People profile: Marlar Bowyer, Lead Project Manager NSW

12 March 2020

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #EachforEqual. As a woman working in what has been historically a male dominated field, Lead Project Manager NSW Marlar Bowyer feels inclusion and kindness are key.

“We’re all people after all, so no person should be made to feel less significant because of their gender. I believe that equality in all aspects of life is a basic human right. I think that if we each make a small change in attitude and focus on becoming more about inclusion, we can all benefit from living in a world that is kind and welcoming,” Marlar says.

Being committed to increasing her knowledge in her field has helped Marlar navigate working in a typically less gender equal field, as well as reinforcing for her how important Each for Equal is for the construction industry.

“At times, there is an underlying assumption that because I am a woman, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I have had to prove myself to those around me that I belong in this industry. It has taken me some time to grow and develop personally, as well as educating myself to become more knowledgeable in my field, to the point where I am now comfortable with who I am.”

While building her industry knowledge was key, one of the most important lessons Marlar learnt was that asking for help and prioritising herself and her family was not something to be afraid of.

“I was working on a store interstate and had just returned from parental leave. With the travelling weekly back and forth, I was running myself into the ground to get things done at work and home. After a few months, I popped into my manager’s office and told him that I couldn’t keep it up anymore. I thought it was going to be a problem, but he said, ‘I don’t know why it has taken you this long to say something’.  I think it was because I didn’t want to be seen as being incapable or weak. My manager and I were able to re-prioritise my deliverables, allowing me to maintain good work-life balance as well as deliver a successful project. Since then I have had no issues in speaking up or asking for help if I feel like I need it,” Marlar said.

Marlar has spent more than 15 years in retail projects and construction.

“I was completing my engineering degree when I started working for Pretty Girl Fashion Group - a specialty ladies fashion company, then worked for David Jones before joining the 7-Eleven team.”

While it’s a challenging field, Marlar enjoys seeing the finished product a team can pull together.

“Construction throws up endless challenges from a design and buildability perspective. One standout moment was being project manager for David Jones Eastland which was a brand-new concept design by UK based Dalziel & Pow. It was a very challenging store as we were developing the design, detailed construction and look and feel of the store from scratch. Our team pulled some long hours to bring it together and were working to a tight programme and budget. It was amazing to see the end result after all the hard work. Our store took first place in the New Department Store category at the Retail Design Institute International Awards in 2016, so it was definitely one to celebrate and remember,” she said.

Support and guidance from others in her industry, including her managers and peers, has been key for Marlar.

“Ben Wong and my fellow construction project managers Andy, Matt and Lucas have been great. Everyone has been very supportive of me since joining the team at 7-Eleven and even though they’re all interstate, I love that I still feel part of the team and get to work with them every day.”

“I’ve been very lucky to have worked with great managers and leaders throughout my career. They have given me their trust to carry out my work and have been there when I have needed advice. As a result I have been able to grow and develop to become a better project manager. I’ve also had their support to continue my studies and am very glad to be completing my Master of Project Management degree later this year,” she said.

For Marlar, Each for Equal is incredibly important for her field.

“Big changes in society usually occur over generations so everyone should be a part of the change they want to see happen in the future.”

“I think it is important to remember that everyone started out at the beginning not knowing anything. It’s okay to ask questions to become more informed, and with that knowledge your experience and confidence can grow.”

“Organisations like the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) are doing amazing work in empowering women and challenging the construction industry. The idea that women in construction are treated equally based upon their skills and ability would be great to see come to life,” she says.