Two Brisbane tradies are helping to dispel gender-bias and industry stereotypes after launching both a successful renovation business and a women’s workwear clothing label.
Instead of being deterred by the very small number of fellow Australian women working in the construction industry, apprentice carpenter Juanita Mottram, 34, and builder/carpenter Laura Madden, 32, (pictured below) are building their own empire (erm, literally).
As part of the only one per cent of Australian women working in construction, the long-time friends take great pride in encouraging other women to take up trades. Starting their renovation company in 2010, Eve Renovations, Juanita and Laura capitalised on a gap in the market, launching a solely female workforce and providing a much-needed supportive hub for women wanting to learn a trade.
Now in its fifth year of business, Eve Renovations specialises in both domestic and commercial projects. “We want to show women that they can achieve anything, and provide a pathway for female apprentices to get a start in the construction industry,” Laura says.
“It’s something that we are passionate about; we receive so many requests from young girls wanting to do work experience with us, or asking us the best way to get into a trade, so it’s really important for us to open that dialogue and put trades on the radar for women choosing a career, or considering a change.”
Not content there, in 2012, Juanita and Laura were also inspired to launch their own line of women’s clothing, Eve Workwear, after being unable to find fashionable and functional work gear.
What started off as a hobby has now developed into a full-time design, manufacturing and distribution business, with the brand enjoying a 200 per cent growth in combined retail and online sales since July last year.
Now, the pair is hoping their new collection, No. 26, launching in February, will further revolutionise the workwear market by providing stylish and durable women’s clothing which increases wearers’ comfort and confidence.
“We were sick of not being able to buy work wear that fitted properly and looked good, so we made the decision to launch a label that is designed and tested by women for women and the feedback has been phenomenal,” Juanita says.
“Our new collection No. 26 has street edge, practically and versatility not available in industry clothing. It has been influenced by the raw toughness of vintage workwear, but still encompasses a feminine and fashionable look. You will find it in fashion, not tradie magazines!
“Through both our construction and workwear businesses we want to break the stereotypes and start a conversation that changes the face of the industry.”
Interestingly, the pair quashes the notion that lady tradies have to overcome huge obstacles and/or that sexism is rampant in the industry.
“We really can’t speak for all women out there, as any obstacles we have come across we have overcome,” Juanita says. “Obviously, one of the hardest things is to get a break with your apprenticeship, but that’s irrelevant of gender I think. It’s a lot of hard work! But the rewards far out way the sacrifices along the way.
“Over the past few years we have seen an increase of positive stories in the media about women in male-dominated industries. It is a long and persistent journey to a point where hopefully one day women aren’t even looked at twice when they turn up to site and throw on their tool belt – it’s just an everyday occurrence. For this to happen, women need to support each other’s journey and be positive role models for the next generation.”
While both tradies are heavily involved in the two businesses, Laura manages the renovations side and Juanita manages and designs the clothing. “Sometimes, it feels like we have multiple personalities!” Juanita says. “Laura obviously has input into every design and has to test every sample made out on site.
“We hear amazing stories of women working in diverse roles where they want the durability and safety of clothing, but also versatile, feminine and desirable workwear.
“We’ve heard from all the usual trades – electricians; painters; carpenters; plumbers; mining workers and landscapers – and other roles which require the same purpose-built clothing, such as make-up artists; artists; theatre producers; farmers; retail assistants; baristas and the list goes on.”
And, when asked about what the biggest societal misconception there is about female tradies, Juanita is typically both passionate and level-headed. “The biggest misconception is that you have to be a certain type of lady to do a trade,” she says.
“Take gender out of the equation – it takes a special type of someone to do many different types of jobs/roles. It [trades] just actually needs to be an option for girls when they are looking at careers while at school; something that isn’t presently done.”
Visit www.eveworkwear.com.au and www.everenovations.com.au.