Sydney tradie reveals what it’s really like for a woman in a trade

A Sydney shopkeeper has revealed some of the sexist comments she has received since becoming a carpenter. Video / @sydneychippychick via TikTok

A tradie woman has revealed what it’s really like to be a woman in the industry, revealing some of the outrageous questions clients ask her.

Madi Moriarty has worked as a carpenter in Sydney for the last four years and has had to fight time and time again to be taken seriously, all because of her gender.

She first decided she wanted to pursue a career in the trade when she was 19 years old after being inspired by the work of a cabinetmaker.

However, it soon became clear that not even stepping foot in the door as a trainee would be an easy task.

“I experienced an immense amount of rejection as a young woman with no business experience. I applied for over 60 apprenticeships,” Madi told news.com.au.

“I was not taken seriously and was often told that I would not manage, that the work would be too physical and heavy, and that working in a trade was not a woman’s job.”

Madi Moriarty has been working as a carpenter for four years.  Photo/SydneyChippyChick/Instagram
Madi Moriarty has been working as a carpenter for four years. Photo/SydneyChippyChick/Instagram

While her current employer is great and doesn’t treat her any differently than her male colleagues, she still has to deal with a number of clients who are shocked when a woman shows up at their door to complete a job.

He usually starts his day at 5 am, picks up a few materials on the way to the job site, and when he arrives, he gets to work.

Most of Madi’s work involves installing and framing skylights and some home renovations, though she looks forward to new opportunities to work on home additions and additions.

So while her daily responsibilities are no different from those of her male colleagues, she is also forced to deal with condescending and sexist behavior at work.

She uses social media to share her experience as a woman in business.  Photo/SydneyChippyChick/Instagram
She uses social media to share her experience as a woman in business. Photo/SydneyChippyChick/Instagram

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Madi said she is definitely treated differently because she is a woman and often feels like people expect her to be not good at her job or need help completing the job at hand.

“I’m often asked ‘When are the guys showing up?’ ‘Are you really going up on the roof?’ ‘Do you need a hand to carry that?’ and ‘Are you the cleaner?'” revealed the carpenter.

“However, once I work with clients or other trades on a regular basis and they realize what I’m capable of, they treat me equally.”

The tradie is not shy about exposing the ongoing sexism that she and other women in the industry face, using her SydneyChippyChick Instagram and TikTok accounts to raise awareness of this issue.

In one of her recent TikToks, she revealed some of the things men have said to her since she became a carpenter.

“Are you having your period again?”, “Will you go out with me for money?”, “I don’t know if you can stand it”, “Are you coming to make the coffees?”. and “Why don’t you smile more?” are all the comments that people have made.

Madi says she has had to deal with constant sexism due to her career choice.  Photo/SydneyChippyChick/Instagram
Madi says she has had to deal with constant sexism due to her career choice. Photo/SydneyChippyChick/Instagram

But there are some interactions that stand out more than others, with Madi recalling a case of “extreme sexism” she encountered last year with a client.

“I arrived at a client’s home and was denied entry for being a woman. Can you believe it?” she said.

“Client wanted to speak to my male colleague and ended up contacting my employer saying they were upset and expected a man to install their skylight, not the receptionist.”

Madi’s employer defended her and confronted the client about her sexist attitude, for which the chippy said she was very grateful.

She said it was a “sad reality” that sexism is continually present in her line of work and she has been forced to learn to deal with it.

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“I think sexism is an offensive reminder of the way our culture views women and the social norms we’ve been taught. There’s nothing wrong with women working in commerce,” she said.

Another woman who is aware of some of the difficulties faced by women working in commerce is Stef Apostolidis.

The 32-year-old has been working in the industry for nine years. He had been working in an office for five years when he decided he wanted to be a builder like his father, so he began an apprenticeship in carpentry.

Stef says she loves what she does, although she admits there have been times throughout her career when she’s been treated like she “didn’t know what she was talking about.”

Stef has been working as a tradie for nine years.  Photo/MelbourneChippyChick/Instagram
Stef has been working as a tradie for nine years. Photo/MelbourneChippyChick/Instagram

The Melbourne woman also shares her traditional journey online through her MelbourneChippyChick social media pages, having attracted over 157,000 followers on Instagram.

Stef has had many instances online where people feel the need to comment on her career choice, and some people even feel the need to comment when they see her doing her job in person.

“A passerby said ‘you’re too pretty to be a traditional.’ You don’t have to look like anything to be a traditional,” she said.

Stef said she also had an incident where a colleague acted inappropriately and when she let him know her displeasure, he tried to pretend it was a joke and put his hand on her shoulder.

“I asked him not to touch me, then he did it again,” she said.

“I firmly told him to get off my back and we never hired him on our projects again.”

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Stef works for her family’s business and, despite some unpleasant experiences, said she has generally felt “protected and cared for”.

The carpenter greatly encourages supporting women in the trade and has founded the Tradie Lady Club (TLC) to help women in the industry support and inspire each other.

“Tradie Lady Club represents women who are in the trade business and supports other women who want to do the same,” the website reads.

“My goal as the founder of TLC is to create more career opportunities for women that can change their lives.”

Despite the challenges that come with the industry, Madi also wants to encourage all women who are interested in starting a trade to do so.

She said it’s normal to have doubts that the job might be too hard or concerns about how you’ll be treated, but she said there’s just one basic question to ask: Would I want to be a tradie?

“If so, go ahead! Start your trading journey! You’ll learn on the job, increase your strength and fitness, and most importantly, enjoy what you do,” Madi said.

She advised anyone experiencing a poor work culture or lack of training when starting a trade to change workplaces and not give up on their dream.

Madi said there are also simple things employers can do to make working in a trade as a woman more attractive and comfortable.

“The main way workplaces for women in the trades can be improved is sanitary bins. All women menstruate and they should be able to dispose of feminine hygiene products,” she said.

Surprisingly, Madi said he has never come across a single job site that has access to a sanitary container.

“Tackling this problem is a big step towards including women in the trades,” Madi said.