Despite more than 30 years of activism and government policy encouraging women to break down the barriers and take up employment in the manual trades, women currently make up 1-3% of all workers in the manual trades in Australia. This figure has remained stubbornly consistent throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. The manual trade occupations include: electro-technology, automotive, bricklaying, carpentry, painting/decorating, metal fabrication and plumbing. The economic advantages of diversity and inclusive employment policies are well established and are a key strategy in addressing regional skills shortages in Australia. However, finding solutions to the problem of gender segregation in the manual trades goes beyond government and industry needing to address the skills shortage, to providing viable employment alternatives to women.
Drawing on a recent project in regional NSW and Victoria that explored the lived experiences of tradeswomen, apprentices, the industry they work in and the organisations that support them, this paper investigates recruitment and retention, women’s contribution to workplace productivity and how these factors promote longevity and career satisfaction.
The paper identifies a range of strategies to address the persistent barriers to women’s recruitment and retention including changing social and cultural perceptions of gender and gender roles, valuing women’s skills and contribution to the trades; changing the way we deliver education and training and who delivers it; integrating women for the good of industry; increasing support and developing targeted resources from government and industry and changing organisational working practices to improve the industry culture for all stakeholders.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2020
EventAssociation of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand (AIRAANZ): 2020 Annual Conference - Rydges, Queenstown, New Zealand
Duration: 11 Feb 202014 Mar 2020
Conference number: 34
https://www.airaanz.org/2020-conference.html (Conference website)
https://www.airaanz.org/uploads/2/1/6/3/2163987/airaanz_2020_-_program_17_feb.pdf (program)
https://www.airaanz.org/uploads/2/1/6/3/2163987/airaanz_program_v15.pdf (conference proceedings)


ConferenceAssociation of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand (AIRAANZ)
Abbreviated title'Doing things differently? IR practice and research beyond 2020’
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
OtherThe Association of Industrial Relations Academics in Australia and New Zealand are pleased to announce that the AIRAANZ 2020 Conference details have now been finalised. Next year, the conference will be held at Rydges, Queenstown, New Zealand from Tuesday 11 to Friday 14 February 2020.
The theme of the conference is: "Doing things differently? IR practice and research beyond 2020".
This theme allows us to explore all manner of employment related topics, and ask ourselves: what will be our focus in practice and research in the uncertain times ahead?
A special issue of Labour and Industry will feature papers from the conference.
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Addressing the persistent barriers to women’s employment in the manual trades'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this