Empowering more women in trades: A path forward for Australia's renewable energy sector

At VERTO, we’ve long been passionate about building a diverse and inclusive future for our trades. While we are seeing some promising green shoots, Australia still has some way to go to build a truly inclusive trade industry.

We have countless stories about women thriving in every industry, from roofing to mechanics, and, as we know, increasing diversity in any industry is a plus. More trade employers than ever before are embracing the new perspectives and life experiences that come with a changing gender balance.

And now, as the global landscape evolves, the demand for a diverse workforce equipped with a variety of skills and perspectives has never been more apparent. The renewable energy sector stands out as a fast-growing industry that requires a new wave of talent – talent that must include women to ensure innovative, comprehensive and sustainable solutions for the future.

A promising start

The transition towards renewable energy is not just about shifting from fossil fuels to more sustainable sources; it's about reshaping our trade industries to be more inclusive, innovative and resilient.

As it stands today, Australia’s Clean Energy sector is 39% female. And while this is clearly not gender parity, it is certainly trending in the right direction. 

Yet, attracting women into renewable energy apprenticeships remains somewhat of an uphill battle.

In my experience, two key things help more female students and those transitioning careers to find, embrace and stay in traditionally male-dominated fields.

Changing perceptions is critical

A big part of the problem when it comes to encouraging more women into any trade is the lingering ‘jobs for the boys’ perception.

If a trade matches someone’s interests and passions, there is no reason they won’t thrive. Electricians like Carla Smith, painters and decorators like Makayla McMillan, and, in the renewables sector, Maya Boeren, are building successful careers in trade industries.

Maya transitioned to an electrotechnology apprenticeship at age 35 to fulfil her passion for hands-on work and interest in clean energy. And there’s no reason other women looking for a career change or school leavers can’t follow suit.

Unfortunately, many female students simply aren’t informed about their trade options. And even when they do show interest or aptitude, they often aren’t as actively encouraged as their male counterparts. 

Some of this occurs within our school system and career guidance programs, and others at home and in society more broadly. And changing these perceptions is critical to building a solid pipeline for our trades into the future.

On-the-job support programs

In many industries, the gender imbalance remains stark. So, women wanting to build careers in one of these industries are often breaking new ground. And as we know, this is never easy in any area of life.

We must actively encourage and support these path-breaking women as they will be the ones who truly open the door to more female tradies in their industry.

In my opinion, one of the keys to this is strong mentoring programs that pair new entrants into an industry with a woman who is a little further along in the journey. Several excellent organisations, like Tradeswomen Australia and SALT, offer support to women in these industries, and it would be great to see mentoring programs built into our apprenticeship structures.

Similar programs are being launched worldwide as retention of women in trade industries remains a global issue. For example, in Canada, a four-month mentorship program is helping women get a start in trades – and the idea came from women already in trades, indicating an appetite for these types of initiatives.

The time is now

As Australia progresses towards a greener and more sustainable future, the need for a diverse workforce in the renewable energy sector becomes increasingly critical. Women in trades contribute to the diversity of skills and perspectives and play a fundamental role in driving innovation and sustainability in this vital industry.

VERTO is committed to leading the charge in empowering women to pursue trade careers. By breaking down barriers and providing targeted support and training, we can together foster a more inclusive, innovative and resilient future.

For more information on our initiatives and how you can get involved, visit www.verto.org.au.