International Women's Day: Trades Industry needs to improve workspaces for female employees

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International Women's Day: Trades Industry needs to improve workspaces for female employees

On International Women’s Day (IWD), work-based learning organisation Competenz has partnered with a female mechanical engineering apprentice to encourage more women to consider a career in traditionally male-dominated trades.

Jadziya Pyne was the only female in her engineering class at school. Pyne is now halfway through a fitting and machining engineering apprenticeship at Auckland University’s machining workshop where she is the only woman employed at the workshop.

“It can be challenging when there aren’t any other women around to support you, but I see myself as someone carving out a path for women to join me,” Pyne told HRD.

While there has been a gradual shift with more women taking on a trade apprenticeships and training, women only account for 12% of the total trade workforce in New Zealand.

“We are seeing some improvements,” added Toni Christie. Christie is the general manager of employer and learner support at Competenz who arrange apprenticeships and training for people looking to enter a trade. 17% of their learners are women.

“I think we need to accelerate that growth.”

Christie is no stranger to being a female working in a male-dominated industry. Twenty-eight years ago, she started her career working for a large oil company where she was a business advisor to independent service stations. There was resistance from the male service station owners who felt uneasy with a woman holding the role.

“With hard work and determination, I had to overcome barriers I felt simply shouldn’t have existed.”

One of the projects Competenz is working on this year is working with their employer network to identify what support they need to ensure they create a really good, equitable working environment so they can attract more women.

“There’s a real opportunity for more employers to be willing to create suitable working environments for women.”

Christie believes the biggest barrier is the opinion held by many that the trades are for men. Pyne says that her workplace is respectful of her as the only female, but she does get a few weird looks from visitors who are surprised to see a woman on the tools.

“I have always held the opinion that "women can do anything and have never been one to shy away from roles or situations which went against this thinking,” added Christie. ”International Women's Day is a celebration of creating a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive and that is exactly what we have to do for woman in trades!”

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