STEM called, women are answering

Though International Women’s Day saw a plethora of organisations commending women in their workforce, a call remains for more women to join male-dominated industries.

Premier Mark McGowan announced on International Women’s Day the government would invest $3 million in TAFE scholarships for women in STEM and trade occupations.

In the same release, the Minister for Women’s Affairs Sue Ellery announced the launch of a new online Women’s Workplace Safety Information and Resources Hub.

Mr McGowan says the initiative aims to encourage more women to join industries that are male-dominated, with the current female workforce participation in these industries sitting at 25 percent.

Built Pre-Contracts manager Eileen Wong says TAFE investment is a good first step but says the government needs to do more.

Eileen Wong says the construction industry is full of opportunity. Photo: Katrina Tap.

“At the end of the day, the government spends the most money in the industry, and it would be great to see a procurement policy in place that encourages female participation in the workforce,” she says.

Ms Wong, who is also WA president of the National Association of Women in Construction, says when she was in school she ruled this construction industry out as a career option.

“I chose to do communications and psychology thinking ‘that’s what women do’, so that’s what I’ll do,” she says. 

She says there is still a lack of awareness amongst young women about the jobs available to them in the construction industry. She says there’s also a general lack of representation of women in the industry.

“You can’t be what you can’t see. If everyone looks different from you, then you tend to think it’s not [the industry] for you.”

Eileen Wong

She says the next barrier women face beyond tertiary training is a toxic workplace culture.

Hear more from Eileen Wong.

For project exploration geologist Oeone Montaigne it’s the workplace culture in mining that still has a long way to go.

“It was hard to get taken seriously,” they say.

Montaigne, who identifies as non-binary, says they had received a “plethora of harassment” in previous workplaces.

They say this includes sexist remarks, being singled out by upper management, and often being overlooked.

There was also little support in filing harassment complaints.

Project exploration geologist Oenone Montaigne. Photo: Katrina Tap.

A resources hub, Montaigne says, would have been valuable in the previous work environments.

However, Montaigne feels fortunate their current workplace has been more progressive and is also closer to a 50-50 gender split.

“There’s a comfort walking into a room with a higher number of women present,” says Montaigne.

Despite the challenges women face in male-dominated industries, Ms Wong says she’s never looked back.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than saying ‘I was part of building the community that we live in’.”