Mainmark technicians working on Metro Sports facility in Christchurch

“Gender should be irrelevant” Mainmark’s Pip Buunk talks ‘Women in Trades’

As we continue to work towards shifting the disparity in male or female dominated professions, we look with admiration at individuals who are determined to overcome gender barriers to pursue their passion.

One such individual is Pip Buunk, who is a senior technician at Mainmark in New Zealand and boasts more than 15 years’ experience in geotechnical drilling. Before joining Mainmark, Pip spent much of her early trade career as the only on-site female and New Zealand’s only registered female driller. Throughout her working life, she has managed drill rigs for geotechnical site investigation, water boring and geohazard stabilisation projects.

Pip has experience in a wide range of skills including welding and steel preparation techniques, truck and Moxy driving, operating drilling rigs and geotechnical testing equipment, crane operations, concrete installation and surveying. During her time at Mainmark, she has been able to add resin and grout application for ground remediation and structure re-levelling to her already long list of skills.

Ahead of her appearance at the Women in Trades’ (WIT) ‘Get Into Trades’ event 2021, an annual conference dedicated to educating and encouraging women about careers in the trade sector, Pip shared her advice for job seekers and employers.

Employers need to accept that diversity can be beneficial

Despite her success, Pip is all too aware that there are several barriers that still hold many women back from pursuing careers that have traditionally been dominated by male workers in New Zealand and across the world.

“There is still a handful of the older generation around who aren’t willing to change with the times and accept that diversity can be beneficial; not just to companies but also to industry as a whole. In short, finding an employer willing to take on women,” she said.

“Women are also not being exposed to resources and information on trade career opportunities. Trades have been traditionally marketed to males, especially at the secondary school level. It’s only really become an option marketed to women in more recent years.”

“There is also a general lack of available support for women in the workplace, for example flexibility for those who have children, adequate hygiene facilities and difficulty obtaining PPE with sizing suited to women.”

There has never been a better time for women to choose a trade career

Pip also points out that aside from the active barriers, there are several passive barriers like stereotypes and misconceptions that make women inwardly feel like pursuing a trade is a nonstarter. “Some common misconceptions about women in trades that I have noticed is that you have to be super strong, or that you can’t be feminine in the workplace,” she said.

“The fact is none of this is the case! Firstly, you don’t need to be overly strong, instead you just need to develop safe lifting techniques. Secondly, I’ve also been known to wear makeup because I like it, and I know many others who do too. Finally, if you show up willing to learn, be yourself and put in the work, you’re on the right track.”

Despite the reality of existing barriers and misconceptions, Pip is quick to highlight that there is hope. Dated perceptions of female capability in a trade-based workplace are eroding, and as more employers and companies get on board with gender diversity and inclusion, there has never been a better time to challenge norms and chase your passions.

Companies like Mainmark, for example, recognise that skills and work ethic are not exclusive to gender or specific backgrounds. It is why Mainmark’s employment ethos is driven by diversity and inclusion, and not outdated assumptions about an individual’s capability.

“I feel that the biggest opportunities currently stem from inclusivity and diversity coming to the forefront of many organisations’ goals and plans for the future. It is now a better time than ever to get into a trade career,” Pip said. “Whether you’re a school leaver who isn’t keen on university, or in a corporate career and feel the need for a change, there are endless opportunities out there and growing support from governments to get people into skilled trade apprenticeships and careers.”

“It’s important to figure out what you like doing, what trades might involve those interests, and take it from there. Industry training organisations have a wealth of knowledge regarding skill applications across different trades, so talking to local industry advisors is a good place to start. Work experience is a great way to try out something new and see if it’s a good fit, too. There are many employers who welcome someone who wants to give it a go. You could be like me and have a few weeks school holiday work experience turn into a career!”

Women can approach the job from a different perspective

If Pip could share one message to women interested in pursuing a trade, it would be to stop believing jobs have a gender.

“Everyone brings different experiences and ways of approaching a task or challenge, and we all learn in different ways and at different rates,” she said. “I still come across people who hold the view that trades are simply a steppingstone to a management career and not a complete career option, that they are not appropriate for women who want to have children, or even that trades are a second-rate career choice and lesser than other choices. All of these are fundamentally untrue.”

“Of course, not every trade is suited to every individual, but gender should be irrelevant when it comes to getting into it and getting the work done. It’s ok to try a few different trades before finding the right fit. The basics apply to everyone: show up and put in the work.”

At Mainmark, we are pleased to be supporting the Women In Trades event and believe that fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion brings a unique dynamic to the industry in which we operate.

By Claire Hartley

Claire is a strategic senior marketing and communications professional who joined Mainmark in 2015. She has extensive experience gained in a range of organisations across the APAC region and the UK; from large multinationals and start-ups to industrial B2B, IT and online businesses.