Female tradies follow their dreams in a man's world
Women who work in trades are not princesses, says carpentry apprentice Juliette Liddle. ''The princesses don't make it,'' she laughs.
Female tradies are determined, have an eye for the finer detail and are generally more committed to the job. ''We have to be, we have to fight to get where we are,'' says the 28-year-old, who made the unlikely professional jump to tradie after seven years as an interior decorator.
''Building houses suits me much better than fluffing pillows,'' she says.
The Mont Albert North chippie is part of a minority of women who are infiltrating male-dominated trades in pursuit of their dreams. Since 2010, the state government has injected more than $300,000 into programs to overcome some of the biggest stumbling blocks to female participation. And it is working.
The number of women in vocational training has risen 80 per cent since 2008; in 2012, 251,900 women took part in government-subsidised vocational training, compared with 139,800 in 2008.
A newly funded initiative by Northcote's APlus Apprentice and Trainee Services called ''Why should the boys have all the fun jobs,'' will see 40 female students in years 10 to 12 placed in non-female traditional trades over the next year as part of a Victorian government push for women to take up trade apprenticeships.
Fiona Lawrie, a 22-year-old third-year apprentice mechanic from Geelong, formed the organisation Fanelle last year to find like-minded women and offer a support network for ''lady tradies''.
''I noticed that there wasn't a lot of women in the industry and just the small things, like borrowing a hair tie or chatting about the weekend was hard,'' she says. ''It's been comforting being able to share the common interest of working in a man's world and encouraging women to follow their dreams.''
Ms Lawrie said women should not be put off by an all-male workplace and encouraged them to embrace the opportunity to push the boundaries.
''I've worked in businesses where I've had to share a toilet with the boys but the power of wanting to be there makes things work,'' she said.
''Women do have to take maternity leave but a lot of women these days are choosing to go back to full-time work and not be stay-at-home mums. Pregnancy is not a disability.''
A survey of 500 workshops by the Institute of Automotive Mechanical Engineers found swearing by male staff, a lack of female toilets and the risk a woman might quit if she had babies were excuses used by employers to avoid training young women.
But the institute's chief executive, Peter Blanshard, said he has had enough of excuses. He said it was time for the industry to train more women to fill a skills shortage, instead of hiring overseas staff on 457 visas.
''Employers are worried about what type of colloquial language is appropriate. But I don't think the lady will fall down and suck her thumb if they let fly with a few expletives,'' he said.
One business owner said he was concerned that by the time an 18-year-old woman finished an apprenticeship, she would be ready to get married, so why should he spend the money on training. ''We said, 'Stop!'''v
''A lot of business owners said they wouldn't put a woman on because the shop wasn't suitable. We asked, 'What's wrong with your shop?' They couldn't tell us.'' The reality of the modern car workshop means the industry needs people who can navigate a computer and use diagnostic skills, not grease monkeys, he said.v
The Master Builders Association will run a mentoring program for female building apprentices this month.
The association's head, Brian Seidler, admits the trickiest obstacle is often the thuggish perception of the construction industry in the eyes of parents. ''It's convincing the fathers that their daughters should go into the industry,'' he said.comments powered by Disqus