ETU Women make their voices heard at the Women’s Energy Symposium

ETU and CEPU members Ellen, Ariah, Siobhan and Gaynor and travelled to Canberra this month to speak at the inaugural Women’s Energy Symposium. The symposium was facilitated by Energy Minister Chris Bowen’s department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water and covered positive actions occurring for gender equality in the energy sector workforce and ways to improve.

The ETU and CEPU women spoke about barriers to women’s participation the electrical trades, such as:

  • a lack of appropriate PPE
  • inadequate access to amenities in the workplace
  • lack of pre-apprenticeship programs or poor execution of female-only apprentice intake programs
  • failing mentoring programs for apprentices
  • lack of outreach and recruitment initiatives to promote electrical trades to women
  • not enough workplace flexibility
  • necessary cultural change.

They also shared their knowledge and experiences of what actually works to recruit more women to the trade, such as:

  • primary and secondary school visits delivered by tradeswomen
  • pre-apprenticeship recruitment initiatives design by and for women
  • mentoring and mutual support networks, like ETU Sparkettes, Lady Tradies & Rocking Chicks, WIMDOI etc

 The ETU women called upon the federal government to implement the following in order to attract and retain more women in the electrical trades, ahead of a major skills shortage in the transition to renewable energy:

  • An industry owned and led Powering Australia Apprenticeship Support Network, with dedicated female mentors​, education for girls in primary and high schools and fit-for-purpose pre-apprenticeship programs.
  • Workplace Health and Safety reform to implement the Nowhere to Go recommendations​ (similar to advances made this month in South Australia)
  • Bolstering government procurement requirements​, incorporating Nowhere to Go recommendations and Women’s participation targets into procurement frameworks – designed with input from tradeswomen.​

The Albanese Government is actively exploring what role it should play to increase women’s participation in the energy sector, and it’s great to see events like these that open the floor to women working in this sector.

ETU National Women’s Officer Ellen McNally thought the event was a positive example of government engaging with real workers.

“It was really important to have the women impacted by these decisions in the room speaking about their experiences. Sometimes you go into these rooms full of people who don’t have a trade but who are making all these decisions that impact us. Having people who work in the industry actually speak about their real experiences and having real conversations with these decisionmakers can make all difference,” she said.

The delegation of union women did a fantastic job in advocating for improvements to their sector to encourage more women to join and stay in the trade, especially at a time when Australia is trying to build up the emerging renewable sector with good quality secure jobs for both men and women.

“It’s a really great start. Women need to be part of planning this new industry from the very beginning, rather than the industry trying to retrofit workplaces for their workforce later down the track, said Ellen.

Well done to Ariah, Siobhan, Gaynor and Ellen for sharing their stories and making an impact!

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This article was publised on 29 March 2023.