Building Dreams: Count Her In

With just 1% of carpenters being female, we thought we’d highlight the journeys and joys of women who are (or are on their way to being) qualified carpenters. 

Kicking off with our 1st year apprentice, Jayme Pickering of Robson Building. Jayme is from picturesque Gerringong in NSW, and was encouraged by her uncle to pursue carpentry after he recognised her passion and natural affinity for working with her hands – discovered through her high school woodworking class. “I loved getting my hands dirty,” Jayme recalls, “and I thought it would be fun.” Fun it certainly is, but while Jayme’s journey is just beginning, she already understands making her mark as a young woman in carpentry, the importance of representation and paving the way for future generations of female carpenters. “No one expects it when I tell them I’m a carpentry apprentice,” she says, “and I think most people appreciate the fact that the trade industry is slowly introducing female acceptance.”

Monique Elliot from Think Built in Ulladulla, is another passionate chippy. Her best subject at school was woodwork, but it was never put to her that carpentry was an option. She says “woodwork was my best subject to the point where I even had other boys in my class not like it and they would mess with my jobs if I left the room! I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school and my teachers didn’t know what to tell me. After years being bored at different jobs I walked past and saw Bardie [Sommerville]  working on a job site, came home and told my partner I wanted to be a chippy, I haven’t looked back since. It was a no-brainer, I just never took the leap.” Backing herself was the best thing she’s done.

Speaking to Orlagh Brady – a self-employed Carpenter in Brisbane (and 2023 Tradie Lady of the Year), she found “immense joy in rearranging [her] room, infusing it with personality, and creating a space that felt cozy and uniquely mine. Each redesign felt like solving a creative puzzle, and I enjoyed every minute of it.” Her moment of clarity came when talking to her Dad about wanting to one day build her own house and he responded with “So, you want to be a carpenter?” This realization led Orlagh to doing a one day trial with a carpenter and “this experience not only solidified my career path but also reinforced my belief that young women, like myself, have a place in the world of carpentry, where creativity, skill, and dedication flourish.” 

For all three of these chippies, there is endless joy and satisfaction found in creating something from their hands. Orlagh frames it beautifully, explaining “there is a unique sense of fulfillment that comes from taking raw materials and shaping them into something functional and beautiful, like pieces of furniture or structures. It’s incredibly empowering to see the results of my hard work and skill, and knowing that my efforts have played a role in constructing something that will last for generations to come.”

“For me, the best thing about being a chippy is seeing something come together in front of your eyes,” Mon says. “A lot of people see the finished product, but what they don’t see is all the hours of hard work and dedication that go into creating it – just the pretty stuff, which is the icing on top!.” 

When we asked what their futures hold, it’s brilliant to see that Jayme is already looking towards getting her builders’ license, and “then starting my own business. I want to employ an all-female carpentry crew –  also subcontract females from plumbers, electricians all the way down to the surveyors.” Orlagh is keen to focus on incorporating design, sustainability principles of eco-friendly construction and a woodworking studio into her carpentry business. Her ultimate goal is to “continue honing my skills, pushing the boundaries of possibility in the realm of carpentry, and leaving my mark on the world through my work.” 

Winding down after a long day is essential for us all, and for Orlagh this means “spending some quality time outdoors, taking a peaceful walk in nature or enjoying a refreshing hike. Being surrounded by natural beauty helps me clear my mind and recharge my energy.” 

Mon see’s “the 8 hour workout with tunes” as a bonus, but once she’s put tools down for the day she goes to “CrossFit gym in the afternoon. It sounds crazy after being on the tools all day but it’s the best thing for my head and my body. I also love taking my dog to the beach for a swim, I might love it more than she does! And if I ever get the time, a cheeky game of golf towards the end of the week always hits the spot.” Count her in! These carpenters break down gender stereotypes but also bring diverse perspectives and talents to the industry. With their passion, creativity, and dedication, women like Jayme, Orlagh, and Mon are proving that they may only be a part of the 1% of female carpenters, but they are part of a rich pool of talent of Aussie Chippies!

Read the in depth Q & A article here!