Women Leaders in Construction: Ivy Halstead

Hop Dao
Hop Dao
August 30, 2021

We were lucky to catch Ivy Halstead right after her appointment as a Director of the Infrastructure Advisory Group (IAG). To Ivy, it is the passion for building, forever being curious and readiness for new challenges that have guided her throughout her career.

1.     Tell me about your background, how you became a Quantity Surveyor? What drew you to the construction industry?

Growing up, one of my favourite pastimes was building tree houses and so I guess I’ve always known I wanted to be a part of stuff that got built’ when I grew up. My first career was as an Interior Designer, but I quickly realised that it wasn’t quite the right choice for me (not creative enough). I got introduced to Quantity Surveying and even though I didn’t quite understand what it was during the initial stages, just knowing I would be part of a team helping to build things, was enough for me.


2.     Congratulations on the new position at Infrastructure Advisory Group. When did you know it was time to leave a position and start a new one?

I felt the need to be in a new environment and to take on a new challenge. It took me 18 months to make the change, so it was well considered.  Infrastructure Advisory Group (IAG) offers me the opportunity of working closely with new colleagues who are leaders in their field of expertise. I get to hone my existing skills in a whole new way while learning some more along the way. It doesn’t get any better than that.


3.     What inspire you to engage in inspiring other women in leadership?

Early on in my career, I was fortunate to work for a practice that actively encouraged and supported graduates to grow and take on challenges. My inspiration comes largely from those leaders who supported and encouraged me to reach my potential and to never ever accept 2nd best. The power of their belief in me and their encouragement to explore my potential is now an integral part of how I interact with those around me.  I honestly think that with someone strong beside you, believing in you and being there when things don’t go as you hoped, can be the difference between achieving wonderful things and giving up.  


4.     An item you can’t live without.

It would be my kitchen which is my haven at the end of the day. Cooking brings about a certain feeling of peace and mindfulness. It’s just a great place to hang out and be together.  


5.     How many women were in your team when you first started in your first construction job? What about now?

While I was the only women in my uni course (for most of the 4 years), I was truly lucky to have a group of 4 fellow women QSs in the office in those early years.  However, for the most part, I would be the only women in meetings or on site.  When I first started going to site, the first priority was befriending the closest neighbour because they didn’t even have female amenities on site.

Now, the companies I’ve worked for in the last few years both have inspirational leaders who actively encourage diversity along with a50/50 gender balance.  Given that just12% of the construction workforce is women, they’re both doing pretty well, I reckon.


6.     The biggest challenge you are facing right now. What does “challenge” mean to you?

Challenge for me is always about facing my fears and having the courage to change something if it’s not right for me. Having made that change just recently, the next challenge is to ensure that I find meaningfulness and purpose in my new role.  


7.     Something you’re curious about.

Just about everything.  It's what keeps you engaged in life, both professionally and personally.

Right now, I’m having fun researching great locations in Australia to go on holiday to and learning how to do the very best ‘dutch pour’ acrylic painting I can.  


8.     What would people often misunderstand about women who work in construction?

A hard one to answer as I have zero tolerance for any sort of discrimination.  I generally don’t let someone get very far if their conversation is based on a gender bias.


9.     Any stories with your clients that you can never forget?

As a young mother, I had a project I was super excited about, and I remember taking my small human along with me to an important start up meeting.  He wasn’t quite as quiet as I had hoped but the CEO took it in his stride, lifting him out of his pram and pacing up and down the boardroom with my baby cradled to his chest.  Needless to say, he had my undying loyalty from that moment on.


10.  A photo from your most recent holiday and the location it was taken.

This is one of those oh so beautiful Australian location.  The Overland Track in Tasmania.


11.  Name any project in the world you'd like to work on

There is a church in Barcelona called Sagrada Familia which has been under construction since about 1880.  It is scheduled for completion in 2026. Wouldn’t it be amazing to work on something that has stayed true to its original intent and design for over a century?


12.  A book, a movie or a quote that always has great influence on the way you work.

My all-time favourite book which influences my attitude a lot of the time is ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff’ by Richard Carlson. The premise of the book is that by changing the perspective of how you see things, you can keep from letting the little things in life drive you crazy.

“Choose to be kind over being right and you’ll be right every time.”

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