Caroline Shaw, Paris Halsey, Zoe Creagan and Melanie Judd choose to challenge stereotypes about women in the trade sector.
Photo: Adam McLean.
Meet four women who are changing the trade landscape
Written by Zoe Cartwright, Journalist for The Illawarra Mercury.
A Unanderra team is challenging assumptions about what a landscaper looks like. Four of Shaw Landscape Group’s 17 employees are women, an unusual proportion for the male-dominated industry. Owner Caroline Shaw, landscape designer Zoe Creagan, landscape construction apprentice Paris Halsey and marketing manager Melanie Judd said there was nowhere they’d rather be. The battle to change public perception, however, has sometimes been an uphill one.
Ms Creagan said she still faced assumptions about her qualifications and experience from members of the public.
“I always had my hands in the garden growing up,” she said.
“I completed a certificate III in horticulture followed by a diploma of landscape design, but in a nursery environment people often assume I’m not qualified – sometimes they even think I’m volunteering.
“But my co-workers have been most supportive.”
Ms Shaw initially became involved in the business through her husband, as he needed her business savvy and experience. Although she has faced perceptions that she is less knowledgeable or important because of her gender, she is determined to demonstrate that a landscape business run by a woman can excel.
She said she wanted to bring more “gung-ho” women into the space.
“I’m sure there are many girls out there who want to work in landscaping or work in a trade but they don’t step out,” she said.
“I think females bring a lot of positive traits to a male-dominated industry.
“Let’s make it the norm.”
One of those gung-ho women is third-year apprentice Paris Halsey. Ms Halsey was encouraged by her dad to get a trade, after a childhood spent proving anything her brothers did, she could do as well – or better.
“It can be a good thing and a bad thing that everyone knows who I am on site because 99 per cent of the time I am the only girl,” she said.
“Commercial construction sites are where I cop the most gender bias and derogatory comments because there are a number of trades in once place working together.
“You do have to be thick skinned.
“I push past it, brush it off or laugh it off, but I also tell myself that if I let it affect me or if I break and get upset that it’s OK, because the only person it’s affecting is me.”
Ms Halsey said her love of the job made it worth it.
“It’s so satisfying and rewarding to say ‘I created that garden’,” she said.
“I love working outdoors and being active.
“I’m able to prove girls can do it too – we’re just as strong, capable and smart as the guys.
“It’s 2021 – I want to normalise it.”
With a background in marketing, Ms Judd said her first experience in a male-dominated industry was a challenge – but a fun one.
“It is a breath of fresh air,” she said.
“I felt a little nervous and uncertain at first, and sometimes I still feel a little out of place, but it’s rewarding to learn and grow in an environment that traditionally has been overrun by men.”
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘choose to challenge’. Each of the women at Shaw’s know what they want to stand up for. Ms Judd will celebrate women’s achievements; Ms Shaw will forge positive visibility for women, Ms Halsey will call out gendered actions or assumptions and Ms Creagan will challenge gender stereotypes and bias.
To read the story in full click here.