Australia has one of the most gender-segregated workforces in the world, and it’s a major driver of gender pay inequality.
Women Onsite is a VTHC project that works directly with women interested in a career in mainly male industries of construction, manufacturing, auto and clean energy. We work with women to identify their personal barriers offer direct resourcing to them; including Job Readiness sessions, Try a Trade days and Introduction to Industry sessions.
Barbara Huggins, the lead of the women onsite project, says that some of the cultural barriers to women’s participation in trades are complex, but others are remarkably simple to overcome. “One of the major barriers stopping women from starting an apprenticeship is that they literally don’t have the tools – I mean a literal tool set. Apprentices are typically given the list of the tools they need to buy on their first day and then spend the next year or so having the cost deducted from their pay. So when you’re changing careers at 28 (the average age a woman starts a trade) and reducing your income significantly, going into debt on your first day is a barrier so paying for the tools a woman needs, can be all it takes”
Tradie social night
In July Women Onsite hosted a social event for tradeswomen and non-binary folks to build a social support network for apprentices and qualified tradies.
“I found a community of electrical trades women... and they were such a great community for me, like they were all really passionate about getting more women into the industry.”
- Apprentice Electrician
The voices of working women must be heard in every space that counts! Making submissions, appearing at inquiries and being on committee’s isn’t glamorous. It is, however, an important way to ensure the challenges faced by working women are front and centre for decision makers.
VTHC has endorsed a platform for change based on the input of thousands of working women across the state. That platform informs all our advocacy. VTHC is represented on a number of important committees.
Assistant Secretary Wil Stracke sits on the Equal Workplaces Advisory Council, Building Respect Committee (overseeing the implementation of the Building Equality Strategy for women in the construction industry), Women in Apprenticeships Advisory Group, Power to Prevent Coalition and the advisory group assisting the Victorian Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner around implementation of the Victorian Gender Equality Act. Wil was also a member of the Ministerial Taskforce on Workplace Sexual Harassment.
In 2023, Wil was a presenter at a number of events focused on the challenges faced by working women. This includes at the Victorian Government’s ‘Building Respect Conference’ and ‘SEC Energy Jobs and Skills Forum’ panel on women in energy.
At a national level, Wil participated in the national roundtable measuring the impact of the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children coordinated by the Federal Commissioner for Domestic and Family Violence and in consultations regarding disclosures of historical workplace sexual harassment coordinated by the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner. Wil has also been an ongoing participant in consultations regarding the proposed use of procurement to meet gender targets in the Australian Skills Guarantee and in increasing the number of women in VET. And in the broader diversity space, Wil was a presenter at the World Pride International Human Rights Conference and has worked with Building Unions from across the Asia Pacific region around queer inclusion strategies.
Over the last few years, the VTHC has made submissions to various enquiries including the Victorian Government Ministerial Taskforce on Sexual Harassment, Gender Equality Bill and Regulations and the Inquiry into Women’s Economic Equity. At a Federal level, we contributed to the Respect @ Work Report.
This year, we built on that work by making various submissions around issues impacting working women including into the Fair Work Commission Sexual Harassment Cost Model and a proposed Federal Procurement framework around women apprentices and encouraging women into VET.