Celebrating Women in Trades

WHLM partnered with HALT to design and deliver a story-telling project to raise the voices and the unique experiences of women working in trades across the Loddon Mallee.

“I’ve got 2 small girls with their own workbenches and tools who have had electric screwdrivers since they were 2. I’m teaching them the skills to pay the bills. Jaxx of All Trades

Womens Health Loddon Mallee (WHLM) recently partnered with Hope Assistance Local Tradies (HALT) to raise the voices and the unique experiences of women in traditionally male-dominated roles across the Loddon Mallee. 

Through a photography exhibition, with images by Zo Damage, WHLM and HALT featured 12 women based on Dja Dja Wurrung Country who work in trades-based industries such as carpentry, landscaping and welding. The photos, and accompanying captions, present a glimpse into their work, their wellbeing, and their journey through the pandemic.   

Audiences were invited to reflect on the multiple barriers women encounter when entering and working in male-dominated spaces – the impact that this can have on their mental health and their employment opportunities, particularly with the backdrop of the global health crisis at the time. The pandemic has magnified pre-existing inequalities for women in our economy, who have been hit hardest by job losses and financial insecurity. It is more important than ever to remove barriers that prevent women from enjoying the full benefit of trade-based employment, including outdated gender stereotypes, discrimination, and harassment. 

Personal stories can be incredibly powerful in communicating ideas, shifting attitudes, and changing systems. By sharing these local perspectives, we hope to keep the conversation going so we can work together to advance gender equity and ensure women’s expertise, knowledge and experiences can be included in emergency planning and response. 

“I’ve experienced unconscious bias and gender assumptions mostly at trade stores and suppliers, not so much on the job…At work I make sure I connect with other women and gender diverse tradies, and I really feel like I’ve got a really good network, and at home getting out to big nature and sharing and connecting with friends.” – Bry, Landscaper 

“I have always wanted to do something hands on, so carpentry was a practical and logical choice but wasn’t ever something that was ever presented or supported at school or careers day as an option. I had to put myself out there and ask my boss if he’d consider taking me on as an apprentice, and I haven’t looked back.” Alex, Carpenter  

“The building industry would really benefit from the female view on environmentally sustainably building and respect for past materials, so do it please! My biggest piece of advice is to remember that you are proud to be a woman, you don’t have to be a bloke!” – Anna, business owner and operator 

Cheese making has traditionally been women’s business, but there’s definitely a sense that tractors and farming are blokey, it can be pretty funny when you arrive on the tractor and they are expecting a man, they are always sceptical at the start tend to check themselves pretty quickly, once you get to build a relationship with them gender doesn’t seem to matter.” – Lydia, cheesemaker 

The Five Ways to Wellbeing: 

The photography and interviews in the series explored the 5 principles for personal wellbeing. 

Five Ways to Wellbeing is a framework that sets out simple actions to improve personal wellbeing, backed by extensive international research. The principles of wellbeing include connect, give, keep learning, be active, and take notice. 

Connect – Having friends and family to connect with is important for maintaining mental health and wellbeing. You could go for a walk with a friend, meet new people at a community event or spend time at home with your family. Call or message someone you have not spoken to in a while to reconnect. 

Keep Learning – Keeping your brain active and learning new things can help to boost your self-confidence, provide you with new coping skills and knowledge and even help to give more meaning and purpose in your life. You could try learning a new skill or exploring a new hobby, listen to a podcast about a topic of interest or read a book you have been meaning to get on to. 

Take Notice – Slowing down can help you to learn self-awareness, reduce negative thoughts and maintain a level of calmness. Take the time to slow down, be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Some pathways that may be helpful for you to connect with yourself and the present moment can be yoga or meditation, taking a stroll outdoors, or just going outside and feeling the sun or the breeze on your skin. 

Be Active – When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain and trigger a positive feeling. There are many ways you can stay active. Go for a walk or run, do yoga, jump on your skateboard or bicycle, get out in the garden. Do what feels right for you. 

Give: Giving to others can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on your personal wellbeing. You do not have to spend money to give. Generosity can be as simple as taking the time to check in with a friend or offering your seat to someone on public transport. If you take some time to practice empathy and identify ways you can improve the lives of those around you, everyone will reap the benefits. If you have spare time you can volunteer in your community. Try contacting a local organisation that you support and see if your skills can be utilised there. This might be a local support service, your local community radio station, an opportunity shop.