Australia’s new generation of female tradies – plumbers, electricians and more – answer a call.
Fewer than two percent of tradespeople in Australia are women. In 2011, there were just 638 female plumbers, 676 female carpenters, and 1,432 female electricians nation-wide. But it looks like the tide is finally beginning to turn. Female tradies are getting motivated and qualified, and helping to combat Australia's national trade skills shortage.
YWCA, Australia's oldest women's organization, offers housing, mentoring, training and advocacy for women in vulnerable situations, and in the state of Victoria alone, provides100,000 beds per year to women in need.
Most of the YWCA tenants have experienced trauma, and many are survivors of domestic violence. It's not an ideal place for strange men to come in, but there has to be someone on hand for when the taps stop working or the light fixture breaks. That's where the likes of Kimberley Smyth step in, providing a friendly and non-threatening service to women living in temporary housing.
Plumber Kimberley Smyth started Hey Sista Plumbing, an entirely female owned and run company, in 2012, as a less daunting gateway into the industry for young women.
Smyth says she's been on the receiving end of sexist comments, all the way from trades school to jobsites. "In the past I've had men tell me it's illegal and sexist to run a female plumbing company," she says, "which is amusing considering the tiny percentage of women in the industry.
"I have pointed out on occasion the stupidity of [this], and it has ended with people around that person laughing at them, causing them embarrassment."
Two years ago, the YWCA Victoria introduced a clear policy: they would only employ female trades workers to maintain all its owned and managed properties. It's a commitment that CEO of YWCA Victoria, Jan Berriman, feels strongly about.
"Getting more women into trades traditionally done by men, is crucial to addressing a number of inequities, including the 17.3 percent gender pay gap in Australia," Berriman said. "Our logic was to support the women in trades, provide continuous work that would support business growth, and allow young women to access apprenticeships with female-headed businesses."
According to plumber Kimberley Smyth said, "I enjoy those days when a tenant visibly lights up at finding the plumber is a women. “Especially when it ends with them asking how they can start. It's women inspiring other women."
Click here to read more about the women tradies in Australia.