What I’ve Learned: Catherine Maiuto on being a mother in a male dominated industry


Catherine Maiuto works in the Woolworth’s property division and here she discusses balancing family life with a career in a male dominated industry. Hint: It takes a village

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, and the work you do.

I’m a Development Manager within Woolworths Property division, my role is to manage the end to end delivery process of new Woolworths Shopping Centres. Most recently I opened the Fishermans Bend store which took about 10 months to construct.

When I got the call for the job at Woolworths a few years ago, I was pregnant, and my now manager saw no barriers for me joining the team. He told me to let him know how much leave I wanted to take and that he’ll work with me on the return back into the workforce, which was everything I wanted to hear as a career driven female looking to balance family life. The construction industry is typically male dominated, in fact, only 12% of the Australian construction workforce are female, so it was reassuring to know I had the full support of my manager and workplace.

 What’s one strategy that you’ve taken away or put into action after going through the GP platform?

Creating my Professional Vision really helped me to assess what was important to me pre-motherhood. I’m a goal focused person so the process really resonated with me. The GP platform ensures you check in with that vision prior to returning to the workforce and I continue to check in every 6 months. It has helped me to focus my energy in the workplace on what will support my vision, what I shouldn’t waste my time doing and how to be more present at work. 

What hurdles did you come up against on your journey to balance both career and care? How did you tackle them?

In my role I can receive calls and emails late into the evening and am often still resolving issues as I’m driving to collect my daughter from daycare. It was hard for me in the beginning to not answer the phone or respond to the email as I wanted to show everyone “I’m committed to my work”. This was not sustainable as I was not dedicating my daughter the time she deserves with me, so I implemented a blackout period in my diary. During 5pm-6:30pm is family time, I don’t look at my phone as my daughter is my priority during that time. If there is something urgent to resolve I will continue after she has gone to bed or it can wait until the morning. Setting that boundary was initially hard but was crucial to my happiness.  

What have you learned about yourself through the process?

For myself and my husband, we learnt that having a family doesn’t change our career aspirations. But our priorities have changed towards family life. We are both really clear about that. By setting boundaries and priortising my time I am a better mother and a better employee.

What would be your advice to any expectant, new working parent or carer?

Building a village around you is important. Whilst I was on parental leave, I really worked on how to minimise the impact on our family when I returned to work. I worked on building that village and establishing care arrangements. We used family daycare in the initial year because it’s a more relaxed and flexible arrangement for us. We’ve got support from both our parents as well. And in addition to that, we also outsource a little bit. We outsource gardening, cleaning and ironing, and we have our groceries delivered. That enables me and my husband to both work fulltime and then our time once we’ve finished work is completely devoted to our daughter.

What would be your advice to any manager/leader in terms of enabling their staff to balance both career and care?

Flexibility. I’m lucky in the role I have that no two days are the same. I could be onsite for construction meetings, a meeting with council in the office or running zoom meetings with the project consultant team. But having a manager who allows me to set out my own working week to work from either the office or from home is key – we didn’t go through 2 years of WFH for nothing. I can manage my working week around care arrangements and known my manager supports me to deliver my role. 

 What words do you live by?

Build a village around your family.

What I’ve Learned is a series dedicated to sharing the collective wisdom of the Grace Papers’ community.