The building and construction industry is one of the most gender segregated and masculinised occupations in Australia. Women in skilled trades occupations manage their gender in workplaces where hegemonic masculine cultural practices are normalised to the point of invisibility. Adhering to them is expected and enforced. Thus, when women enter skilled trades workplaces the appearance of their bodies betrays them as wrong for the job even before they begin. This paper examines the gender management strategies utilized by successful tradeswomen that enable them to ‘fit in’, fake it’ and not be different to their male colleagues. We identify two types of gender management – often executed in conjunction. One is gender protection, which is reactionary against gender discrimination and sexual harassment, lack of opportunity and promotion, and inflexible work arrangements. The other is gender performance which is a strategy that challenges gender stereotypes and the fixing of gender attributes to particular bodies. Drawing on feminist theories of gender as a ‘doing’ and ‘undoing’, we examine the ways tradeswomen identify as ‘tomboys’ and perform masculinity – displays of strength, toughness, competitiveness and competencies that are important attributes to display in their workplaces. This distinction is important. Gender protection adds a layer of difficulty to women’s experience of trades work. One that is wearing and leads to attrition over time. The other assists success and enables women working in the skilled trades to perform their own version of tradesman. Interestingly, the tradeswomen in our study also maintained their identity as women by knowing how to use their bodies productively and injecting existing attributes perceived as feminine into their work. In so doing, they transform cultural presumptions about gender in the skilled trades in ways that Judith Butler describes as “site[s] of rupture within the horizon of normativity” (2005, p. 24).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2022
EventThe Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Conference 2022: Social Challenges, Social Change - University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 28 Nov 202202 Dec 2022
https://tasa.org.au/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=671860&module_id=540349 (Handbook program abstracts)


ConferenceThe Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Conference 2022
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