Posted May 14, 2017 09:39:17
They are the women taking a blowtorch to barriers and a saw to stereotypes, but even in 2017 tradeswomen are pioneers, making up less than 2 per cent of Australia’s electricians, carpenters and mechanics.
Some state and territory governments are looking to intervene to help boost that number while also removing discrimination and incorrect perceptions.
But the message from the women on the ground is clear: they love their jobs and say more women should give it a go.
Maja Blasch, arborist
Maja Blasch said she hit the tools virtually by accident but, in some ways, it was destiny.
“I was doing a little bit of work with my dad, who’s a horticulturalist and landscaper … and he suggested I try arboriculture,” she said.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors and heights really, climbing trees is a bit of a thrill.”
Now Ms Blasch climbs trees for a living, managing the health of Canberra’s trees from above.
But while she said she could see a lot from up there, one thing she rarely comes across is other women.
“In arboriculture I only know of one other woman in Canberra, and she’s moved into consulting now,” Ms Blasch said.
Elissa Pirotta, plumber and teacher
Being the only woman on site was a familiar experience for Elissa Pirotta, a long-time plumber who now teaches at the Canberra Institute of Technology.
“When I was studying here I was the only plumber … and now there’s only one other female plumbing apprentice that I’m aware of here at the moment,” she said.
Ms Pirotta said plumbing was the perfect job for hands-on men and women.
“This is fantastic job to get into, it’s personally rewarding … you get those challenges set to you everyday,” she said.
So why does Ms Pirotta think more women are not picking up the tools?
“Everyone has this perception that we’re always dirty, we’re always outside, there’s no clean job … it’s definitely not the case,” she said.
Ms Pirotta pointed to discrimination as a major factor.
“I’ve heard of women who call up lots of different companies who won’t give them a go just because they’re a woman,” she said.
Sarah Martin and Caitlin Nichols, students
One area of focus for governments is attracting more girls into hands-on school classes.
Sarah Martin and Caitlin Nichols study woodwork at Lake Ginninderra College in Canberra.
“I just discovered my love for it,” Sarah said.
“I like when I build it and look back on it and think ‘I’m proud of that’,” Caitlin added.
Both girls said they were looking at getting into the trades and they were not intimidated by the number of men in the industry.
“You hear guys say ‘I’m better than you, I can do it better’, and you’re like, ‘no’,” Caitlin said.
“I love proving guys wrong.”
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