently inflexible, yet hyper-reactive requirements. Due to a myriad of social and cultural reasons, traditionally speaking, this makes it a heavily male-dominated space. So I feel like there is still a lot of work to be done in adapting not necessarily what the industry does, but how we do it.

As a woman, what progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?

I come from a place of privilege in that the pathways that work for men in achieving leadership roles in business have also worked for me. Couple that with a workplace that has always supported me in being able to adjust those pathways so I can maximise my contribution back into my work, and I would say that equality in my own personal journey has been achievable.

But those same pathways simply don’t work for many women to reach the same goals, particularly those who choose to start a family – the pathways haven’t been built that way, and unfortunately in this industry, a lot of employers don’t see the value in allowing that to change.

The overall progress feels slow, but I believe that we are seeing that conventional framework to achieve corporate success get challenged as a result of some fairly brutal groundwork laid by the generations before, and now by us.

What has been the greatest accomplishment of your career to date?

I’d like to think it hasn’t happened yet – I’ll let you know at the end of it.

What would you most like to see change around gender equality?

A more level playing field. Leaders to acknowledge and appreciate the economic value of a woman’s participation in a business. Ask yourself what you need to do to change the status quo and embrace gender equality. Ultimately, I would like to see certain parameters in business change on a practical level so that all women might have a chance to contribute the way I have. Businesses should enable people who are good at their job to operate successfully regardless. Where women are underrepresented, there is a high chance that as an industry, or company, or group, that we’re not performing at our highest possible level.

What is your International Women’s Day message?

This year’s theme is “Choose to Challenge” and I’d like to call on everyone I know to take on that task within themselves – including me.

Choose the challenge of educating yourself about gender equality, because the burden cannot be on women to do that for you.

Choose the challenge of not assuming pronouns, because the term “women” is inclusive of all people who identify as female. Choose the challenge to be conscious of your unconscious bias, because we all have some. Choose the challenge to recognise inequality and be brave enough to act against it.

What is next for you?

Being a part of a leadership group in a progressive business like CADDS means that I have a genuine opportunity to affect real change.

Above my own personal development and constantly learning through my roles, I am excited about helping to build policies and procedures in the Group that will shape our future narrative. I am looking forward to the constant baby steps of what my new challenges will bring, and ultimately, I hope they’ll add up to being on the right side of history.

In 2021, on International Women’s Day, it feels particularly important to champion women who don’t just push through the hurdles in their careers, but pivot, challenge and empower their way forward.

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