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Home » Education » Eliminating gender disparity in apprenticeships and ‘non-traditional’ roles for women

Dr Karina Daly

Chief Executive, Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board

Lindsay Malone

Director of Further Education and Training, Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board

A recent ESRI report highlighted continuing gender inequalities in jobs and careers. Despite encouraging women to engage with education and training in non-traditional areas, the number of those pursuing a career remains low.

Non-traditional refers to occupations where one gender comprises less than 25% of the workforce. This gender disparity is particularly pronounced in traditional apprenticeships, which remain predominantly male-dominated.

Breaking barriers in trade careers

There is an acute shortage of tradespeople — a role traditionally considered to be for men. Although many women are starting to show an interest in the trades, evidence still shows that they do not always get the encouragement to pursue their chosen career — from schools, families or even society. However, some preconceived notions about traditional craft apprenticeships being ‘too hard’ for women are starting to fall away. 

Quiet revolution towards gender equality

We live in a society that recognises that equality, diversity and inclusion is not a choice; it is an obligation. Now, almost 10% of apprentices are women, compared to just 2% in 2018. We are heading in the right direction — slowly. Of course, not every person will choose a non-traditional career, but everyone should have the opportunity.

Non-traditional jobs often pay better and offer better benefits than some of the traditional jobs that women find themselves in, including clerical and caring roles. This empowers women to become financially independent, raise their children and participate in society equally with men.

Apprenticeship success stories

Bróna Cuddihy took on an apprenticeship with Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board (WWETB). She says: “When the opportunity to do a Laboratory Analyst apprenticeship with Sanofi came up, I was nervous as I was only 18 at the time … I couldn’t have chosen a better career path for me through the apprenticeship. I’m honoured to now be an Analytical Development Chemist with a local pharmaceutical company, where I continue to grow and learn every day.”

Now, almost 10% of apprentices are women, compared to just 2% in 2018.

Meanwhile, Megan Broaders Murphy was awarded a WWETB Apprenticeship Scholarship. She says: “When I first learned that I could get a qualification in the automotive engineering sector through a mixture of on-the-job, ‘hands-on’ learning, college and training in the classroom, I realised that apprenticeship was, in my case, the perfect career choice.”

Equitable opportunities shape perspectives

To change the perceptions of future generations, young people must see equity of career opportunity between all genders. If they can see it, they can be it. Both men and women share equal responsibility in passing on the values of education, training and hard work to children.

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