A couple of weekends ago, my parents went to McDonalds at Richlands to have a cup of coffee and a cheap date. While they were having their coffee, my parents overheard two tradies joke about how they were going to treat their female apprentice onsite so bad she would never want to come back.
Of course my mum rang and told me to blog about it and I pressed for more details and asked if they interrupted their conversation because I once was that apprentice. But my parents wisely stood their distance as they didn’t want to cause a confrontation, but were equally disgusted that tradesmen would plot to treat a female apprentice like crap in their spare time.
It was this scenario that inspired this post. Reasons not to hire a female apprentice. The first point is a little shocking – but it’s shocking what a female apprentice can experience on the worksite and I was able to put this post together by collating a compilation of comments that was said to me while I was an apprentice and sent to me from female apprentices around the world. We still have a lot of work to do to ensure our girl apprentices are treat right on the construction site.
1. She will be an easy target for sexual favours. Um no. She’s not there to give you a sexual favour, she is there to do her job and that is to build, plumb, weld, install – whatever her trade and job description requires her to do. She’s also not there so you can have a perve. Don’t be a creep. That female apprentice is someone’s daughter, sister or mother. She might even be someone else’s missus. Treat her with respect. Any sexual advances is deemed sexual harassment and unlawful by the Sexual Discrimination Act.
2. She will bring you your smoko. Your female tradie isn’t your mother, so don’t treat her like one. If you can’t get your own Chiko roll and Ice break, go hungry. Mother’s aren’t slaves and neither is the female apprentice onsite.
3. She will be the gofer for the construction site. We all know that there is a hierarchy on the construction site. Apprentices are at the bottom of the food chain and female tradies get chucked in that hierarchy too. There is a time where an apprentice will be a gofer because it’s one of the best ways to learn fittings and tools and the general sequence of a job. But apprentices aren’t slaves and shouldn’t be subject to bullying and labour that doesn’t teach them the skills of the trade. Nothing is ever achieved through abuse or intimidation. Apprentices are the future of the industry and when you’re old and can’t work, those apprentices are the ones installing toilets and building retirement homes to rest your sorry butt in. Treat your female apprentices with respect, train her right and one day she will remember and recognize you as the one who gave her a fair go (male apprentices included).
4. She will be taught that being a tradie is a real man’s job. Most female apprentices know the industry is dominated by males, yet she shows up because she’s passionate to learn and work on the tools. There is no such thing as a real man’s job. Don’t employ her to teach her a lesson, employ her so she can teach you what she’s capable of. And your business will flourish because of it.
5. She will never be taken seriously. A business that doesn’t consider the potential of a female apprentice will seriously be left behind. A female apprentice is more serious about her career than a young bloke who considered an apprenticeship as a last resort. Take her seriously, because she’s serious about her work and that’s a quality that’s lacking in many apprentices these days.
If you’ve worked in a male dominant industry, I’d love to know what ‘jobs’ you were expected to do because you were the only woman onsite. And how did you respond to such requests and expectations?