Why lady tradies are better on the tools

Written By komlim puldel on Senin, 22 Desember 2014 | 20.01

The trade industry is dominated by men, but women are proving tops on the tools. Source: News Corp Australia

WANT a trade job done professionally, on time and with great communication?

Get a woman to do it.

Female tradies not only exist, but women are increasingly likely to take up a trade as a career — and they are gaining high feedback scores on the quality of their work.

According to an ABS survey of Education and Work, males were much more likely to be employed as a trade apprentice than females in 2005, with six males for every female.

But by 2011, census data showed the rates of women in trades were increasing with 1432 female electricians, 676 female carpenters, 931 female motor mechanics and 638 female plumbers across Australia.

Melbourne-based Sally Liddell is one of those trade women.

The 28-year-old owns her own business, Right Connection Electrical, and said she loves it.

"I wanted to do something different and something that would challenge me," she told news.com.au

"My uncle was an electrician, so that kind of got the ball rolling on it being a career option. He changed industries and went into real estate, and I thought, well, I can do that too, I can change industries as well.

"I was mainly working in call centres at the time, and I'd done three years of a four year teaching degree when I realised it just wasn't for me. I was about 23 then, and I enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship course," she said.

"I did quite well at trade school, so a lot of the guys turned it into a bit of a competition because they didn't like the idea of being beaten by a female.

"I just laughed if off."

In NSW, women make up 13 per cent of trade apprentices and trainees and several agencies are now set up to deal specifically with them.

Girls in Trades and support service The Lady Tradies Australia are two key contacts.

Online industry directories have started to take notice.

Melbourne-based electrician Sally Liddell. Source: Supplied

"It's always really exciting when we see female tradies join hipages.com.au," David Vitek, CEO and co-founder of hipages Group, told news.com.au

"They always get great feedback scores on completed jobs. The female tradies we have come across score higher for communication, punctuality and professionalism than the general population of trades.

"We love seeing women tradies take on work that is traditionally male dominated. For us, we get so excited to see them doing a great job, and getting recognised for it."

Ms Liddell said the stigma around female tradies was wearing off.

"I do think the attitude in the industry is definitely getting a lot better," she said.

"There are a lot of younger electricians who are more open minded, it tends to be the older ones who have the issue.

"They don't like the idea of a girl doing the hard stuff, but then, they can't do the hard stuff themselves anymore, so it doesn't really work."

The trade industry is dominated by men, but women are proving tops on the tools. Source: Supplied

While the attitude in the industry may well be changing, Ms Liddell said she had certainly been subjected to casual sexism.

"Once I rang up about a job and the man I spoke to was like, 'Are you a woman?' When I answered that yes I was, he said, 'It's very hard work you know, you have to crawl under houses and in roofs!' I assured him I could do that and I emailed my resume through, but of course I never heard back from him.

"That's part of why owning my own business was always dream. It's part of what appealed to me about the trade industry.

"I saw an opportunity to make that a reality, and have had my own business since June.

"I want to employ female apprentices to get more females into the trade, because I found it so hard to get one myself, being a woman."

Sally Liddell at work. Source: Supplied

Since starting her own business, things have gone from strength to strength for Ms Liddell — but people still double take when they realise she is a qualified electrician.

"If people call up the business and I answer, some people think I'm the office lady. A lot of people kind of take a minute, they're surprised that I'm the electrician.

"Some people still don't get it until you turn up to actually do the work!

Ms Liddel believed it wasn't that clients thought she couldn't do the job, they just didn't expect a female.

"People just aren't used to it. That's the thing we can change.

"Until now really, having a trade hasn't seemed like an option to a lot of women, there is still a bit of stigma around it," she said.

"A lot of women might be intimidated at the prospect of working in an all-male environment, but I'd still definitely recommend it.

"The electricians I have worked with are all pretty good. You might get comments about there not being many females around, but I haven't really had any issues.

"It's so interesting this job, you're constantly learning, you don't have to go to the same place for work every day," she said.

"It's not as hard as people might think.

"Don't let the ideal of a male dominated industry put you off.

"Just go for it."


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