Camille Agerbeek says that when she applied for 330 jobs in two and half years, she received just two responses. One noting that she was, “Being given an opportunity and you should not let me down”.
The problem was that as a tradeswoman, a mechanical rigger and fitter with extensive mining experience, Agerbeek was fighting perceptions that the jobs she was applying for were usually considered roles for men only. She says such perceptions tend to exist in the HR departments of large organisations or from recruiters, rather than the relevant employers, — meaning her resume was quickly dismissed before her relevant experience and qualifications were even considered.
So Agerbeek shortened her name. She put ‘Cam’ on her CV instead of Camille and the phone started ringing.
“I’d receive phone calls asking, ‘Is Cameron there?’ I’d reply, ‘No, but Camille is!” It worked. Agerbeek now has plenty of work, taking contracting roles for a number of different companies on an as-needed basis.
But while she’s referred to as ‘Cam’ while working on site, she’d prefer to be able to use her full name when applying for roles.
Meanwhile, she’d also like her referees, when called upon, to be able to answer questions regarding her skills and capabilities — rather than how well she copes working with men.
Agerbeek spoke to Women’s Agenda about some of the issues and stereotypes facing tradeswomen across the country, before heading off with six other Australian tradeswomen to California today to share their stories at a three-day conference discussing how to encourage more women to explore trade careers.
Their attendance has been sponsored by local organisation, Supporting and Linking Tradeswoman (SALT).
SALT founder Fi Shewing says that with tradeswomen making up just a tiny fraction of those working in manual trades across Australia, more women should be encouraged to consider a trade career. But first, perceptions regarding who can do what jobs need to change.
“We’re still dealing with perceptions in our culture that these are men’s jobs,” Shewing told Women’s Agenda. “It’s a myth! I’ve met women in all trades, women who absolutely love what they’re doing. But women have problems getting an apprenticeship in the first place. They’re not considered half the time.”
Indeed, this was the case with Agerbeek, who is now a passionate advocate for ensuring women can explore a large range of trade opportunities, especially those areas where we’re currently experiencing a skills shortage.
She hopes to use what she learns overseas to help broaden the pool of Australian tradeswomen and ensure women are considered for the roles they deserve.