Renegade COLLECTIVE ISSUE 21
MOVERS & SHAKERS
Thought women were OUTNUMBERED in the boardroom?
Try a building site.
WORDS MELANIE DIMMITT
A tradeswoman called Camille applied for 330 jobs in two-and-a-half years, and received two responses. But when the mechanical rigger and fitter shortened her name on her CV to ‘Cam’, the phone rang off the hook. Amazing, the difference four little letters can make.
To set the record absolutely straight, when it comes to skilled-trade industries. Is there anything a man can do that a woman can’t?
“No,” says Laura Madden, one of around 5000 women in Australia employed on worksites. “Because with worksite health and safety, you’re not allowed to lift anything over 30kg, so the lifting thins is a thing of the past”.
Another thing of the past (and unfortunately, present) is the fact men dominate 95 per cent of trades and courses in the automotive, mining and energy sectors.
In the construction industry specifically, the stats drop even more so. Alongside business partner Juanita Mottram, Laura makes up an even smaller minority, where women represent a mere 1.1 per cent of Australia’s construction workers (a statistic unchanged between 1987 and 2012).
While the finger of blame is pointed ay everything from pitfalls in education and lack of mentors to sexual harassment and stereotyped assumptions, Juanita and Laura, the duo behind Brisbane-based eve workwear, believe wardrobe has a lot to answer for.
“You want to be able to portray an image of professionalism and confidence. In another profession you can do that be dressing appropriately – looking fantastic and feeling fantastic about what you’re wearing,” says Juanita.
“It’s very hard to be assertive in the industry you work in when you don’t even have attire that fits,” agrees Laura.
The pair met through mutual friends at a Barbecue – Laura with a decade of tiling and carpentry under her (tool) belt, and Juanita, who felt pressed against a “glass ceiling” in her marketing and business management role.
“I really wanted to get into my own business,” Juanita recalls, now in the final year of her carpentry apprenticeship.
“I’d been renovating my own house and that how Laura and I got to talking about a renovation business. We thought there was a real opportunity in the marketplace to do something different.”
That something was eve renovations, the construction company they launched in 2010, with a bathroom reno lined up on day dot of operation.
“Once that job kicked off, we’ve never looked back,” says Laura, adding that they now employ a league of ‘lady tradies’. “But we have guys as well,” assures Juanita. “It’s an important mix. We learned our trades off guys, you know, they were our mentors.”
But happy as they were to learn from the lads, did they really have to wear their clothes too?
“I had become quite accustomed to the fact there just was nothing available [for women].” Says Laura, who’d spent many a day daggily dressed on the job. “But coming from a corporate background and always looking professional, Juanita didn’t understand why we were going to work dressed like we had borrowed our dad’s clothes,” she says.
Despite facing constant challenges as women in their chosen trade (“People don’t expect you’re going to be a tradesperson, or they think there’s going to be some other boss around the corner,” says Laura), they laugh when confessing the biggest bugbear was not having anything to wear.
“We had to try and come up with a solution.”
They found a tailor in Bali, and while only dabbling at the start (“just doing bits and pieces”), he’s since hugely benefited from their now fully-fledged design, manufacture and distribution business.
“He [now] only does eve clothing,” beams Juanita. “When we first started he was happy just to feed his family and send his children to school, and now he’s not living in his factory. The demand for the clothing keeps increasing and he just keeps giving everyone in the village work.”
Officially launching in 2011, eve workwear has enjoyed a 200 per cent growth in combined retail and online sales since July last year. The secret? Simple, really. It fits.
“Our stuff was different because it wasn’t men’s clothes with a women’s label put on it,” says Juanita. “It was shaped to a woman.”
With a selection of colours and styles to boot. “Which was something that was not available,” stresses Laura. “Unless you were wearing navy, that was it, there was nothing else!”
This year, they have expanded with collection ‘No. 26’ – a trendy line taking a tradie from site to the streets.
And while women may traditionally like to shop, getting them into tradie stores is hard work.
“We’ve got a few stockists in major capital cities,” says Juanita. “[But] a lot of women don’t go into workwear places because there just isn’t any product there for them to buy.”
