As a child I loved watching my dad fix things around the house; they’re some of my earliest and fondest memories. I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps, as I too loved using my hands to build and fix things.
Years later, when it was time for me to consider a career choice, I assumed I would enter a stereotypical profession like administration, nursing, teaching, retail or child-care. As a teenager, the distinction between what was a “woman’s job” and a “man’s job” seemed to be dictated and non-negotiable.
While we like to think the situation has changed over time the reality is there are careers or sectors where the barriers to entering the world of ‘man’s work’ are still strong and difficult to walk through. Becoming a ‘tradie’ is one of those career choices where being a bloke is still considered the ‘natural fit’. According to a recent report by the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, women represent just 25% of employees in the electricity, gas, water and waste services industry.
This stereotype of the tradie meant I never really considered following through on my passion and becoming an electrician. But life sometimes throws you a change agent and a moment of self-realisation. For me that was my partner, now my husband (and an electrician), who encouraged me to follow my passion and question the status quo – if I wanted to be an electrician, then I should go do it.
Working in a predominantly male industry hasn’t been easy. One of my early experiences of discrimination was as an apprentice, when one company refused to have any females on site because it was “too much hassle”, and someone might refuse to pay for the job.
As a proud female electrician, I have a responsibility to young women to be visible and vocal. Most girls don’t know a female electrician which is a huge reason they don’t feel like they can be one. And this isn’t just about being a female electrician – it’s about providing our customers with a range of thoughts, approaches and choices. That’s why I became a brand ambassador for Clipsal by Schneider Electric – to raise awareness of my career as a female sparky to inspire the next generation and give our customers more choices.
Our trade is changing drastically and electricians are playing incredibly fulfilling roles in helping people not just turn on the lights but to use less energy, save on carbon emissions and make our homes more user friendly and comfortable. It’s my hope that by sharing my story more women will follow their dreams and undertake an electrical apprenticeship.
Rebecca Mair AKA Bec Sparky is a qualified electrician and renovation expert. Bec currently works as a Consumer Brand Ambassador at Clipsal by Schneider Electric where she is helping to demystify the electrical industry and share important tips on safety, energy saving and products.