Most tradies are men. In fact, an overwhelming percentage - something like 97% of tradies - are men. But something powerful is happening.
More and more, there are women stepping into the world of skilled trades. And by entering this overwhelmingly male-dominated workforce, they’re breaking down barriers and challenging long-held stereotypes. From women electricians to women plumbers, lady tradies everywhere are redefining the trades, proving that gender is not - or shouldn’t be - a barrier to a trade career for women. To celebrate this shift, we want to explore what it means to be a lady tradie, and what unique challenges women face when getting into this field.
The Gender Gap in Skilled Trades
Stereotypes have been a big problem for women trying to enter into a trade. Traditionally, skilled trades in construction, building, and maintenance were considered male-dominated fields. And even though the government and industry leaders have been trying for the last three decades to even out the gender imbalance in the field, these sectors remain highly gender segregated.
The causes are complicated.
A recent study from The Financial Review revealed that women are cautious about entering trade jobs. And when they do pursue a trade career, employers are hesitant to hire them. This seems to be because trade jobs have been traditionally seen as male-dominated, making it hard for women to be accepted and valued in this field. And unfortunately, there also seems to be concerns from men in the field that women entering these jobs might be seen as taking over roles that were historically considered for men.
For the past thirty years, despite efforts from both government and industry, women are still undervalued because of unfair treatment based on their gender. This is worsened by the fact that inappropriate sexual comments and harassment are overwhelmingly tolerated in the industry, making things even harder for women in these fields.
Additionally, a study found problems within schools and training centres that teach trade skills to young Australians. These places don't often address the fact that there aren't many women learning trades, and they also don't deal well with the issues of unfair treatment and harassment at work. Women in the study often said they were encouraged to ignore offensive behaviour because speaking up would make them seem “too sensitive”.
What's The Solution?
The obvious answer is to teach students and apprentices how to be respectful and professional on the job, no matter whether their co-workers are men or women. Additionally, training teachers to counter sexism and prevent harassment would foster a more positive learning environment. Networks of practitioners promoting gender sensitivity, mixed-gender teaching teams, and women-only training environments are also potential avenues.
Unique Challenges Faced by Lady Tradies
Breaking down stereotypes is just one part of the journey. Lady tradies will need a few extra tools in their kit to thrive in a trade job owing to the following unique challenges.
The lack of role models and the scarcity of women in trades can make it difficult to feel motivated to enter the field. However, things are changing. As more women succeed, they're becoming the pioneers that others will one day admire and follow.
Women working in male-dominated trades face distinct safety challenges. These include:
● Issues with personal protective equipment (PPE) can arise when the gear is not designed to fit women.
● Work environments lacking representation and mentorship can affect safety awareness.
● Emergency response protocols might not cater to women's needs.
Addressing these concerns requires changes in workplace culture, training, equipment design, and policies.
Discrimination and Harassment
It's really important to address any bias or discrimination in trade workplaces so everyone feels safe and equal at work. When biases aren't addressed, there's a greater chance of bullying and unfair treatment, which can make workplaces feel unsafe. Also, if there are fewer women, they might feel alone, and it could be harder for them to get support. It's necessary to help women feel that they can speak out against unfair treatment so that the whole industry can improve.
Like in many industries, wage disparities persist. However, the growing presence of women in trades is shedding light on the importance of pay equality and advocating for fair compensation. Because no matter your gender, you deserve equal and fair pay for the job you do.
Does your wage fall within the current standard wage rate for electricians? Check the electrician salary guide.
Skilled trades offer women superior earning potential compared to other career paths, along with stability and diverse career prospects. These fields could play a big role in reducing workplace gender segregation and closing the pay gap in Australia.
Educational and Training Opportunities for Female Tradies
Programs like Try-A-Trade offer hands-on experiences that can spark interest and provide insight into the variety of trades available.
Vocational Schools and Colleges
Education institutions are reimagining how they present trades to students, ensuring that pathways to apprenticeships are accessible to all.
Women-Focused Training Initiatives
Initiatives aimed at encouraging women tradies to explore trades are on the rise, offering tailored support and mentorship.
Trade Associations and Unions
These organisations play a crucial role in advocating for equality and pushing for changes that benefit all tradies.
Establishing mentorship networks can provide guidance and advice from those who have successfully navigated the challenges of the industry.
Tools and Resources for Women Tradies
Numerous resources are available for women looking to thrive in the trades. Websites like Tradeswomen Australia, EWI Trades, and The Lady Tradies offer valuable insights, support, and a sense of community.
Empowering Women to Excel in the Trades
The wave of change is undeniable. Women bring fresh ideas, dedication, and a different perspective to the trade industry. More instances of women starting a trade business benefit the industry as a whole, improving productivity and contributing to lasting, high-quality work. Opportunities are abundant in construction, especially as governments invest in infrastructure across the nation. More women should seize these prospects and reshape the landscape of the trades, but getting more women interested in pursuing these careers depends greatly on addressing the issues within the industry.
Taking the First Steps
Starting an apprenticeship may seem daunting, but resources and support are available to help make the journey smoother. There are organisations that assist women in navigating the process and finding the right employer, such as VERTO and CareerGate.
Building a Support Network
A strong support network can make all the difference to new female tradies. Partners, families, and mentors play a vital role in helping women succeed in their apprenticeships. Finding employers who recognise talent regardless of gender is key to thriving in the industry.
Sharing Your Story
As lady tradies, your stories are powerful agents of change. By sharing experiences with others, whether in schools, the media, or on social platforms, you're breaking down barriers and paving the way for the next generation of lady tradies. Don't hesitate to reach out to industry professionals for advice and insight – you'll often find enthusiastic mentors ready to share their knowledge.
Don’t be disheartened at the relatively small amount of lady tradies out there today, either! The ones who do exist are bucking trends and finding success, just like you can with enough care and dedication.
Take one of our clients, The Lady on the Roof as an example. A successful female-run skylight and roof ventilation installation business and a shining example of how women-led trade businesses are here to stay.
Embracing the Future
The path to equality in the trades is being forged by the determination and dedication of women. Every challenge overcome, every stereotype shattered, contributes to a brighter, more inclusive future. As we challenge outdated perceptions, celebrate accomplishments, and share experiences, we're shaping an industry where everyone has a place – regardless of gender.