By Stephen Craven
Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (Smart Employment Solutions)
No-one would have witnessed a female in a male dominated industry back in our grandfathers’ day. Women were at home cooking, cleaning and looking after the kids. After all, the man was the bread winner and that was the end of that.
Step forward to the 1980s and there was a change tiptoeing into these male dominated industries. I did my college time with a female and the class next door also had a female in the early 80s. What these women lacked in front and bravado they made up for in the classroom and always seemed to find themselves at the pointy end of the test results. It was actually a little embarrassing for a lot of the fellas. We learnt from them and they learnt from us. If I took anything away from that time, it was never judge a book by its cover. I am sure they were a little intimidated by the 14 to 1 ratio in the classroom. It was funny when we finished college, the ratio (as the teacher put it) was now 1 to 14. To this day I never underestimate the capability of a woman.
Not all female tradies found an easy entry to a male orientated industry. Again early on there was a culture change required by the fellas onsite or in workshops. The calendars depicting a scantily clad female pouring oil into an engine or leaning over a car had to come down. Female toilets needed to be installed on a lot of work sites. Some of the fellas thought the women weren’t strong enough to do their job. As I said earlier it was my experience that women overall—that is tradeswomen—display exceptional intelligence in working out problems. How did they overcome the strength issue you may ask? They asked for assistance, which a fella wouldn’t do for fear of being seen as incapable or weak.
Move forward another 20 years and we see ourselves in the grip of a tradie shortage. So having embraced the entrance of females into what we now call (and probably incorrectly so) non-traditional roles, we started screaming for help to fill the void of male tradies flowing into industry. We were an ageing population and we were being told that there will not be enough tradespeople coming into industry as the older ones retire. So in the early to mid-2000s we saw a lot of female tradeswomen entering the workforce through the apprenticeship system. One of Smart Employment’s female apprentice carpenters became the Master Builder’s regional, state and national apprentice of the year.
Now fast forward to today and we’re not seeing as many women entering the traditional trades as they did 10 years ago. I for one think that it is a marketing issue, one that needs to be taken up by both state and federal governments. The employers must be conditioned to it by now. They, like me, grew up with the change. If you are looking for a truly challenging career and aspire to be a leader, we want to talk to you. If you are an employer that is interested in employing a smart, aspiring tradie then give us a call. If you are a young woman that is interested in the trades area then please give us a call and we will match you up with one of our qualified host employers.