Preparing students for gender equity in the workplace of tomorrow

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Industry is increasingly challenged to align more closely with social norms and expectations around diversity, inclusion and equality. Change is required to increase the numbers of women into work previously considered masculine. This also includes policy change and strategies to foster gender equity. In sectors such as the military, policing, engineering and STEM, reform has been slow but significant, however, there is a lag in the manual trades (carpentry, electrical, plumbing, welding, and automotive) in numbers of women entering the industry and in cultural reform. Vocational Education and Training (VET) has a unique role in preparing students for a world of work where gender equity is an expectation of government, employers, clients and co-workers. Therefore, the barriers women face in the manual trades, in both education and work, need to be identified and understood at a VET level. Masculine work cultures are known to devalue feminine attributes and harbour belief systems, values and practices linked to social exclusion, discrimination and harassment of women.
This paper reports the findings of a project that has conducted extensive industry consultations, interview research and focus groups aiming to access knowledge about how women achieve resilience, success and longevity in manual trade industries. This presentation focuses on preliminary findings about the gendered experience of VET. Our findings indicate that whilst the culture of manual trades VET classrooms is masculine, gender integration can change the nature of classrooms in ways that benefit all. We consider how this favourable transformation contributes to VET preparing students with ‘soft skills’ and ‘skills for life’. Often difficult to define, these skills include acceptance and understanding of diversity, inclusion and equality; and an openness to gender equity strategies. Such skills support workers to operate and compete effectively in the workplaces of tomorrow.


Conference28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference
Abbreviated titleThe student journey: Skilling for Life
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