CIGS invites to an event co-hosted with the Centre for Research into Families, the Life Course and Generations.
Carroll’s research documents the lived experience of women working as tradespersons in large industrial plants associated with the mining industry in Western Australia, the largest state of the Australian Commonwealth. The epicentre of the project was a remote town located 1500 km north of the state capital, Perth. The study, based on nine months of participatory engagement, centred on the work of female tradies, but burgeoned to encompass so much more than this. Driving the research was the question – why, when women comprise 51% of the total employment arena in Australia, do so few women adopt this form of work? A life history approach exploring the lives of women who have chosen skilled manual trades exposes the interconnectivity of early home life, education and career decision-making, recruitment practices and apprenticeship. The research unearths how conventional gendered actions that commence at birth, structure social spheres that precede entering the actual workplace. The constant realization of gender practice, influences agency and impacts the decisions that in turn, influence employment trends. Social change is evidenced by public marketing campaigns and quota systems set to increase female representation in mining and resources, and by the tensions that women who enter this field continue to experience. But, it becomes clear that reasons for the underrepresentation of women are deeply embedded in the cultural values and practices of the broader societies in which the women at the centre of this project were and are located. Conventional notions of masculinity and femininity continue to discipline, constrain and script the lives of individuals, significantly inhibiting developmental social transformation, manifesting socio-cultural lag in gender equality. Carroll’s work prompts future scholarship on how to consider social change in relation to practice theory, offering key insights into ‘why’ and ‘how’ the stagnation of segregated employment trends have persevered for so long.