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Construction’s “Female Tradie” builds a path for women in mining

Thirty years ago it was illegal across Australia for women to work in underground mines.

Today, the vast majority of workers in mining are still male, however, a positive shift in attitude is occurring towards getting more women involved in the industry.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the Australian mining industry is made up of only 16.7% women. These numbers are almost identical to the construction industry (17%) so we reached out to someone who’s making serious progress for women in construction.

Meet Penny Petridis aka the “Female Tradie”.

Penny was first involved in trades over twenty years ago, starting in metal work then moving onto building race cars, metal fabrication, horticulture and finally carpentry. When she started her own business ‘Decked Out’, Penny found that people were hesitant to hire a female carpenter.

“I was doing decking and vergolas and struggled every time I went to a client. They were surprised having a woman coming up and I would have to tell a half an hour story before even starting the job for them.”

“That’s why I named it Female Tradie, so they knew who was rocking up”, she said.

Female Tradie started out with Penny as the sole carpenter but has now evolved into a full team and is moving into the training area.

“It’s become a company where it’s a go-to. A lot of girls call me for information on how to get into trades and how to get amongst it. (At first) It was hard, there wasn’t that many companies I could feed them to and obviously I couldn’t employ them all.”

Penny believes many women are hesitant to get involved because they feel scared and intimidated by being the minority in a big company. She doesn’t put it all down to gender though.

Penny working hard on-site (Source: Penny Petridis)

She said, “A lot of the time it’s not just because they’re women. Its builders in general, just the trades in general onsite…I guess they’re affected more whereas the boys might let it go past them.”

Her success with Female Tradie has shown other women that it is possible to be successful in a male-dominated industry. Many women have looked to Penny for knowledge or guidance on how to have the same success that she has. Penny acknowledged that finding work today, whether it be in construction or mining, is a real challenge for people.

“They’re struggling with that, it’s where we need to work something out. It’s why they’re ringing me because if they knew they wouldn’t call me. At the moment they’re trying to call builders, but I think it’s about marketing. Companies putting a big marketing poster out, without it being a sexist thing, saying, “Hey we want you guys”.

Penny’s advice for anyone who wants to get involved with a trade is simple.

“Make sure they choose the right trade…go with their passion and work hard at it.”

She says people need to know exactly what’s involved with a trade before committing to it. Then it’s down to working hard and proving yourself. Penny’s says she loves working a trade because it gives her a sense of achievement, that being able to make something physical makes her proud. For her it’s also about being part of a team and working together with others to get a job done.

For anyone who wants to learn more about getting into a trade, make sure to check out Female Tradie or attend their next workshop on June 1st . To get started with your mining career, sign up at MyPass, for free, to create your online passport, manage your quals in one place and connect with employers.

If you or someone you know has a worker story worth telling, please contact hmorton@mypassglobal.com

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