Laura adds, “They learned a long time ago there was nothing there for them and stopped going in. So we’re trying to re-educate them, but also, we’re not sure where our stuff fits – whether it should be in workwear or more of a fashion outlet – so that’s one of the challenges we’re trying to figure out at the moment.”
They hope to not only attract the workwear market but also broaden their audience, reaching out to any women looking for comfy, high-quality active-and street-wear.
Mass production, however, is not the goal. “One pair of pants takes one person one day [to handmake],” says Laura.
We’ve spent a lot of time [in Bali] getting it right, so it’s a personal thing. Mass production doesn’t fit with what we’re doing.” But kitting up employees at a national zoo and a local government does, as does a growing online market.
So while the figures haven’t budged for the better part of three decades, can we expect a surge of women on the worksite?
“There’s a new age of women coming through the ranks as apprentices at the moment, and it doesn’t even register with them that they’re different from the guys,” says Laura. “So I think once they come through there’ll be a massive shift.”
Juanita is adamant change will come. “One of the reasons we decided to start an all-female renovation business was because we thought, ‘why aren’t there more women [in this industry], and how can we help?” she says
“You can go to schools and do workshops, but we thought the best way was to actually do it ourselves and be role models and represent women, so hopefully a 10-year-old girl who sees us in the newspaper or something see it is possible.”
And what would they say to that girl? “Just go and do it,” says Juanita.
“Don’t listen to anyone, and follow your dreams. If that what you want to do, that’s what you want to do.”
For all the ‘Brave’ women out there – these low rise, slim fit work pants are sure to turn heads, designed for women with more room at the back and lower front flattering waist – a first of its kind and suitable for all trades, hobbies, DIYers and the like!
Colours: Black and Charcoal – contrasting inner waist band colour
LOW RISE! Tapered legs, slim fit
Be sure to take a look and share with a friend – http://bit.ly/1xDZEil
30% Off SALE >>Olive is the new Black?? Probably not…but a professional and know what you are doing look..YES!! On sale now… http://bit.ly/17T4OJb
– limited sizes – 100% cotton – short sleeve – long sleeve with roll up button sleeve – Olive with navy trim – UPF50+ – xx eve
New to the eve workwear collection – High Visibility Workshirts!
“Now its mandatory to also look good on site!” – available online http://bit.ly/1gsuqSc
> 100% natural cotton > handmade > Ladies cut > Australian standards > unique design > highest quality!
Combat harsh conditions and dont go un-noticed with this breathable, natural fibre workshirt. Longsleeves shade you from burning rays and fend off early morning chills, roll them up to tackle any job…
Design your own gift pack!! Select any combination of the items on the workwear gift pack page to make up your own workwear gift pack. Enter the code PACKS at checkout to receive 30% OFF the normal price of all items. You may want a long sleeve shirt and shorts, pants and a short sleeve shirt or 2/3 of the same, its up to you!! Its the most economical way to update your workwear wardrobe..eve xx http://bit.ly/18zDohD
Hi..Just wanted to let you know that now available in our Sharp mid shorts range is a new colour- STORM!
Head to the shop www.eveworkwear.com.au to be the first to own these shorts! xxeve
*SALE TIME! BUY 2 GET 1 FREE!*
Purchase 2 Logical workshirts and receive a 3rd FREE!
The best year round long sleeve shirt, layer over or under, 100% cotton, UPF50+ and 7 colours in stock – while they last! – HI VIS organge now available by special order – email today or check out the shop today http://eveworkwear.com.au/shop/work-shirt-long-sleeve/logical-workshirt-long-sleeve/
*Purchase 2 Logical workshirts and receive a 3rd Logical OR an Astute short sleeve shirt free. Not available with existing sale items. Only while stocks last. Customers may choose a particualr size for 3rd free shirt.
Its our 1st Birthday! and we would like to celebrate with you by taking 30% OFF the shop for 3 days only (21,22 and 23 July 2013), thats 30% off our current winter collection and summer stock!
Use the code 1STBDAYSALE at check out on the 21, 22 or 23 July 2013, to receive the discount! Let your friends know its eve’s birthday :))) xx eve
Check out the shop http://www.eveworkwear.com.au