Increasing Women’s Participation in Trades

A white woman is gesturing with her hands while an Asian woman listens. They are in an engineering lab with a white machine and laptop in front of them

I lead the Women in Trades project. Our team investigates the behavioural barriers and solutions to women’s recruitment in traditionally male-dominated trades, such as construction, engineering and electrotechnology. In the state of New South Wales, women make up only 9% of all apprentices, and 2% of qualified tradespeople in these industries. Our first research report has been published by our partners. The Women in Trades Promising Practice Review presents an overview of best practice in vocational training and employment in Australia and internationally.

The issue of gender equity is a structural problem, and it is therefore broader than the trade sector. Our research evaluates 22 empirical studies on women apprentices and trainees and makes recommendations about how to begin addressing change.

We find that four key issues affect women’s training and employment in male-dominated trades. First, family, teachers, careers advisors and other influential people don’t understand the potential value of trade careers for women, especially because they perceive trades are ‘not for girls’ and university is seen as the key pathway to success. Second, gender bias is not proactively addressed in workplaces and training institutions, including safety, sexual harassment, work practices, and social support. Third, employers favour recruitment strategies that disadvantage women, such as a focus on hiring through their existing social networks. Finally, influential people discourage girls from exploring apprenticeships and traineeships at school, because they lack awareness of opportunities for girls.

Our research is intended for decision-makers, employers and industry groups, providing tips on how to start tackling gender myths, bias, and discrimination.

Read the Women in Trades Promising Practice Review. This research is conducted by the Behavioural Insights Unit, in partnership with Training Services NSW, of the Department of Education.