Joanne Farrell
General Manager, Kane Constructions; Founder & Director, Build Like A Girl

General Manager, Kane Constructions; Founder & Director, Build Like A Girl; ACT Australian of The Year 2024; Builder; Carpenter 


Jo Farrell’s career spans almost three decades and across multiple spectrums of the construction industry. A qualified carpenter by trade, licenced builder, certified building designer and now General Manager of a multimillion dollar commercial construction company, she has literally worked from the ground up to be where she is today.


Jo’s journey started in 1996 as an apprentice carpenter and has seen her work in both commercial and residential sectors, as well as 3 years in Lithuania on a Nuclear Decommissioning project.


Jo is passionate about seeing more women in construction and increased Kane’s gender equity from 6% in February 2020 to 48% in December 2023.


She founded Not-for-Profit Charity organisation Build Like A Girl in September 2020, as a direct call to action to help women gain apprenticeship employment, receive mentoring and support, and to combat the negative cultural experiences women face in construction every day.


Jo has served as a board Director for YWCA, NAWIC and Tradeswomen Australia, as well as being a current active member on the steering committee for Tasmanian based “Build Up Tassie” a Centacare initiative to promote female tradeswomen undertaking social housing projects.


Her focus and drive is to work with government, peak industry bodies, unions, training organisations and progressive building contractors to engage, recruit, train and employ women in all trade roles, not necessarily those just defined as apprenticeships.


Jo wants to ensure that the challenges and hardships she endured, are not presented to women wishing to enter the industry and her personal mission is to create pathways and opportunities for women of any age, social status, income level, and ethnicity to work in construction and know they have the full support and guidance of other women who have walked this path before them.


Jo recently completed construction on the Strathnairn Charity House, a project which was designed, built and sold by women, which raised over $500,000 for local female focussed charities. A landmark project in Canberra, the Charity House also generated apprenticeship employment for 7 women and has created a network of women supporting each other in trades. Since 2020, Jo has
helped 23 women gain full time employment and regularly assists with programs, initiatives and services aimed at changing the 2% participation rate.