Girls in fluro

A few years ago a friend’s kids, Hendrix and Neave, finished high school. They live in a country town and are pretty active in the local community. Before Hendrix finished school a friend of the family offered him a plumbing apprenticeship. A year later, as Neave’s final year of school was coming to an end, her mother lamented that Neave didn’t know what she wanted to do. She hated school and had no interest in studying full-time. I asked why Neave didn’t consider an apprenticeship like her brother. My friend laughed, ‘Are you kidding? Neave wouldn’t go near a job that meant she had to get dirty. She’ll leave that to the boys.’

The Australian labour market is highly gender-segregated by industry and occupation, a pattern that has persisted over the past two decades.


Trades traditionally done by men, such as plumbing, automotive, carpentry and electrical make up fourteen percent of Australian jobs and most girls don’t see them as an option. Trades pay well but sixty percent of female workers gather in historically low paying industries; clerical and administrative, community and personal services workers and sales workers.

Where’s Neave?

So what did Neave decide on? After a few stops and starts, she studied and found work in a childcare centre. It’s hard work but she loves the kids. What she doesn’t enjoy is the dismal pay. But with ninety-seven percent of childcare workers female, it’s no surprsie that it’s a low paying industry. Currently childcare workers are fighting to be paid a living wage. According to Lisa Bryant from ABC News, they don’t look to win the fight.

Early childhood educators and teachers, the people who run our childcare centres will  walk off the job today, again, in their pursuit of living wages.

And once again they won’t get them.


How’s Hendrix going?

Hendrix is doing well. He recently finished his apprenticeship and has saved enough for an overseas trip. He’s pretty sure he deserves the pay he gets, he works hard for it and I agree with him.  I also think Neave works hard but she won’t be planning an overseas trip anytime soon. According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

In Australia today men out earn women in every industry and across all occupations. In fact our 2016/17 data set tells us that men on average earn just over twenty six thousand dollars a year more than women.

In Western Australia the State Government is trying to address the gender pay gap by supporting more women to take up trades. “Getting more women into trades traditionally done by men is crucial to addressing the 24 per cent gender pay gap in WA, the State Government says. ”

Tradies volunteer to pass on their skills

SALT, Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen, was established by tradeswomen to support and link tradeswomen and those interested in pursuing trades. One way to achieve their goals has been to run free workshops. They hope to reach as many girls and women as possible and demystify the use of power tools.  Without any ongoing government funding, they rely on tradeswomen and tradesmen volunteering their time. To date they have run almost one hundred workshops in NSW, ACT and VIC.

We felt that women did not generally have the basic knowledge of generic tool use, which are used in almost all trades, but they also didn’t know that they could easily do this type of work either. It was a classic case of not knowing what you don’t know.


Tradie, Rebecca Mair, took her daughter, Indy, along to a workshop. Ms Mair told the ABC News, “It was amazing to see the look on her face when she used a drop saw for the first time. It made me quite teary. I was really pleased.”


The workshops aren’t just for those curious about a career in trades, their oldest participant so far was a ninety-six year old. Learning the skills taught in the workshops can increase women’s confidence and independence. This can be particularly true in situations where control has been taken from them.  Painter and decorator, Fiona Shewring, told ABC News.

“We were donated some locks for doors and initially I was thinking what are we going to do with these and then I thought, we’ll teach women to change locks which in any situation is great but especially important if you’re in a domestic violence situation because then you’re in control of your life.”


What if?

If Neave had attended one of SALT’s workshops prior to finishing school, she might not have dismissed a trade as a job more suitable for boys. She might have still chosen childcare as her career and that’s great, we need good childcare workers. But at least Neave may have been able to look at all her options critically and not through the lens of gender.




16 thoughts on “Girls in fluro

  1. The SALT workshops are an excellent idea. It’s so wrong that even now (!!!) the trades aren’t really considered an option for women, but they’re a great path and pay well. I really enjoyed the post, it shows so clearly one of the ways in which the gender pay gap happens and how it can be fixed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I don’t have a trade but I would love to do one of SALT’s workshops one day and when my daughters are older I hope they’ll see trades as an option.


  2. This is a great article, and it speaks so much truth in the current Australian culture. I had no idea that SALT existed and I’ll definitely be passing on this information to some of my female friends that have trouble finding experience and hence jobs while perusing a labour job! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is Amazing! Great article, great use of links to point us in the direction of where we can find more information. This is so impressive and so important.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A pro-active and highly productive method to combat gender stereotypes in the workplace! The links are wonderful; I’ve spent a bit perusing through them, reading more on the subject. I’d never heard of these workshops till now.

    I wonder if the reverse could also be true; are there any workshops for inclusiveness for men into traditionally ‘feminine’ careers, like hair and make-up stylists?


    1. Hi, thanks so much for your feedback. In the trades, men have been more likely to move into trades which haven’t traditionally done by men, than women have moved into the trades not traditionally done by women.


  5. What a fantastic article.
    I would love to see more women in the trades. Traditional roles and expectations for careers according to gender is well overdue for an overhaul in Australia.
    Hearing the differences between Hendrix and Neave really sums up the situation well. One has financial security while the other has to work a lot more for it.

    I hope the SALT program will see some funding come its way in the near future — they definitely deserve it!
    Thanks for the eye-opening read.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good article. Very informative with good links to supporting evidence from accredited news organizations and data banks.

    I enjoyed the narrative story of Neave, which gave some perspective and humanity interwoven into the piece’s informative purpose and tone.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you very much for your critical thoughts on this topic. Gender equality is so astoundingly far from acceptable in Australia and we have such a long way to go. The program SALT looks like such a fantastic initiative to engage both young women and women who have been in the workplace for some time, in trade. The fact that SALT has women as well as men on the team is promising – I means that hopefully with more women engaged in trade, there too, is less separation between the men and women who work within a trade, and there is more cohesiveness in their values at work.

    I wonder if, on the topic of gender equality, that the use of ‘Girls’ in your titled is a little bit reductive. Women are already reduced in comparison to men. ‘There was this girl….”, compared to “this guy…” or “this man…” It is language that I believe is used too much when referring to women.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your feedback and good point around language. I used to work in a job where I was known by my number rather than my name, so I’ll be more mindful in the future.


  8. This is an interesting and informative article. I vaguely knew this to be the case, but the way in which you provide some hard statistics, together with contrasting the financial realities of both siblings who work equally hard for their money, drove it home.

    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

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