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The pioneering women helping pave the way for girls

Sophie Moore is learning carpentry on the job.
Sophie Moore (pictured, right) has encouraged other young girls to learn a trade.
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More and more Australian women are pulling on steel-capped or studded boots and forging fulfilling careers in male-dominated industries, paving the way for young girls following in their footsteps.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, The New Daily has taken a look at some of the women unafraid to get their hands dirty on the job.

Sophie Moore, carpentry apprentice

For up-and-coming tradie Sophie Moore, there are few things more satisfying than building something new with her hands – and she’s nailing it.

Inspired by a male friend who runs a carpentry business, Ms Moore, 25, started helping him on site and quickly fell in love with the craft.

This year, she started her apprenticeship and is encouraging other young women to do the same.

“I realised I could build things and I don’t have to hire someone to do it for me, which I find so empowering,” Ms Moore said.

“The way our society is geared, builders are definitely seen as men, but society is changing and that’s really exciting.

“Still, a lot of men think I’m the cleaner or doing my boss’s paperwork.”

Sophie Moore is learning carpentry on the job.
Sophie Moore (pictured, right) has encouraged other young girls to learn a trade. Photo: Sophie Moore

Ms Moore said the “tradie world” had a long way to go in terms of achieving gender equity, but she didn’t want that to deter women from picking up the tools.

“It’s a great place for diversity and I think any person of any gender can bring a lot to the work site,” she said.

“There can definitely be a harmony between men and women, and it’s a great thing for success.”

Jan Burne, senior project manager

In the early 1970s, Jan Burne was just one of 10 women studying architecture in her course.

But as she watched most of her fellow female classmates either drop out or change courses, Ms Burne remained determined to break into the male-dominated industry.

“It never really bothered me being one girl among lots of blokes,” Ms Burne said.

“I’ve always loved working with architects, being on sites and seeing things being built.”

After several years moving up the ranks of architecture firms in Melbourne and London, Ms Burne decided to take her skills to the next level and obtained a graduate diploma in project management at RMIT University.

Jan Burne was a senior project manager for state government departments.
Architect and project manager Jan Burne said working in a male-dominated industry never bothered her.

Her talent for managing people and projects saw her land a job in 2006 at the Department for Environment, Land, Water and Planning, where she worked as a senior project manager until 2017.

“As I’ve gotten older, the industry has changed into a much more female-friendly environment,” Ms Burne said.

“There are lot more women involved in construction, engineering and architecture now … and I think it’s been a really good balance for the profession.”

Tricia Martin, Founder of SHE CAN 

A passion for helping girls reach their full potential is what inspired Newcastle-born entrepreneur Tricia Martin, 25, to create her social enterprise, SHE CAN.

Since founding the start-up in 2016, the award-winning One Girl ambassador has delivered 644 empowering behavioural change workshops to more than 16,000 primary and secondary students around Australia.

Her programs aim to tackle the reasons why girls outperform boys academically at school, but run into obstacles that prevent success in the workforce.

Tricia Martin started her own social enterprise upon finishing university.
Tricia Martin founded SHE CAN to help young girls succeed at work.

“In school you have this idea that everything is equal, but then when you get out there you realise that’s not the reality,” she said.

“We want to prepare girls with skills such as financial literacy and career readiness, and teach them how to address gender bias.”

Ms Martin said girls weren’t encouraged to take risks in the same way that boys are.

“We want to challenge that learnt behaviour through project-based learning and real-life scenarios,” she said.

Libby Toovey, AFLW umpire

Growing up in footy-mad Melbourne, it’s no surprise that as a teenager Libby Toovey wanted to play AFL.

But 10 years ago that wasn’t an option, so she did the next best thing: Umpiring matches.

“I started off umpiring the Under-9 games – watching little boys running around after the ball was rivetting stuff,” Ms Toovey laughed.

“From there I worked my way up into the senior Southern Football League, then progressed to VFL in 2015 … before umpiring my first AFLW season in 2017, which was pretty awesome.”

Libby Toovey (pictured, right) said she wanted more young women to give umpiring a go. Photo: Libby Toovey

Ms Toovey, 27, said it was often “daunting” umpiring the senior men’s games because “you’re umpiring people who could push you over with one of their fingers”.

However, she said she quickly earned their respect.

“There was umpire abuse but I didn’t really cop that much … or maybe I just have selective hearing,” she said.

“It takes a lot of dedication and fitness to get there and it’s a very male-dominated area, but my main piece of advice is to just give it a go.”

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