Why Women Entering Male-Dominated Jobs Can Erase Sexism And Fix Labour Shortages

There’s no doubt that Australia is currently facing a labour shortage. And while some people argue that we need to hire more immigrants, others are advocating for the Government to do something about it. 

Yet, there’s one solution that nobody seems to be talking about. That is, getting more women into male-dominated jobs. You might think that this is a crazy idea, but hear me out.

Not only could it work, but it is essential to lead the Australian economy into the future and women’s equality in the workplace.

So let’s find a productive way to solve Australia’s labour shortage, eliminate sexism from the workplace, and kill two birds with one stone!

The Change In Australian Culture – A Long Way Still To Go From ‘The Old Ways’

In the past, women were primarily excluded from ‘men’s work‘ jobs. This was because it was believed that women weren’t strong enough or capable enough to do these kinds of jobs. Now it sounds as ridiculous as how women weren’t allowed to vote in Australia until 1902. In June of 2022, we celebrated the 120th anniversary of when we were given this fundamental right. 

Yet, even just a generation ago, it was almost unheard of for a woman to work in construction or be a mechanic. In fact, it was uncommon for many women to work at all. For example, in 1980, only 46.4% of females worked.

But times have changed. Women now work in all kinds of jobs that were once considered ‘men’s work’. And they’re doing just as well as their male counterparts, if not better.

So why are we still seeing a vast gender imbalance in many industries?

The answer is simple: sexism. 

Even though women have repeatedly proven that they’re just as capable as men, many employers still refuse to hire them. They hold onto the outdated belief that women can’t do specific jobs, which needs to change, now!

There are plenty of women out there who are more than qualified to work in male-dominated industries. They just need to be given a chance.

The Benefits Of The Benefits Of Hiring Women In Male-Dominated Jobs

There are two main benefits of getting more women into male-dominated jobs. Firstly, it would help to solve Australia’s labour shortage while increasing gender diversity in the workplace. 

Secondly, it would also help to eliminate sexism in the workplace. As more and more women enter these jobs, sexism will slowly disappear. 

Let’s start with the labour shortage issue.

Australia’s Labour Shortage

There are currently many industries in Australia that are facing severe labour shortages. This is because there aren’t enough people with the necessary skills to fill these jobs.

One of the biggest industries affected by this is construction. The housing boom has created a massive demand for construction workers, but there just aren’t enough people to fill these roles.

It is so bad that Infrastructure Australia has reported that by mid-2023, there will be a potential shortfall of more than 105,000 construction jobs. This equates to one in three jobs being advertised and left unfulfilled.

As of October 2021, the peak demand for skills was 48% higher than the available supply. The current annual growth rate of skills is projected at 3.3%. So just to keep up with demand, a 25% growth rate is required – 8 times more than the current rate.

Without it, the Government roll-out of many nationwide multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects that are critically necessary for a growing nation will not be completed on time.

The construction industry is currently facing a severe labour shortage. In fact, it’s estimated that the industry will need an extra 500,000 workers by 2030.

Many people think that finding a considerable number of immigrant workers to fill this gap is the solution. But I strongly disagree.

Now, more than ever, it is essential to leave behind this macho ‘boys club’ culture! The time has come to ditch the dinosaur approach and instead find an innovative solution so apparent that it is hard to imagine that everyone can’t notice it.

But, news flash, it isn’t 1980 anymore! So we must welcome women into construction and other trades jobs immediately. 

According to CSQ, the gender gap is starting to narrow in trade jobs. For example, in 2020, over 13,500 women were working in the construction industry, which more than doubled in 2000, at just 5,300.

While progress is being made, and people no longer think of tradies as just blokes, the numbers still represent an extreme gender discrepancy.

13% of the total construction workforce is female. However, only 2% are working on the tools, with the rest in admin or management positions.

If we could get more women into these jobs, it would help to ease the labour shortage. And not just in construction but in many other trade industries and STEM positions.

