What is it for women working in a male dominated industry


Kerry Phillips was her company’s first female tanker at Melbourne Airport.

The 29-year-old is also studying to become a pilot and says her gender feels very visible in both roles.

“From the plane to the refueling, you are a representation of all women,” says Kerry.

“If you do something wrong, it means that all women certainly don’t deserve [to be there] or are not doing a good job or should not be in this industry.

But she was also noticed by other women at the airport, who were unaware that women could be tankers.

“I’m a relatively thin person and so they say, ‘oh my god, if you can do it, I can do it.”

“It can be very difficult for women to participate”

Pressure from family and pressure from society as a whole are among the biggest factors preventing women from entering male-dominated industries, according to Kate Lee of the Gender Equality Agency on the workplace.

“And it’s not without merit, because we know some of these industries can be a tough place when you’re in the minority, for women to exist in these truly masculine workplaces,” she says.

Kerry is studying to become a pilot, in an industry where her gender is very visible. (

Provided: RMIT


Maxine Colligan, 22, of Campbelltown, southwest Sydney, says she was the only girl in her car spray painting class and was set back for work.

“I applied for a job in the city and they turned me down because they said they had just hired people,” she says.

“But about six weeks later, they hired half the class.”

Kerry says she was initially concerned about becoming a pilot, as she wasn’t sure she could work in the role and also have a family.

She has since discovered that some airlines allow pilots to work in an office part of the time, but Ms. Lee says the rigidity of many male-dominated areas remains a barrier.

“The only nature of work in construction, for example, is long hours [which are] sometimes spread over six days instead of five, ”says Kerry.

This makes childcare and school pickups difficult.

‘You don’t belong here’

During her internship at her first airline, Kerry remembers the huge pilot area, occupying an entire floor – with two men’s toilets.

She would have to ask a male colleague to come in and make sure the bathroom was clear, then put her on guard at the door.

It’s a similar process at her current airline, and Ms. Lee says women in other industries face the same problem.

“It’s just little things like that that sort of reiterate that ‘you don’t belong here,’ or that it wasn’t designed for you,” Kerry said.

For Laura Lansdowne, a 31-year-old apprentice electrician, fitting in with her colleagues has been the biggest challenge.

“The first company I worked for, most people were polite and nice to me, but I wasn’t socially included,” she says.

But she says it’s about finding the right company – like in her current role, “I’m socially included, I’m part of the team and I’m not just treated like someone’s sister or girlfriend. ‘a.”

Laura takes a selfie on a construction site.
For Laura, working in the trades is an opportunity to acquire practical skills.(



‘You don’t need to have huge muscles’

When Maxine started out as a spray painter, she didn’t think there would be a lot of opportunities in the industry.

But since then, she has represented Australia at an international business skills competition in Russia and won several community awards.

She says a lot of her friends have big college debt, yet she enjoys her full-time job in the industry.

“I think there is that [idea] that you have to be strong, manly and muscular to do a job, but that’s certainly not the case, ”says Maxine.

A young woman holds an Australian flag.
Maxine represented Australia at a business skills competition in Russia.(

Provided: WorldSkills Australia + TAFE NSW


Laura says working in the trades is an opportunity for women to learn real and practical skills and to be supported in the process.

“There aren’t many… traditional jobs for women, that have this learning model where you step into a green job and… it’s their responsibility to take care of you and teach you,” says -it.

Laura says she would like to see more women in the industry.

“It’s a little scary at first… but the site I’m working on right now has like seven women on it,” she says.

“The more women there are [enter these industries], the less intimidating it will be, the more comfortable it will be for all women and the better it will be for everyone. “

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