When you think of the trades, you may still imagine a cadre of men tromping around in overalls and tool belts. To a certain extent, that’s true: women still make up only 2 percent of the trade workforce in Australia.
Yet the number of tradeswomen has been steadily rising over the years--and the entire country stands to benefit. According to Martin Loosemore, a professor of Construction Management at UNSW Built Environment, “lady tradies” can boost Australia’s GDP by 11 percent and increase their economic growth by $25 billion over the next decade.
Strong Role Models
“Girls, get yourself a trade ASAP, because there’s a hell of a lot of work out there waiting for you.” --Wendy Pinch, founder of the Lady Tradies
Wendy and women like her believe that young women don’t go into the trades because it’s not seen as a viable option. Thus, they’re seeking to redefine the mindset that women don’t belong--promoting careers as electricians, carpenters, and metalworkers. They’ve created support communities, launched podcasts, and recruited their younger counterparts to join them.
The stigma that women can’t do manual labour is slowly wearing off, according to Sally Liddell, a self-employed electrician. “It tends to be the older [electricians] who have the issue,” she admits, but “there are a lot of younger [ones] who are more open-minded.” Often, female and elderly homeowners actually prefer hiring a woman for the job, as they’ve proven to be more reliable and conscientious than their male counterparts.
If you learn how to use power tools before you start high school, the feeling of being less experienced than “the bros” goes away. Female tradies often cite family members as the reason they felt confident with their chosen path. “My uncle was an electrician,” Liddell says, “so that kind of got the ball rolling on it being a career option.”
The old narrative claimed that men were physically stronger, less emotional, and more willing to take charge. Yet while the men may be able to lift heavier loads, tradeswomen have brought an equally strong skill set to the table. For example, a study from the British Psychological Society shows that women are twice as likely as men to take their time weighing their options and thinking through the consequences. They’re also better multitaskers and communicators.
Additionally, their reviews and testimonials prove to potential clients that they’re more than competent. “The female tradies...score higher for communication, punctuality, and professionalism than the general population of trades,” says David Vitek, CEO and co-founder of Australia’s number one trade hiring site.
Play to Your Strengths
There’s no reason communicating well and empathising with others should be seen as weaknesses. If they can help you do your job effectively, then rely on those skills by all means. As long as you work hard, you’ll gain respect.
Network, Network, Network
Organisations such as The Lady Tradies Australia, Fanelle, and Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen (SALT) connect women working in non-traditional roles, providing support and encouragement as well as the opportunity to expand one’s professional network.
Just Go For It
“Don’t let the idea of a male-dominated industry put you off,” says Liddell. Norma MsFixit, a lawn maintenance specialist and handywoman, seconds that. "Pursue it,” she says. “Get into it as early as you can. Charge the same as the men do for the same jobs. You are worth it!"
Ladies, forget the cadre of men tromping around in overalls and tool belts. Like Wendy Pinch says, there’s a hell of a lot of work waiting for you. You can do this. You can enter this field and be successful, competent, and well-respected--and you won’t be alone.
Tradeswomen are here to take over.