If you’re one of the Aussies that filled in a survey stating you won’t hire a female tradie, you may want to read this post. I’m one of those tradies you said you wouldn’t hire. And yet, I want to see change, but I get dumbfounded by the old thinking that still needs to be addressed in 2017.
What I will say is I understand your attitude. I totally get it. Women are weaker than men, but that doesn’t mean they can be less skilled or knowledgeable in an industry that is ever evolving and changing. Most female tradies are as tough as nails. They’ve learned to be because they’ve had to face up to the same attitude everyday on site by male tradies who think just like you.
So a personal message from me is to say, get with the times. Female tradies may be the solution the construction industry needs to ensure we have enough skilled tradies to keep up with the current and future demand of projects. The industry is in decline of skilled workers and women are an untapped resource that could fill the gap if given the opportunity.
Some Thoughts on Being a Female Tradie
The night I attended the Migas Training Awards and met Australian of the Year, David Morrison, he asked me a question that made me stop and think.
He asked me whether I would encourage my three daughters to take up a trade since I myself had become a plumber.
I couldn’t answer him straight away because I remember how hard it was completing my apprenticeship. Even under the management of my dad, I worked on a variety of sites with our sub-contractor plumbers (all male), attended Tafe with other male apprentices and was often the only girl in all those scenarios.
It wasn’t easy. I cried a lot of tears. I had to come face to face with my strengths and weaknesses and attitudes that judged my ability because of my gender.
All those memories came rushing back to me and in my head I nearly said ‘no, I don’t think I would encourage my girls to take up a trade’. Not because I don’t think they could handle it, but because I want to protect them. I didn’t want them to go through the same challenges I did.
Fifteen years from now (when my girls will be at an age to choose a career), the trades industry will change. It’s my hope that women tradies will be seen as the norm, not as a novelty. I hope if my girls do choose to be a tradie, they won’t face the same attitudes and struggles I did.
Recently SeekingService.com.au ran a survey that found 82% of its customers had never tried a female tradie and 75% would request a man over a woman if the option was available.
75% of Aussies Won’t Hire a Female Tradie
This information points out a number of things to me.
1. Existing female tradies should be given more credit for working in male-dominated industries. Not only are they battling with colleagues who don’t think they can do the work, they also have potential customers who don’t think they’re up for the job and would gladly hire their male competitor.
2. Stereotypes are still a big issue – not just on site but in the general community.
3. Men have a vital part in fixing this issue. How? If they manage a company in the trades, I’d encourage them to consider putting on a female apprentice. We need more men leading the change by supporting and encouraging any woman who wants to take up a trade.
4. We need to put the spotlight on more successful women tradies and their workmanship to instill customer confidence when hiring them.
5. We need to recognize organisations like the Master Plumbers’ Association of Queensland who support diversity in the trades industry and have done so by introducing a Female Plumbing Ambassador to drive change within the industry. (I’m the current one, but on World Plumbing Day a new Female Plumbing Ambassador will be announced.)
One thing that I’d love to know is the gender ratio of the 75% who would request a male tradie over a female tradie.
In my experience in the domestic market, the lady of the house – housewives and mums, are the ones who usually organise a tradie to come to the house. Most of our clients who were female would hire a female plumber over a male plumber. It was often the first thing we were told the moment my dad and I would rock up at the front door. The problem is, there are not many of us around.
Gender discrimination still happens in a lot of industries. Yet, if it was overcome, I think it would have the potential to be the solution to a number of problems facing the industry.
We have an untapped pool of women who want to do a trade, yet their resumes are often placed at the bottom of the pile when it comes to filling apprenticeship roles.
If we want to see an increase in apprenticeships and skilled tradespeople, companies and the community need to start looking at women on an equal playing field.
So to those 75% of Aussies who won’t hire a female tradie, I understand your attitude. But it needs to change, because it’s crippling our industry and crushing the dreams of so many women who want to work in the trades, but aren’t considered because of old attitudes like yours.
If you want to read more articles to change your bias, here are some posts I’ve written about the issue: