For Penny Petridis, tinkering with race cars turned into a multi-faceted career in the trades. She explains why being a female tradie means you need to work twice as hard as the men and what drove her to start her company, The Female Tradie.
I always had a passion for engineering
I grew up in Western Sydney. My family is Greek and I have two sisters, we spent a lot of time playing around in the garage. I’ve always had a passion for engineering: mechanical, structural, playing with tools. I started my metal trades when I first finished school in ’91.
My boyfriend at the time and I were into building race cars, and that’s how it all started. I met an older man who was building race cars, pretty much out of metal; bending and rolling them, and making cars out of them. I loved it, and he saw I had a passion for it. I went to work for him for two years, and got into structural metal work afterwards. Since then I’ve completed carpentry and building.
Dealing with the stereotypes
As a female tradie, I’ve never faced any specific issues at work – but you are judged more. First-time clients expect me to really prove myself, and if I were a man, it would be a different story.
But I don’t mind. I’ve got the experience, I’ve got the skills; I’ve come to a point where I’m able to go in and do the job and they’re happy with it. It’s like anything – if you’re interested in it, you just have to go out there and do it.
Physically, the work is hard. And I still get looks when I’m driving my van, or walking onto a construction site. People still find the fact that I’m a female tradie weird. That’s what we need to change.
People still find the fact that I’m a female tradie weird. That’s what we need to change.
It’s about perseverance and support
I took a break from the trades for 10 years, when I worked as a DJ. When I came back I was blown away by the lack of difference. There were few of us then, and there are few of us now.
I founded my business, The Female Tradie, because of it. There are lots of businesses out there who want to support female tradies, and I believe that’s how we’ll get to the next step.
A lot of women I speak to don’t know where to start, or how to take the first step into the industry. We host workshops that help them take that first step, and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for it. To be a woman calling up a builder and entering a construction site full of men can be intimidating. We need solid support networks that encourage women to break into the industry, and the more businesses that address this issue, the better.
Penny is founder of The Female Tradie.
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