15 years ago, Indonesian-born Astrid Vasile turned to a career in construction after she moved to Australia. Today, she’s one of just 12 female registered builders in the country, plus Executive Chair of the Australian Indonesian Businesswomen’s & Professionals Network.

By Business View

Astrid Vasile isn’t surprised when clients ask to speak to her husband.

As one of just 12 female registered builders in Australia she’s used to being mistaken for someone in a less responsible role. “I just smile and say ‘try me’,” she says. “They soon realise I know what I’m talking about.”

As co-owner of Western Australian based GV Constructions (WA), she’s spent 15 years building everything from contemporary homes to multi-unit dwellings and commercial premises. Yet, growing up in Indonesia, construction was the last thing on her mind – after gaining an MBA in economics, she worked in IT and the airline industry.

She was introduced to construction when she married Perth-based builder Gino Vasile and started helping with his paperwork. “My financial background was useful from the beginning,” she says. “Accounting is crucial in the building industry – if you don’t understand operating expenses and your financial obligations you run the risk of working for no financial reward. I was also determined to get to know every aspect of the business.”

When Gino’s business partner backed out, he and Astrid had to make a tough decision – should they push on with the business or close it down? “We both had drive and commitment, so we decided to keep it going together,” she says. “I’d also come to like the industry, so I was keen to play a more active role. I wanted to be a leader but I knew nothing about construction so my only option was to become a registered builder. At the time, I had two young children and was still working in the business, so I knew it wouldn’t be easy studying full time for four years for a Diploma of Building & Construction. But it allowed me to do a job I love.”

A women’s advocate

As Executive Chair of the Australian Indonesian Businesswomen’s & Professionals

Network, Astrid is an advocate for women in both countries. Founded in 2010, the organisation promotes bilateral cooperation and encourages women to take on more entrepreneurial roles.

“The network brings together Australian-Indonesian women who make a significant contribution to various business sectors,” she explains. “We use workshop and networking events to raise the profile of women within the membership, to provide business and industry education and to create opportunities for mentoring. We also support businesses owned and operated by women.”

An active member of Master Builders Australia and their Women in Building & Construction Committee, she’s committed to encouraging other women into the industry. “Construction is still very male dominated but it’s a great career for women,” says Astrid. “Every day is different, it’s financially rewarding and you don’t need to be particularly strong – a woman with a good level of fitness can do anything within construction. And there are many opportunities in professional and associated services such as accounting, project management, contract management, estimating and representing local councils and other authorities.

“I love driving down the street and seeing the different projects we’ve been involved with – it gives me a real sense of ownership and pride,” she says. “Our clients often end up as friends.”

This article was correct at the time of print and was first published in Business View magazine (May 2014). For more articles and interactivity, download the iPad edition of Business View for free via our app, NAB Think.

See Astrid speak to Kochie’s Business Builders.