For some women, it’s a case of swapping heels for boots and admittedly it’s an up-hill struggle to penetrate an industry dominated by men.
However, statistics-wise the 2011 census data showed the rates of women in trades were increasing with 1,432 female electricians, 676 female carpenters, 931 female motor mechanics and 638 female plumbers across Australia (news.com.au).
2016 also saw positive growth with nearly a quarter of the 188,600 apprentices or trainees employed as part of the Australian Apprenticeship Scheme being female (domain.com.au).
Some see it as a niche where female homeowners (or women who are at home during the working hours) find it more comfortable having another woman (or women) around the house.
The Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen (SALT) president says: “We are trying to change what women think they can do, and what society thinks that women can do… Jobs do not have gender… You teach grandma how to use a drill and then she’s more open-minded when her granddaughter comes to her and wants to go into a trade.” (domain.com.au).
Traditionally, parents are happy to see their daughters play with doll-houses but very few would vision their daughters getting their hands dirty in the construction, plumbing or electrician trade (to name a few).
We took a look at some female tradies online and rounded up the popular reasons why they decided to pursue their careers as tradies…
- It changes the common perception of a tradie.
- Companies ‘feel more comfortable‘ knowing a female was attending to a job.
- Certain companies specifically engaged female tradies due to religion/beliefs.
- Overcoming the challenge of ‘doing a man’s job‘
- Jobs that have become feminised typically have lower wages. Women who move into the construction trades make more money.
The truth is, aside from the physical differences between genders there’s no reason why more females can’t do what men are usually accustomed to do. Traditionally, there are always women working behind the scenes especially in operations, accounting and other back office roles.
The attention to detail is what can separate some men from some women – women have different skills and different sensitivities. Some male tradies have women as their assistants – be it a female electrician, a female painter or a female plumber. Later down the line, these women upskill themselves and have the potential to become owners/CEO’s of tradie businesses themselves.
“We’re in a big home improvement era and a lot of the time it’s a woman who’s the one opening the door to the tradie, and she’s the one that’s going to make the decisions… My answer is, girls, get yourself a trade ASAP, because there’s a hell of a lot of work out there waiting for you.” says Penny Petridis, founder of Female Tradie.
It’s common to find lady tradies set up their own business to get away from the male-dominated work place. Stereotyping and gender barriers make it difficult for some women to operate on a day to day basis.
Some women also set up businesses with the intention to run an all-female operation, potentially leading to further surprises when the woman quoting them for the job on the telephone turns up on their doorstep to do the work.
An ACT Labor Party election promise in 2016 stated that a $1-million vocational education package will be rolled out over the next four years (as of 2017) and fund Skills Canberra to develop upskilling and reskilling activities for females working in trades.
The package will also assist mature aged workers with employability. The skills programs target those re-entering the workforce after raising children or those wishing to enhance their skillset to prepare for management roles.
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