Why girls need to trade in gender stereotypes
HELEN Robinson knows what it's like to work in a male-dominated field. She started her career in the building industry in 1990, a time when women were still not entirely accepted in male-dominated workplaces.
That's why the qualified cabinet maker is excited to be planning a Women On Tools expo in Bundaberg next month in conjunction with the National Association of Women in Construction.
"As a career choice for young women, I think any trade is a brilliant career path and it really does open up doors,” Ms Robinson said.
"One of the biggest issues is that people, whether it be boys or girls at school, don't realise how many avenues there are in a trade.”
The path to success in what has been a traditionally mal industry was not quite paved at the time Ms Robinson started her career.
"I did my cabinet-making trade about 26 years ago and there weren't many females in the trade back then, because it was very hard to get into it as a woman,” she said.
"I was really drawn to cabinet-making because I thought it had a lot to do with timbers, when actually it mostly focused on kitchen design.
"It took me 12 months to get an apprenticeship but I just kept going back and back until someone would give me the job and that's when I realised just how little I knew and how much there was to learn about the trade.
"I had an excellent boss, who let me go into the factories on the weekend and work with timbers and joinery, use the equipment and basically do everything.
"I went on to study a cert 4 in design, specialising in kitchens and that touched on architecture and everything and then we went to Europe and Milan was a really amazing and eye-opening experience about design.”
The Bundy local, who has been a member of the Queensland Alliance Committee for Plumbing for years, said she believed trades like plumbing were progressive career choices that younger people should research and consider.
"Plumbing is brilliant if you love the outdoors and you're fit and there are so many opportunities,” she said.
"It's not about gender or pre-qualifications,” she said.
"It's about having the right attitude, work ethic and the person being prepared to turn up.”
The experienced tradeswoman believes there are misconceptions about trade roles and that schools need to provide more resources and information about what the career path can provide.
"I'm a huge believer that if you're going to talk to boys and girls about a trade career, you need to do it in year eight and before they choose their electives,” she said.
"In Year 6 and 7, they're still kids trying to work out what their expectations are and by Year 10, they have already gone down a road with subjects, even if they don't know what career path they want to follow.
"Women are not educated about what a trade actually involves and if education was better, I believe there would be a lot more women in trades.
"I don't think that trades are being promoted as much as universities and we hear about all these uni degrees and career achievements or about the kids that are struggling to find work, but where are the stories about successful builders or plumbers or tradespeople? Because there's a heap of them out there.”
The Women On Tools expo will be held at the Bundaberg Tafe on Walker St on August 22.