Being a tradesperson in the heavy vehicle transport industry as a female is a factor that I will not prioritise while sharing my experiences of work and the world, for reasons you will soon understand, but I cannot deny its influence on my experiences – and it might not be in the ways you’re expecting.
There is a duality in the title ‘female apprentice’ that is both unavoidable and contradictory. Being a ‘female apprentice’ and advertising the opportunity for women to enter non-traditional roles advocates for increased participation in industry and increased gender diversity. Yet, by advertising for ‘female’ apprentices, it still places an emphasis on gender that doesn’t exist for ‘male’ apprentices.
I know that this duality frustrates many tradespeople who carry the title ‘female apprentice’ or ‘female technician’.
Yet, I believe it is a necessary – not permanent – emphasis that can create a perspective shift.
When I made the decision to become an apprentice in heavy vehicle mechanical technology, considerations about my gender were unavoidable. It was important to me that I had equal opportunities, was accepted into the culture of the workplace and supported as an individual (not just as a female). In my experience, the recruitment level is where the emphasis on ‘female’ tradespeople is most valuable as it educates the community that women are desired in these non-traditional roles.
Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to any trade industries. It was by chance that I was introduced to the transport industry in high school, leading me to where I am today. If this changed, and students of all genders were exposed to the potential careers in trade earlier in life then I believe the number of females entering non-traditional roles would increase.
Awareness is the beginning. Yet, recruitment is where the emphasis of ‘female’ can end.
I am grateful for the attitude and culture of my workshop. Once I became a part of the team, I wasn’t a ‘female apprentice’ I was just an ‘apprentice’. My merit was earned based on who I was as an individual – my identity, work ethic and attitude created my reputation and brand – not my gender.
I believe my experience is the ideal outcome of gender inclusion. Although, I can admit that there are times I carry the ‘female apprentice’ label as a way to advocate for women in the trade – that is a sacrifice that I am prepared to make for the benefit of advancing gender inclusion.
Being a female is a part of my identity, and therefore it will always be a factor in my experiences, but it isn’t the reason I have certain experiences, and that is important. My experiences are a product of who I am as an apprentice and as an employee.
It is in these ways that my gender is an influence on my experiences in the transport industry and yet not profoundly impactful. With these experiences and my insight, I can advocate the inclusiveness of the industry for all, even if the use of gender labels, in reality, can be a little contradicting.