While women are not always top of mind when one thinks of builders, mechanics or meatworkers, a few of the Great Southern’s fairer sex are bucking stereotypes.
They are pulling up their socks, getting their hands dirty and giving jobs traditionally associated with men a red-hot go – to success. With 17 per cent of apprenticeship positions in WA filled by women, the State lags behind NSW (23 per cent), Victoria (25 per cent) and Queensland (26 per cent).
But WA is well ahead of South Australia (6 per cent), Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Tasmania (1 per cent). Renae Hordyk is a local leader.
Ms Hordyk has nearly finished an apprenticeship at her father’s business Moore Joinery and Cabinet Makers, but taking up the woodworking trade was not something she initially planned to do.
“Dad owns the business and I started out as a secretary but there wasn’t really enough work so I started on the floor and ended up doing an apprenticeship,” she said.
Also working alongside her brother, Ms Hordyk said supportive students at the Great Southern Institute of Technology helped her enter the industry.
“Guys are very accepting of it nowadays,” she said.
“They think it’s pretty cool.”
Of the 120 apprentices enrolled to study trades at the institute, only five are female.
Institute trades head Kathy Keay said although that figure was higher than five years ago, growth had been slow, partly due to a persistent perception trades were for males.
“I think boys go into trades because they want to do something and they already have that stereotype that they could go into a trade,” she said.
“A girl going into a trade really has to want to go into that trade.
Ms Keay said there was a subtle difference as to why girls took up a trade.
“I don’t think there’s an employer who would knock back a girl because she was a girl,” she said.
“When they come here lecturers are really excited to get a girl.
“They think that’s great – it’s just girls making up their minds.”
Fletcher International is one company not afraid of hiring women for its workforce.
Fletcher International general manager Greg Cross said about 20 per cent of employees were female.
Margaret Stickland is one of those women.
Ms Stickland was unemployed for a long time after leaving school but is now an Australian Quarantine Inspection Service officer.
She started work at Fletcher’s 12 years ago and has worked in every department of the abattoir, but enjoys her new role as a meat inspector on the slaughter floor.
It took 18 months to gain her Certificate IV in meat safety, and she is now one of 33 Fletcher-trained meat inspectors.
“The job definitely brought me up in life because I didn’t finish high school,” she said.
“Once the guys get over the euphoria that you’re a woman they treat you like one of the guys.
Ms Stickland said she had made some great mates.
“I go to the gym three times a week and I can lift and throw a whole sheep – that shut the guys up when I first started,” she said.
Alexandra Pugh runs a farm near Fletcher International in Narrikup with her three sisters.
Ms Pugh has a master’s degree in agricultural science and is one of a growing number of women pursuing life on the land.
“The agricultural community is very progressive and has moved with the times,” she said.
“My sisters and I haven’t encountered any negativity because we’re female.”
Ms Pugh said there were a lot more women in the agricultural industry than a decade ago.
“We’ve been passionate livestock breeders for a long time – my dad and his father before him – we love breeding and feeding livestock,” she said.
“We were home-schooled, so half our day was spent doing schoolwork with mum and the other half was out on the farm with dad.”
Bethaney Kidman, who works as an estimator and drafter, first experienced construction through her father.
“My first taste of the construction industry was the A-frame house my dad built for the family when I was eight,” she said.
“I helped cut the steel brackets that were welded onto the frame to fix purlins. I also spent long hours compacting the sand pad for the slab.
“However the crucial decision came when I suggested halfheartedly to my partner that I would do a drafting course and he encouraged me.”
Ms Kidman has worked in many roles in the construction industry.
“The fact that you are a woman isn’t an issue for anyone, these days,” she said.
“Things are different from 50 years ago when you were directed into stereotypical professions depending on your sex.”
Rose Williams, who finished an apprenticeship in Albany to become a qualified marine mechanic, probably has one of the most male-dominated jobs of all.
Ms Williams works as head tradie at Ningaloo Auto Repairs in Exmouth and said it was harder for women to be accepted in her trade.
“I started studying to be a mechanic when I was 15 at Albany TAFE,” she said.
“It was an eye-opener and made me think twice about that career.
“After a few months I gave up on the idea of working with cars.”
But one day Ms Williams got a call from ATC Recruiting, offering her an apprenticeship in marine mechanics and she has not looked back.
Although Ms Williams faced resistance from some, this made her keen to “show them up”, and workplace GB Marine became a like second family for her, she said.