There has been growing support for women to have the opportunity to pursue a trade career over the past five years. This will eventually influence the type of tradies making purchases at hardware stores.
Last February, Minister for Women Pru Goward announced a $200,000 boost in NSW to assist women in entering ''non-traditional'' roles. Goward said:
We want the best ideas from local government, community organisations and industry bodies to work with the NSW government to increase women in non-traditional occupations.
We are encouraging projects which support women into non-traditional occupations - trades with 25% or less participation of women, such as electricians, cabinet makers and motor mechanics.
Newcastle support group Lady Tradies is one of many incentives benefiting from the state-funded scheme. Founder Wendy Pinch believes it's imperative to provide support and initiative for women to pursue careers of their choice. Pinch told The Herald:
It can be very intimidating and very daunting to be on that very male-dominated industrial site when you're a girl. You've got to have a backbone to work in that industry and you've got to have thick skin and the guys, if they've been brought up right, treat the girls the way they should be treated - as any other employee. But there is still that sexism that goes on.
Twenty-something budding electrician Ella Hepplewhite believes women have a lot to offer on a job site. She says that female tradespeople bring a concentration and a multitasking ability that can make the job flow a lot more smoothly. She explains:
I feel like we have so much to give, we do have a lot of qualities men don't have. Between working full-time jobs and balancing kids, we can multitask, we have an eye for detail, and we don't miss the stuff that guys might, whereas guys might be more one-track minded.
Pinch says one of the main reasons she decided to establish Lady Tradies was because she wanted to provide a better opportunity for female tradespeople such as Hepplewhite. She says:
I was renovating my house at the time and I was just getting fed up with male tradies. They wouldn't turn up on time, they wouldn't return your phone call, they'd talk down to you and I thought other people must be as frustrated with tradies as I am - and they are!
So a couple of times I asked people, 'were there any girls in your course when you were an apprentice?' or, 'do you know any of any female electricians?' and people were saying 'yes'. I was starting to think, well how do you find these girls? If I wanted to employ a female tradie, how do I find her?
With the number of women in vocational training rising 80% since 2008 and the number of women taking part in government-subsidised vocational training almost doubling from 139,800 in 2008 to 251,900 in 2012, it's unsurprising that Lady Tradies received so much attention from female tradespeople seeking work.
Lady Tradies has more than 1500 likes on Facebook and a website in the making, which Pinch says will provide an opportunity for female tradespeople such as Hepplewhite to upload a resume, providing a direct connection for the consumer to find the right tradesperson for the job.
Pinch says female tradespeople are increasingly in demand despite the blue-collar glass ceiling they can face. She says:
People are renovating their homes and more often than not, it's a woman who's at home waiting for the tradie to turn up. She's deciding on colour schemes, she gets a big say these days in the way a house is built or renovated...She wants to deal with someone who can see her perspective better. And we bring that perspective to the industry.
Pinch believes a sexist attitude permeating the trades is what holds back female tradespeople such as Hepplewhite. Pinch says she knows female tradespeople who changed their name to a generic male name on their resume just to get to the interview stage.
Russell Holtham, the national head of apprentices at the Housing Industry Association, agrees that it's ''ignorance more than anything else'' that holds women back in the trades. He says:
The percentage of female applications to male for a position we have would be less than 1%. But at the end of the day, when you're hiring an apprentice if they've got the right attitude and want to be there then it doesn't matter if they're a male or female.
A survey conducted by the Institute of Automotive Mechanical Engineers found that a lack of female toilets was among the top concern for why workshops would not employ or train females, along with maternity leave fears and swearing concerns.