Ditch those heels and slip into some sturdy work boots. Kiss good bye to that cute little handbag and sling on your tool belt. Today is Women’s Day and Female Tradies are killing it!
Conquer your self-doubt, break the stereotype, shatter the glass ceiling and take a thing or two away as you read the amazing stories of these inspiring women who did not let the society or their gender shape their dreams.
30 year old painter and decorator, Chany started out part time at a young age of 14 to make some extra money but loved it so much that she decided to get herself enrolled in an apprenticeship straight out of school. Chany became fully qualified at 19 and went on to have extended training in specialty finishes.
Being younger than her class mates and the only girl back then, it was only natural for her to develop a thick skin. By the end her apprenticeship ended she earned a lot of respect for sticking to it despite the challenges.
“I work with a great group of people on site and don’t really encounter a lot of problems. But I love that it’s a challenging job, I can get my hands dirty and enjoy the banter that I don’t think comes with an office job. Watching the difference painting and decorating can make to a home or building is very rewarding,” says the proud mom of an 11 year old boy.
Currently working as a construction inspector at WorkSafe QLD, Camille’s love for the physical environment and doing things with hands and mind encouraged her to begin her career as an automotive mechanic in the late 80s. Many years later she upskilled herself and moved into telecommunication rigging that gave her the opportunity to travel across the country working at amazingly heighted buildings and maintaining mobile phone towers.
In her 40s, Camille began shut down work on processing plants and ended up in the coal mining industry as a rigger and mechanical fitter.
“I love the fact I continue to learn and develop more skills every day, making me very capable,” she says.
In the early days of her career, Camille did confront some challenges that came with the attitudes defining where or where not women belong, but soon learned to overcome it by becoming fitter, smarter and emotionally stronger.
34 year old single mum of 4 Jennah is a 2nd year refrigeration apprentice for Recharged Air and electrical in Cairns.
Jenna started off by helping her brother in his new refrigeration business but within months she was hooked to it with her interest and his encouragement.
Jennah thinks that being a female in this trade doesn’t have a lot of challenges except for the physical strength required, but she has taught and trained herself to do almost everything a guy can.
“When I started my apprenticeship I was 43kg so I had to work hard to build up muscle but I got there. I'm very fortunate to work alongside guys who understand each other’s challenges (height for me) and we adapt between us.”
Also a TAFE Queensland female trade student 2018, Jennah loves everything about her work and often gets to inspire other females being the only one in her trade in Cairns. The team work and being a part of something start to finish is one of the best feelings for her.
3rd year apprentice in a heavily male dominated powerline maintenance industry, Karina, 32 is a mom of 3.
“My motivation came from my partner as well as the fact that I did not enjoy working in an office. I applied for the job while on my maternity leave and actually got it to my surprise. I started with a 3 month old and breastfeeding, but it was a challenge we got through.”
Climbing poles, working in EWP’s, driving trucks or working on live electrical apparatus are just some of the things she works on from day to day.
In the stereotypical environment that we live in, building resilience is the key, Karina says.
The passion, the respect, the banter and laughs are some of the things she loves about her job. “Even through the harder times, we look out for each other. My champions, male and female! They push me to be a better version of myself.”
Having worked most of her career in community work, Moya always had a passion for working with tools.
After a career break and a few years working in hardware, she looked for an opportunity to expand her interest in door furniture and feels fortunate to find an employer who could see the benefit of taking on a middle-aged female as an apprentice.
“It's been interesting observing people's reaction to me - co-workers, bosses, clients. It takes time to gain their confidence, but I enjoy building those professional bonds,” explains Moya. “I love the fine precision of locksmithing and the challenge of learning new skills. I enjoy working with my hands and brain every day.”
A mum and also the founder of Lady Tradies and Rocking Chicks, Mel Street is an electrician by trade and works in power generation, which she loves.
Not being able to gain a specific position in the Navy, Mel found herself not wanting to go to University while supporting herself and was drawn to trades. “In school I did electronics a few times and also enjoyed physics, so electrical seemed the way to go,” Mel explains.
From maternity leave to workplace cultures not so supportive of women in trades and struggling to figure out where she wants to get to in her career, Mel has been through all. “I overcame everything by sticking at it, not giving up, and picking my battles.”
“I just love power generation. I get to find out how things work with other trades, in a variety of places and be challenged nearly every day.”
Growing up on a farm, Louise did a bit of mechanical work and loved it so much she wanted to make a career in it. So at 15, she enrolled herself into a Heavy Vehicle Mechanical Apprenticeship, straight out of school.
When she first started, strength was a bit of a challenge but it build up over time. Being the only girl in the class, boys in her TAFE class would try and do things for Louise since the work was heavy. “They would try to help out every time but what they didn’t understand was that I needed to learn things on my own.”
Louise who represented Australia in the World Skills competition in 2017 and is now starting a job as a Mechanical Trainer, says this field has opened a path to never ending learning for her. “There are so many different machines out there that is always a different system or style of system to learn about and understand.”
Starting out as a 26 year old single mum, Sharine headed to TAFE to do a pre vocational course in Automotive to raise her daughter. Today she is running a 100% indigenous female owned Supplies and Services business as a motorcycle mechanic.
Being the only girl in a class of 16 there had been hurdles for Sharine from day one. From finding her own work placement where she was laughed out of car shops to being told that she cannot do something cause she is a girl to ‘I'm sorry but can you get the mechanic’, she has seen it all but still kept going strong.
“Finding something that I can truly make a difference with has been my biggest achievement. My skills and the accumulation of knowledge has created a team that will think outside the box changing disability into ability, giving someone who has lost a limb or movement the ability to ride again.”
Inspired by her grandpa to grow veggies when she was younger, Tia got her Permaculture Design Certificate when she was 20 and has never looked back.
Running her business, Tia’s Organic Gardening, for 7 years now, she focuses on sustainable gardening including design, planting and maintenance done professionally and organically when possible.
Being outside in the fresh air, creating healthier plants and more beautiful spaces is something Tia loves about her work every day.
“When people are choosing Tradies, often men get preference as they are seen as stronger and more knowledgeable. While this is false, women Tradies have to work harder to build up their name because of this stigma,” says Tia.
33 year old Jackie is a boilermaker at a sugar mill and has worked everywhere from mining to construction, gas plants and stock camps.
“It really never occurred to me that women don’t do boilermaking and I’m glad it didn’t. I love that boilermaking is one of the few trades where you get to make things from scratch (fabrication) and also that welding can be an art form,” Jackie says.
Making things out of steel is hot and dirty work with sparks occasionally landing on your skin and getting hurt once in a while, so one needs to be tough, Jackie explains. But most importantly, as a female Tradie you learn how to get respect from the guys.
29 years old facilities maintenance coordinator and mom of one, Nicole loves what she does and wouldn’t trade this job for a different career.
At school, she liked art and math and anything creative requiring working with her hands but had absolutely no idea what she wanted from her life.
“In year 9 I chose metalwork (cert 2 in engineering) as an elective. I was the only girl that chose the subject. 10 boys 1 girl. I kept quiet and followed the theory section of the class. When we got to the practical components of the class…I thought wow this was the coolest thing ever! I’d found it!”
For Nicole. The men of all ages that she worked alongside didn’t care that she was a girl. “I was treated differently but only out of respect.”
Special Thanks to SALT - Supporting and Linking Trades Women. Without this platform we would not have been able to know these amazing women and their truly motivational stories.
At i4Tradies we believe in giving back to the amazing trades community around us. As a job management platform, we help tradies streamline their day to day processes and deliver exceptional customer experiences.