Danielle Savio is a Senior Project Manager at Multiplex. She’s been with the company for 10 years, working her way through the ranks while being involved in several women’s industry associations and promoting women in the built environment through her own blog, “Gazella”. We spoke to her about what’s inspired her throughout her career, and the challenges she’s overcome to get where she is now.
A day in the life of a woman in construction
Danielle’s role is project-based, which means she spends her week onsite running construction projects.
“My role is about managing site safety, build quality, program, cost and contracts. I also spend a large amount of time managing people – relationships with clients, rapport with sub-contractors to get the best out of our trades and managing my team. Our people are fundamental to the success of our projects.”
A few years ago, Danielle project managed Monash Peninsula’s sustainable student accommodation ‘Gillies Hall’ a highly specialized build, featuring the use of cross-laminated timber as well as achieving Passive House certification – setting a benchmark for student accommodation in Victoria. Her projects have been as varied as student accommodation, to commercial office property, to government buildings.
Following an architecture degree and a graduate role in the industry, Danielle transitioned into construction at her Dad’s encouragement. She admits that she didn’t really know what she was getting into!
“I quickly realized that being on site, solving problems, managing consultants and being part of the delivery of buildings was a real passion. And working for a big corporate fitted with my ambitions to grow and develop.”
She initially thought Design Management would be the only avenue available to her, but a previous manager encouraged Danielle to aim for a Project Manager pathway. She says she pushed for every inch until she was given an opportunity to run a project – and she’s never looked back.
“It was trial by fire the whole way. I worked in every facet that I could – fit-out, design, services, facade, structure. You name it, I did it. I took any shred of responsibility or work thrown my way to prove I could do it. I took on-site supervision roles so that I could prove that I could tough it out on site. There is always a feeling that you need to ‘prove’ yourself as a woman on site. But I had some phenomenal mentors and some great sponsors who gave me the opportunities that I needed to get to where I am.”
Did you know Multiplex support inclusion and belonging at work through several employee led diversity groups?
Learn more about Multiplex’s inclusion and diversity efforts
How the right company helps you overcome obstacles
At Multiplex, they build some of the most complex, interesting, hard and fast projects in Melbourne, and Danielle is proud to be part of the leadership team building those projects. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for her whole career though, she’s had her share of setbacks and obstacles.
As a Project Manager, Danielle has had to learn how to quickly build rapport, but being open hasn’t always come easily to her.
“But there is something to be said about showing people your authentic and true self up front. It creates a great amount of trust with people.”
Danielle also shared that she can be quite self-critical, and her fear of failure has slowed her progress at times. Systemically, the biggest challenge has been unconscious bias in the construction industry.
“As a woman in construction there is no doubt in my mind that it is harder to feel truly included in the industry and to prove oneself as one rises in a business. We exist in an extremely male-dominated environment and whilst overt sexism is definitely reducing, the structural issues still very much exist. I can only hope to be part of the change and keep pushing for diversity, inclusion, the visibility of women and to remove unconscious biases. I take my position, and the responsibility it affords me, very seriously, to push for constant change.”
At Multiplex, they take their responsibility to change the system seriously too: “Multiplex have been conscious of the changes necessary to create structural change in the industry and proactive in developing better ways for the industry to deal with diversity and inclusion.”
Danielle is doing her part to break stereotypes. She calls herself a ‘closet girly-girl’, and is proof that you can love red Chanel lipstick, stiletto heels and own over 100 dresses and succeed in a male-dominated industry. You don’t have to choose just one side of yourself! Danielle has studied ballet since she was six, and teaches classes weekly.
“There aren’t too many Project Managers in construction that do ballet on the side!”
But Multiplex understand the value of different perspectives and life experiences, and embraces all of Danielle’s passions and personality.
Career advice for women in construction
It’s always helpful to hear career advice from someone senior who’s overcome challenges and is really forging their career, so we asked Danielle to share some advice for women following in her shoes.
- Be honest. “I’m a really honest person, and if you want honesty in return people have to trust you – the best way to get that trust is to become a friend, colleague and someone that is easy to work with, as quickly as possible.”
- Let go of perfection. “Keep that perfectionism in check! You don’t need to be perfect – just authentic!”
- Learn from the experts around you. “The more we can learn from the experts, the better we will set ourselves up for future success. You need to spend your early years learning everything you can. Knowledge is so valuable.
For Danielle, the future is bright, and she’s excited about the opportunity to keep driving change in construction.
“I hope to show young women coming into the business that if they want to be a Project Manager they can be. They just need to have the confidence to put themselves up the top of the tree.”