WOMAN'S WORLD: Apprentice carpenter Sarah McKendry quickly learnt to deal with sexism and doubters.
WOMAN'S WORLD: Apprentice carpenter Sarah McKendry quickly learnt to deal with sexism and doubters. Jonno Colfs

The woman hard at work in a 'man's world'

SHE may spend her days as the minority in a male-dominated industry, but that hasn't stopped Sarah McKendry from chasing her dreams - and showing the boys how it's done along the way.

The 23-year-old carpentry apprentice fell into her dream job when she landed herself in Warwick without a job or a licence.

"I was sitting around, unable to get anywhere and my dad, who's a builder, asked if I wanted to go and labour for him," Miss McKendry said.

"So I did and I loved it."

Miss McKendry, a self-confessed tomboy and women's AFL player, said her dad eventually offered her an apprenticeship.

"I didn't hesitate, I jumped at the opportunity," she said.

"I knew the money wouldn't be great at first, but that didn't matter, I really loved the work.

"Not stuck in an office, staring at a screen."

Miss McKendry said for a while, it was a tough slog.

"At first, there were tradies who were so sexist and simply assumed I wouldn't be able to do the work," she said.

"One even told me to 'get back to the kitchen'.

"When I went to do something I could see them all watching, thinking 'she's not going to be able to do this' and then I'd do it and shut them all up."

Miss McKendry said the sexist remarks and doubts only spurred her on.

"The more they pushed me and gave me grief, the more it drove me," she said.

"I learnt to ignore the jibes, grew a thick skin and turned it all into turning myself into a good chippie."

Two and a half years later, things are different.

"I've had at least 10 people, even supervisors, say to me that girls are better in a trade because they are more particular," Miss McKendry said.

"They don't rush, they make sure things are done right and they want to learn.

"Some blokes are just there because a trade is what they think they are supposed to do."

Miss McKendry said her attention to detail was greater than that of some the blokes she worked with.

"These guys are always having to go back and fix something up," she said.

"I take a little extra time and make sure it's perfect the first time."

Miss McKendry said these days she's well and truly a part of the team.

"My workmates treat me like one of the boys," she said.

"They treat me as an equal and other tradies coming onto the site pick up on that attitude.

"And people know who am I am now, it's no longer a surprise for them.

"Very occasionally things are said, but never directly to me, and it all usually gets back to me anyway."

Miss McKendry said she was never afraid to ask for help.

"I'm 47kg, I'm not going to be able to carry a massive beam or a wall frame, so I ask, and help is there straight away," she said.

A recent study claimed 75% of Aussies would choose a male tradie over a female, if offered a choice.

Miss McKendry's response was simple.

"It seems that people only notice if it's something different," she said.

"I think if 75% actually gave a girl a go they would change their minds very quickly."


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