By Luke Voogt
Geelong women are carving new paths into male-dominated trades despite some businesses dragging their feet with “old-fashioned attitudes”, according to an industry advocate.
Geelong Technical Education Centre industry liaison officer Linda Kelly said some companies were barring women from work based on their gender.
“We still have some big organisations that say, ’no I’m not going to put a female on because they’re too much trouble.’
“It makes me think, ‘You’ve probably got a daughter or niece – why can’t they have an opportunity?’
“Maybe they think their young apprentices are going to flirt – I don’t know.”
Companies often cited amenities as an excuse for not employing women tradies, Ms Kelly said.
“I went to a Geelong spray painting company who said they would have to clean out their female toilets because that’s where they keep the old tins of paint.
“An electricity company said we only have portable toilets. We share our toilets with our brothers at home – we don’t care.”
Women were also more resilient to the workplace banter than some people thought, Ms Kelly said.
“But sometimes that banter gets a bit carried away.”
A number of council and business workplaces needed to “move with the times”, Ms Kelly said.
“You know what goes on with the language and the pictures on the wall – there are still the boobs on the calendars.”
Where women lacked strength and quickness of male tradies, they often made up for it with communication skills and attention to detail, Ms Kelly said.
“They can articulate better at times, and I think we can multi-task a little bit better too.”
She refuted the myth that female tradies needed to be “butch”.
“Just because you do your hair and nails doesn’t mean you can’t put your Blundstones on the next day,” she said.
“You can be feminine and go out with the girls, and still do extremely well as a tradie during the week.”
But despite a “minority” of companies refusing to hire women, there were more opportunities for women tradies today than ever, Ms Kelly said.
“I’ve had some wonderful support in the community.”
Parents also felt more comfortable about their daughters pursuing trades, she said.
“If you’re child’s happy and that’s what they want to do let them follow their dream.”
“You can make a lot of money as a tradie and you don’t have a HECS debt.”
Ms Kelly urged locals to support a group of women tradies who are raising funds to build a home for a rural family in Cambodia.
Geelong Women in Trades, which Ms Kelly is a member of, will hold a breakfast at Kardinia Park next Thursday featuring women’s football pioneer Susan Alberti.
“It would be great if we had employers come to the breakfast,” Ms Kelly said.
Only two per cent of tradespeople are female according to the group’s statistics.
“They just want to be recognised and they want more women to join women in trades,” Ms Kelly said.