Choosing to challenge: How we can support more women to follow their career dreams

By Alyssa Bennett - COO

There is no denying that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on millions of Australians, and the statistics show that it continues to affect women disproportionately. We often talk about this in terms of job losses and redundancies, which are significant, but it has impacted so many other aspects of life for many people.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is Choose to Challenge, which inspires me to think about how we can support more women to overcome employment barriers.

Challenges have been heightened

Before COVID-19, many women faced barriers to workforce participation, including primary caring responsibilities and significant social issues, like housing instability and domestic violence, but recent events have heightened these challenges. In fact, research shows that in NSW, reported domestic violence rose by 41 per cent in some areas, and homelessness rose by 24 per cent during the pandemic.

VERTO has been delivering the ParentsNext program since its inception in 2018, and while it is not a gender-based program, by-and-large our participants are female. One of the common issues we hear from women in the program is that they have not had a chance to stop and consider their own career dreams while navigating the daily challenges of supporting a family.

For me, part of the puzzle is discussing the wide range of career options out there, many of which aren’t typically discussed with women.

Changing the conversation is overdue

Early in my career, when I started working in the apprenticeships space, I was floored by the number of interesting career options available. When I was making career decisions, they weren't discussed with me in career guidance or in conversations with the people in my life. While I'd love to think this has been consigned to history, and today’s young women are encouraged to explore all careers, it’s just not the case.

In a recent study by VERTO and Year13, more than three-quarters of respondents indicated their schools did not position apprenticeships and trades positively for women. By not discussing trade careers, we just may be actively discouraging women from following their career dreams.

VERTO Ambassador Emily Duggan's story really encapsulates this. An inspiring young woman, Emily is making her mark in the male-dominated field of race car driving. Emily has challenged stereotypes on every step of her journey and has never backed down. In an interview with VERTO last year, Emily said, "The only limit there is, is the one you put on yourself. I entered motorsports knowing the odds were against me as a woman, but I wanted to try. I'd rather have tried and failed than have listened to the naysayers who said it couldn't be done".

Whether you dream of a career on the tools, in the boardroom, or in any other field where women remain underrepresented, Emily’s story should inspire you to follow your career dreams.

Apprenticeships are an option for everyone

Apprenticeships offer opportunities in a wide range of industries, many of which are currently facing skill shortages. Yet, many of these career paths are not considered by women because they remain male-dominated industries.

There can be a misconception that this is because they are jobs "more suited to men", but this is not the case. At VERTO, we have numerous examples of women making their mark in the trades, building successful careers, and paving the way for others.

As it stands today, women make up just 2% of tradespeople across the country, and redressing this stark imbalance is critical. VERTO has recently partnered with Tradeswomen Australia, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to increase awareness of and provide support for women in trade careers. Together, it is our goal to celebrate the achievements of women in trades and encourage more women to consider the wide range of careers available to them.

Apprenticeships aren't just for school leavers; they can be a viable option for those looking to transition careers or re-enter the workforce, particularly as you earn while you learn. There are more than 500 apprenticeship and traineeship careers in a variety of industries, so even if trades aren't for you, it's likely there will be an option that suits. VERTO’s CareerGate is a free online portal that helps you explore options based on your skills and interests, and you can even start applying for jobs straight away.

You don’t have to go it alone

If you are looking at your career options, reaching out to VERTO is a great place to start. We deliver a range of programs and services that support people of all abilities from all backgrounds, including jobactive, Disability Employment Services, ParentsNext, Skills CheckPoint, and the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program.

VERTO’s Apprenticeship Team can help you explore your apprenticeship options, our Training Team can help you into qualifications and short courses, and our Employment Services Team can help you explore employment opportunities. We also support you with a range of Community Services. This can include support we provide here at VERTO and/or referral to other quality support services to help you address barriers that might be impacting employment, from housing instability to alcohol or substance abuse.

Whatever your challenges, you don’t have to go it alone. This International Women’s Day, ‘choose to challenge’ by reaching out for support. Get in touch with VERTO on 1300 483 786 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get started.