Breaking the rules

Get it’s Kathleen Loxton investigated traditionally male dominated industries and shares a story of a Gold Coast woman who is breaking the mould

Australian women breaking the rules

Before we read one woman’s extraordinary story, it’s important for us to take a look at different industries across Australia to understand why it’s so important for our younger generation to see women taking on roles across the board, from science to construction. After all, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

  • In July this year the SBS published the following: “A recent Women in STEM report by the Australian Academy of Science found only a quarter of physics and astronomy university students in Australia are women. When they enter the workforce, only 11 per cent of them make it to the top pay bracket according to a 2018 Professionals Australia report.”
  • Early this year it was reported by The Sydney Morning Herald that in Australia’s health care and social assistance sector, the percentage of female employees has grown from 77.2 per cent in 1998 to 79 per cent of employees in 2018.
  • The Sydney Morning Herald also reported in July this year that in “1998 men accounted for 86.2 per cent of construction workers but that reached to 88 per cent last year, data published by the federal government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows.”
  • Last year the ABC published a graph that reflected the top 30 jobs in Australia, and highlighted the fact “all but a handful were skewed more than 75 per cent towards one gender or the other.”
  • The Australian Human Rights Commission has developed a toolkit of strategies regarding women in male dominated industries, focusing mostly on the areas of construction, telecommunications and mining, with the aim of attracting, recruiting and retaining women in these areas. Visit their website (humanrights.gov.au) for more information and advice.

Amanda’s story

I met with Amanda at her stunning office on a surprisingly warm winter’s day. The place truly felt like a home away from home, with plenty of light and tastefully chosen pieces. It wasn’t a surprise she loved running her family business from here – who wouldn’t want an office that looked straight out of Vogue Living or Get it Living? So, here the story goes…

The journey from school to a career encompassing wholesale, construction and property was a unique one for Amanda, and certainly wasn’t a pre-determined career path. “A lot of other girls went on to do degrees, and I didn’t like school, didn’t’ like studying. The family always had a wholesale business, though I got a job at a construction company when I left school. I was there for about 15 months, and when I was in-between jobs, I wanted to go up north,” recalled Amanda.

However, this isn’t where Amanda’s future path led. During her time in-between work, her father asked her if she would be able to fill-in for the company’s receptionist. “I think it was a conspiracy, because my dad started to get the girls to take lots of holidays!” said Amanda.

Amanda was encouraged to keep coming back to the company and eventually grew to find something surprising; Amanda described, “I actually liked working in the business, it was quite interesting, and I enjoyed it.”

The key elements throughout Amanda’s development was her willingness to give things a go, being in a supportive environment and her ability to learn the business from the ground up. Amanda added, “The manager encouraged me to do different things, actually work through every facet of the business. I’d be going out back into the warehouse, driving forklifts… all sorts of things.”

Eventually, Amanda found her footing in an area of the business where her interests continue to grow to this day. “There was a niche in the financial area, so I went down that path and then I ended up taking interest in the property side (because we had the wholesale and a smaller property division), and dad had dabbled a bit in property. The whole thing evolved over years and years,” said Amanda.

Working alongside her father has been a wonderful experience for Amanda, and one relationship that will only get stronger. Amanda described, “We’ve done a lot of property together, and it’s total joy working together and creating together.”

In early 2017 the family moved away from the wholesale business for the lifestyle and health of the family; “I basically walked away with my laptop,” recalled Amanda. This took bravery, but they knew it was the right thing to do and would soon set in motion plans for an exciting new venture. “We decided: if we are going to make such a big change, then we’ll change everything about how we do things,” said Amanda.

Since downsizing the business and focusing more on developing property, there is one lesson that has stuck with Amanda; “It’s not about your turnover, you can have the biggest turnover – a 20 to 30 million-dollar turnover – and still earn as much as you do with a turnover a quarter of that… you don’t necessarily need a big business to be successful.” The integral thing Amanda noted from this was that it’s important to work smart, not hard, where you can.

Over the years there has been a lot of change in the areas of construction, wholesale and property, and one thing that has notably changed is the presence of women in these industries. Though there is still a lot of work to be done, Amanda spoke of the improvements we have seen, saying, “In our industry, once upon a time you’d be the only woman. I go on site now, and there’s women, not so much in the trades, but women in the construction industry. You’ll find women will start infiltrating through into the trades, though. It’s becoming more normal; we bring a whole different dynamic!”

To ensure that this positive change continues, Amanda noted a critical part of cementing equality in these industries, and motivating our young women to not be defined by gender in their careers, is mentoring. Having mentored her own nieces, Amanda described, “There should be more mentoring for young women, it’s important for them! It doesn’t matter if you’re in construction or retail, there are some elements that are the same in every field.”

The most unforgettable lesson? As Amanda would say, ‘It’s about who is best for the job.” Go on, take the path less chosen Get it girls, and stride towards your dreams with determination and a great attitude. There’s no glass ceiling that you can’t smash!

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