Should Women be Tradies?

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female plumber on site showing her boss the problem

I’m all for women getting into a trade because they are adaptable, trainable and great problem solvers. They are reliable and committed to getting the job done. They may be slower than their male-counterparts but they are more thorough. Am I talking about myself here? Yes, because I know my weaknesses and this is why I choose to work alongside my dad and since falling pregnant, I’m glad to have someone to give me a hand.

 

Am I against women getting into trade? Yes and no. It’s not because I don’t want them there, but I fear for their emotional wellbeing. There is a huge lack of respect for women in a man’s world. Pornography, sexist comments even harassment are part of the workplace – including TAFE, no matter if the company plays by the policy ‘equal opportunity’. Can this ever be stamped out? I’m not sure. Possibly the more women that enter a trade, the more support they have to be able to cope with the criticism. Hopefully there will come a time where a female tradie will be the norm.

I believe there will be a stage where every plumbing firm will need to employ a female plumber. Why? Australia has the highest standard in the world for its safety regulations. I predict that there will be a time where only female plumbers can work in female toilets. Sound ridiculous?? Yes, but incredibly the world is changing and some of the practices that we have in place today would sound ridiculous to businesses 50 years ago.

 

I have often heard arguments about how women can’t cope with lifting heavy equipment or pipes. I have never seen one of my plumbers carry heavy equipment by himself. He has ALWAYS had a colleague to help him so I don’t see how this argument can be of any substance.

 

The next argument is that they are the weaker sex. True. But over time skills and strength are developed. I’ve never seen a 15 year old male apprentice turn into Mr Muscle’s the plumber over night.

 

Prior to the GFC (global financial crisis) and our change in company direction, my dad was all for employing only girl apprentices because some of his male apprentices would be involved in the following

 

  • Taking drugs and go mental on a construction site
  • Come to work hung-over from an all night booze up
  • Consistently ask for their holiday pay or sick pay to pay overdue rent, bail to get them out of jail, or pay other overdue bills or speeding fines
  • Lost their license from speeding fines while driving on a restricted license

My dad was exasperated with the issues he had to deal with when dealing with male apprentices (as was I!!) – and while not every one of our male apprentices got involved in the above situations, surprisingly, I have had conversations with other plumbing firm manager’s that have experienced the same behavior from their own male apprentices.

 

Most female apprentices tend to be a bit older – more mature and less likely to get involved in activities that could cost them their apprenticeship. They are more eager than male apprentices to get a job in construction because they know how HARD it is to get employed, and yet they don’t quit. That’s the kind of employee I want in my company. I don’t want quitters.

 

My encouragement to all construction firms and plumbers is this – employ a female apprentice. October/November is the time for resumes and job applications to be sent in for apprenticeships in the New Year. If you are a manager of a company and receive an enquiry from a female – don’t disregard them. Sit down with them and find out why they have a passion to do a trade. It’s important to train and support your female apprentices – they don’t need you to hold their hand but they certainly need you to back them when they are working for your company.