Lady tradies looking to land jobs forced to change their names

Jarrod Brown
By Jarrod Brown
4 Min Read

Women looking to land a job on the tools have been forced to shorten their names to appear more masculine in order to get a foot in the door. 

A recent parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) system found that “workplace discrimination” and gender stereotypes were to blame for bottlenecking female representation across the construction industry.

According to Empowered Women in Trades chief executive Hacia Atherton, the hiring bias has become so bad that some women have been forced to use tactics like shortening their names – such as going from Christine to Chris – to land a simple interview. 

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl, or a guy, or non-binary person, if you’re good at the trade, you’re good at the trade,” she told 3AW last week. 

“Gender doesn’t make you a good plumber or a bad plumber. It’s your skills, you’re ability to problem solve, you’re ability to use your hands.”

The news won’t come as a surprise for many women working in construction. Plumber and tiny home builder Aimee Stanton previously told Build-it that breaking into the industry has been a massive roadblock for most women for decades. 

“I quit beauty therapy and applied for 120 jobs. I heard back from one,” she said, referring to her first apprenticeship interview back in 2012. 

Twelve years later, Atherton says women are still battling with the same barriers to entry. 

“At the moment I think there’s actually more women that are interested in going into the trades than are actually opportunities,” she said.

“It was only a few weeks ago I was on the phone to woman that had called over two dozen employers that were currently advertising for an apprentice trying to have a trial and all said that they weren’t willing to take her on.”

The industry needs women

However, with a tradie shortage looming large over Australia’s construction pipeline, more women are being encouraged to pick up the tools. Around 6,000 female apprentices and trainees are currently undertaking training in the construction industry, which is more than double the number in training from 2019.

But that enrolment bump has ultimately amounted to a marginal rise in female representation in a small number of popular trades, like electricians and carpenters, leaving other in-demand careers like welding and plumbing to continue to be dominated by men. 

“It’s sad to see that trades like plumbing and welding don’t even really have a full percentage of female representation,” said Atherton.

“…I think they’re both incredible trades that women can excel in, so definitely something that women should be looking at.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, women still only account for 1.6 per cent of all apprentice plumbers, 5.2 per cent of electrician apprentices and 2.5 per cent of apprentice bricklayers and carpenters combined.

With the government’s ambitious Housing Accord target of building 1.2 million homes fast approaching, Atherton said the industry needs to change “their mindsets” and see trades as “just a human being” job.

“If you’ve go the work ethic, you’ve got the skill set and you’ve got the mindset, you should be able to have a go at being a tradie if that’s what your heart desires,” she said. 

Share This Article
Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.