“Focus on where you can make the biggest difference and be open to non-traditional roles where you will have a big impact and you will learn a lot. And, never let anyone’ scare’ you out of a job.” — Caitlin Pappas.

Eliminate Sexism From The Workplace

The second benefit of getting more women into male-dominated jobs is that it would help eliminate workplace sexism.

There’s no denying sexism is still a big problem in many industries. But it’s especially prevalent in male-dominated industries. According to Randstad’s 2019 Women in Construction Report, a disappointing 60% of women have experienced gender discrimination at least once, and 37% have experienced some form of inappropriate behaviour directed at them by a male colleague.

Women who work in these industries often have to put up with sexual harassment, belittling comments, and being treated like they’re not as competent as their male colleagues.

This needs to change. 

If more women were working in male-dominated industries, especially in leadership positions, it would help to change the culture. It would also help to show other women that these jobs are open to them too.

However, unfortunately, there are still many people stuck in the past and the ‘old-school way of thinking. As a result, the construction industry is often associated with cat-calling and blue-collar shenanigans. 

Not only are these people co-workers, but they are also managers, leaders, and even CEOs. The people in charge are the ones who need to change their thinking and help break down these barriers.

And as more and more women enter male-dominated jobs, the stigma around these jobs will slowly disappear. Also, more women will feel comfortable applying for them, and more employers will be open to hiring them.

According to researcher Siri Terjesen, female representation only makes any difference after a critical mass has been reached, which is 33% or higher for boards.

Ansgar Gabrielsen, former Minister of Trade and Industry in Norway, introduced a 40% gender quota requirement for all public limited company boards. Perhaps something similar is required in Australia.

It’s a win-win! We need more women in male-dominated jobs to help break down these barriers and slowly change the culture.

And while many people are advocating for the Government to bring in more immigrants to fill these positions, wouldn’t it be better off giving Australians jobs while also eliminating sexism and improving gender diversity in the workplace?

How To Get More Women Into Male-Dominated Jobs

There are a few ways to get more women employed in male-dominated jobs, such as:

Providing financial incentives for businesses to hire women

A great way to get more women into male-dominated jobs is by providing financial incentives for businesses to hire them. This could be in the form of tax breaks or even subsidies.

By doing this, businesses will be more likely to take a chance on hiring women, as they will know that there is some sort of financial safety net in place.

This could help break down barriers currently preventing women from getting hired into these roles. It would also send a strong message that the Government is serious about increasing gender diversity in the workforce and that they are willing to invest in making this happen.

Encouraging women to enter male-dominated industries through education and training programs

Education and training programs would aim to educate women about the opportunities available to them and provide them with the necessary skills and training to be successful in these roles.

This could be a great way to open up these industries to a new pool of talent and help to increase gender diversity.

The NSW Government has already started a Built For Women initiative for women to get fee-free training in construction and related fields.

So far, over 5,000 women have used the program for training in construction, plumbing, manufacturing and other male-dominated fields. 

However, more awareness is required to fill the critical-level future skills shortages fast approaching. Other states also need to invest in similar efforts.

Changing government policies to require companies to have a certain percentage of women in leadership roles

One way to get more women into male-dominated jobs is by changing government policies to require companies to have a certain percentage of women in leadership roles.

This would create a greater incentive for businesses to hire and promote women, as they would need to reach a quota to avoid penalties.

It would also help to create a more level playing field, as companies would be forced to give women a chance to rise through the ranks.

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Women Can Succeed In Male-Dominated Industries

While it may seem extremely difficult, many women have already broken through the barriers and succeeded in male-dominated industries.

One example is Alison Mirams, a prominent construction industry executive and the founding CEO of Roberts Co, a Sydney-based tier-one construction company, championing gender diversity in the workplace. 

In an industry where only 4.4% of CEOs are women, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Alison continues to excel and won the Laing O’Rourke Businesswoman of the Year award at the 2018 NAWIC NSW Awards for Excellence.

