Women in the Trades in New Zealand
Among the biggest concerns in workplaces around the world are diversity and representation. Even in New Zealand, which is considered a highly progressive country, these issues continue to persist. Case in point, less than 12% of trade industry jobs are held by women.
The Challenges Faced By Women in the Trades
The truth is that a career in the trades is more viable than ever, especially since practical skills training has become more accessible. The industry is also consistently in need of workers, particularly those who specialise in construction and carpentry, agriculture, as well as oil and gas, among many others.
However, despite the fact that women make up half of the population and that diversity can bring a fresh perspective into the field, women still struggle to make their place in the trades. This is due to certain systemic barriers that have been at play for years. These include issues like:
- Gender discrimination
- Unequal training and pay
- Job insecurity
- Lack of support
- Lack of coworker acceptance
- Pervasive “macho culture”
- Sexual harassment
- Tokenism and underrepresentation
Many of these issues are currently being addressed, particularly the gender pay gap and sexual harassment. However, they won’t be completely solved if the biggest problem isn’t solved: the considerably low number of women in the field.
How Women Can Take Up Space in Trades
Thankfully, there are organisations and even authority figures who continue to champion the cause. One of the most critical efforts is putting women in touch with their fellow women who are already working and flourishing in trades. This has a lot to do with perception since the trades remain to be a highly male-centric industry. Once women see and accept that they, too, can succeed in trades, it will be easier to convince them to step up.
Information dissemination is also crucial about trades careers (discussed below), which many people falsely believe is limited to construction. Introducing women to training providers and potential employers, as well as providing career support, can also greatly affect the decision to join the industry. The huge possibilities offered by entrepreneurship in trades should also be emphasised. Last but not the least, starting early and at the grassroots level is an important component for women to view trades as a good career path.
Various Careers in the Trades for Women
It’s not only in New Zealand where there’s a shortage of women in trades, but rather the whole world. The good news is that the industry is predicted to experience continued growth; this only means that there will always be a place in trades for everyone—including and especially women.
Some of the most popular trades careers include jobs in agriculture, automotives, construction, manufacturing, and mining. Women can find success in being electricians, HVAC technicians, plumbers, metal workers, welders, masons, tile setters, carpenters, and painters, just to name a few.
The Benefits of Working in the Trades as a Woman
Aside from being a potentially lucrative career path, there are a few more benefits of working in the trades. These include:
- More often than not, it’s cheaper to study for skilled trades rather than get a standard four-year college education. This is still true even after you factor in the cost of extra training, such as workplace health and safety.
- Opportunity and stability. As previously mentioned, skilled tradespeople are always in-demand in the labour market. With the current climate, it’s expected that this high demand will continue for more years to come.
- Career growth. When you work in the trades, it’s considerably easier to rise through the ranks. What’s more, there are plenty of emerging industries where you can make a name for yourself. For example, thanks to the increasing awareness about climate change and the push towards greener energy, solar power is a rapidly growing field.
- Travel opportunities. There are many skilled trades positions that offer travel opportunities, particularly those in mining.
- While there’s nothing wrong with white-collar jobs, some people just aren’t suited to the corporate world. This can foster feelings of dissatisfaction and being stuck in a rut. Meanwhile, skilled tradespeople have a lot of flexibility. It’s also easier to become one’s own boss, especially as you become more experienced and start taking on more contracts.
- Daily application of skills. How often have you heard someone complaining that most of what they studied in school aren’t relevant to the job they have now? Well, this situation is rather rare or even non-existent in trades. No matter what you study—be it plumbing, carpentry, or even brick-laying—you’ll be using your training in your job every single time.
- Become a role model. There are many young women who feel discouraged about getting a job in trades. By becoming a skilled tradeswoman, you can help inspire girls and young women to join the field, defy stereotypes, and break the proverbial glass ceiling.
It’s about time that a burly man in construction overalls and dirty work boots stop being the engrained mental image of a person in the trades. Indeed, anyone of any gender can be successful in any field they choose!