Petite painting powerhouse brushes off female tradie stereotypes

Jasmine Stewart may be one of only two female spray painters in her state, but she’s quickly proved she’s becoming one of the best, too.

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
4 Min Read

Jasmine Stewart may be one of only two female spray painters in her state, but she’s quickly proved she’s becoming one of the best, too.

The West Australian apprentice is not your average tradie. Aside from being female, she stands at only five foot three inches and weighs considerably less than all her male colleagues.

But what she lacks in height and physical prowess, she more than makes up for with determination and drive, becoming one of the top new tradies in her state while working on large-scale projects for BHP, Rio Tinto and the Australian Navy.

The industrial spray painter and blasting trainee was named a finalist for the Woman in Building and Construction Industry Apprentice of the Year at the 2023 Apprentice Employment Network Awards last month.

But despite the accolades and recognition from her coworkers, Jasmine says introduction into the trade was far from easy, with the physical nature of the job pushing her to the limit.

“There is a stigma around females in trades, especially when it comes to manual labour or being around machinery,” Jasmine said.

“Resilience is key. Despite the physical shock to my body during the first two weeks, I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to prove those who doubted me wrong.”

Industrial blasting and coating are essential for materials used in manufacturing, construction, oil and gas, automotive and marine industries.

It involves surface preparation by blasting abrasive materials with a high-pressure hose and applying protective coats of paint.

Mentorships are the secret to success

Jasmine says it took weeks before her body adjusted to the 10-and-a-half-hour work days and extra overtime shifts, but thanks to a set of encouraging mentors, she was able to perceiver and is now reaping the rewards.

“Being shorter and weighing less than my male counterparts doesn’t stop me from doing the same job as them. It’s all about knowing your capabilities and believing in yourself,” she said.

Now, the 26-year-old has taken on an extra role as an apprentice mentor herself, offering support and guidance to women entering the trades and helping them stick it out during the tough times.

“I thought there would be more women influencing trades, especially by 2023. Considering the opportunities, it’s surprising to see so few females in industrial coatings,” she said.

“If I didn’t have the support that I had initially, I probably would have been scared off. (Having a mentor) meant that I made it through those first two weeks.”

Her own mentor, Terry Doyle, an apprentice and skills development coach at training agency SkillHire, says he was instantly impressed by Jasmine’s talent and determination.

“It’s a tough industry to break into because of its mobility and opportunity. It’s not pleasant; a lot don’t last, and you’re paid well because you are able to do a tough job,” he said.

“I take immense pride in Jasmine. She represents the future of our industry.”

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.