It's International Women's Day on Sunday 8 March. This year's theme is 'each for equal'. An equal world is an enabled world. How will you help forge a gender equal world? We sat down and spoke to Annette, our Home Maintenance worker about her perspectives on working in a male dominated field.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born in Germany and migrated to Australia at the age of 26. I did my apprenticeship as a cabinet maker in Duesseldorf and worked a few years in my trade before migrating in 1996. In Australia I worked for almost 12 years at Melbourne Museum. I did the exhibition fabrication and installation at Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks and the Immigration Museum which involved building show cases, plinths, curved walls using a wide variety of materials. The team also worked on some small maintenance jobs and repairs. I`ve just recently joined the Home Maintenance Team. There are a lot of new things to learn and take on board. It is very different for me, but so far, I am enjoying it.
How did you end up working as a Home Maintenance officer?
I resigned from Melbourne Museum due to a change in personal circumstances and did a few other jobs before joining the Home Maintenance team.
This year's theme for International Womens Day is each for equal. An equal world is an enabled world. What does this mean to you?
That is all good in theory but not always in reality. It is complex. We are very lucky to live in a first world country, being given lots of opportunities and freedoms which we take for granted, others are not so lucky. For many, there are cultural and traditional differences and expectations which perpetuate a lack of equality for women. In some countries girls don't even have the opportunity to go to school.
What do you enjoy about your job?
Sometimes little things can make a big difference in someone's life. My work can make things easier and safer for the client (eg: installing a grab rail). It can be quite rewarding. I also enjoy the social aspect, including working with and meeting different people.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The broad spectrum of jobs we perform. We can be asked to do anything from repair jobs to pruning, roof gutter cleaning, installations and modifications.
How do you find working in a male dominated field?
I've never had any negative experiences working in a male dominated environment. I’ve always enjoyed it. In Germany, it is not uncommon for women to be cabinet makers, or work in any other male dominated trade really. When I first moved to Australia though it was more unusual. I don’t feel like working in a male dominated field means that I have to prove anything. I don’t see it as a competition between the sexes but rather see myself as just another member of the team who has to contribute to the result or outcome that the team is striving to achieve.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an interior designer. After I finished High School, I did my 3 year apprenticeship in a small family business and I loved it. I enjoyed trade school, including all of the training courses and decided that carpentry was what I wanted to do instead of going to uni. I stayed at the business for 5 years. After that, I worked at the State Theatre in Duesseldorf for 2 years, building theatre sets before migrating to Melbourne.
Is there anyone in your life who inspires you?
My mum. She had a very tough upbringing in post war Germany. She is a strong person with a positive can-do-attitude. My dad was very sick, he had muscular dystrophy and mum was his full time carer. Despite all the challenges and difficulties, they had a very busy social life. They travelled a lot and mum made the impossible possible. One year they came over from Germany to visit me and I organised a surprise trip to Uluru. We managed to push Dad all around Uluru in his wheelchair and he absolutely loved it. We had the best time ever.
What would you say to others if they are thinking about a career change into a male dominated field?
Don't focus on it being a male dominated area, just give it a go. If there is something you enjoy or really want to do, just do it. Follow your passion and concentrate on that.
What does your future look like?
I don't really make or have long term plans. I just take things a day at a time and try to appreciate every single day. My husband passed away at the age of 45. Suddenly everything changed for us, our long term plans, dreams and hopes were crushed. I am not making long term plans now as I have learnt that life can change so quickly and without warning, so there isn’t much use in focussing on things so far in the future. Life and time are precious and I try to enjoy them and make the most of every day. I am grateful for my family and friends. I love living in Melbourne and I am pretty content in general at this point in life.
What's your favourite way to spend a weekend?
With my kids and catching up with my friends. Going out for lunch or having a BBQ. Going to the movies or reading a good book.