Another example is Lisa Mort, the Chief Operating Officer at SMLXL Projects, a construction management company. She has excellent advice about working in a male-dominated industry: to ‘be confident, be assertive, and be respectful.’ She also believes that women need to take up more opportunities when they present themselves rather than letting self-doubts talk them out of it. 

I strongly agree, ladies! When an opportunity presents itself, you must take it, even if you’re not ready!

These women have faced discrimination and sexism in their careers. Still, they have persevered and become successful in their respective fields.

These examples show that women can succeed in heavily male-dominated jobs such as construction. With more women entering these jobs, sexism will slowly start to disappear. This is a win-win situation for both women and the economy.

In today’s world we are crying out for leaders who can adapt to change and challenges, who can build partnerships with trust and integrity, who have the courage to act and react in the face of challenges, who inspire a workforce to follow them on an unknown journey.  Courageous Thought from my book –  First Comes Courage.

Advice For Women Considering Entering A Male-Dominated Job

So you want to enter a male-dominated job, huh? Congratulations! You’re about to embark on a rewarding (and potentially lucrative) career path.

But before you dive in headfirst, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Women in leadership positions in construction and other trades are still relatively rare

Sadly, you’ll likely face discrimination at some point in your career. This can take many forms, from overt sexism to being passed over for promotions. But don’t let it get you down; remember that you’re just as qualified and capable as any man in the field.

Don’t be afraid to take up opportunities when they present themselves

With more women entering male-dominated jobs, sexism will slowly start to disappear. But in the meantime, you’ll need to be assertive and confident in your abilities. Don’t let self-doubt talk you out of opportunities; seize them with both hands!

All it takes is a little courage, and you can achieve great things in a male-dominated industry.

Women in leadership positions are often held to a higher standard than their male counterparts

So you’ll need to be competent, confident, and prepared to deal with extra scrutiny. You’ll also need to be resilient, especially from colleagues who strongly resist changing the status quo.

Male-dominated workplaces can often be hostile environments for women

So it’s essential to build a support network of like-minded women in leadership. They can provide support, advice, and mentorship as you navigate the challenges of working in a male-dominated profession.

Give yourself permission to ask for what you want

Whether it’s a raise, a promotion, or simply more respect from your colleagues. With hard work and determination, you can overcome any obstacle that stands in your way.

Final Thoughts

Despite the challenges, working in a male-dominated field can be an incredibly rewarding experience. You’ll have the opportunity to make a real difference in the industry and be part of a growing movement of women changing the face of trades and construction.

In recent years, more women have been entering male-dominated jobs and industries, and they’re starting to make their presence felt. While there’s still a long way to go, these women prove that we can achieve anything we set our minds to. 

So go out there and show the world what you’re made of!

Are you looking to take the first step and change organisational culture? My Courageous Women Program empowers women to unlock their leadership potential and courage through influential leadership.

By Sonia McDonald – CEO Of LeadershipHQ And McDonald Inc. Leadership Coach, Global Keynote Speaker, Entrepreneur, CEO And Award Winning Author.

When Sonia speaks, everyone in the room feels like she is having a conversation with them as her audience will feel as if they are the only one in the room. She speaks from the heart. She is brave. She wants everyone to be brave. She is an impactful and motivational leadership expert and speaker that creates a life-changing experience. People call Sonia sassy, inspirational, real and a speaker who leaves a lasting impression. Her high-energy, authenticity and humour combined with actionable and practical advice, empowers her audience and provides them with great drive and confidence to take courageous action sand inspire great leadership in all aspects of their lives.

She is also a renowned and award-winning author, having written several of her own books, Leadership Attitude, Just Rock It! and First Comes Courage as well as being a regular contributor in The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. She was named as one of the Top 250 Influential Women in the world as well as Top 100 Australian Entrepreneurs by Richtopia.