MORE career choices are available to women than ever before, but they need to be vigilant about their rights when they become mothers, according to Minister for Women Pru Goward.
Ms Goward attended the Central West Jobs Expo on Thursday, which gave high school students and mature age job seekers an opportunity to investigate career paths.
Promoting the Girls in Trades program, she tried her luck at shearing a sheep and drilling timber.
“Trades are the last bastion of gender equality, where there’s not that same mix of men and women and that needs to change,” she said.
She encouraged women to take up trades, saying they could help pave the way to owning a business.
According to ABS labour force data, the number of women entering the traditionally male-dominated engineering, information and communication technology and science technician career paths increased from 20 per cent in 1997 to 25 per cent in 2012, but Ms Goward said the increase to 32 per cent in 2013 was something to be proud of.
“We’re showing the way,” she said.
“Girls need to hold a drill, they need to see they can do it - it makes it far easier to encourage women into trades than bringing in foreign workers.”
Women in the workplace has taken centre stage in the past week after the Australian Human Rights Commission released a report saying 49 per cent of women had experienced discrimination at some point during their pregnancy or maternity leave, or after they returned to work.
Speaking after the expo, Ms Goward, a former sex discrimination officer, said much of the protective legislation was in place.
“You can’t discriminate against people who want to go part-time,” she said.
However, she said women who felt they were treated unfairly needed to speak up.
“The woman might be in perfect health, but people make enormous assumptions and treat it as an illness,” she said.
“We need to keep reminding employers to work with what their employee is capable of and that’s really for the employee to decide.”