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Applying a gender impact assessment to a gender equality strategy for Certificate lll in Construction

Name of initiative: Gender equality strategy for Certificate III in Construction
Policy/Program/Service: Program
New or up for review: New
Sector: Vocational Education and Training

This case study has been drawn from real examples, however the narrative is fictional.


Beada is Head of the Construction and Built Environment School at Southern Star TAFE. She leads the school’s faculty in developing and delivering the skilled workers needed by the construction and building industry. As the course and industry are male-dominated, the school wants to create and implement a new strategy to improve gender equality for one of their courses, Certificate III in Construction. This would involve analysing and proposing a series of programs for transformational change relating to all aspects of the course. As part of this process, Beada must complete a gender impact assessment (GIA) to ensure the needs of women, men and gender-diverse people are considered and addressed in this course.

The scope considered here is broad, but Beada knows that this gendered analysis will provide valuable insight and contribute to meaningful change over time. To complete the GIA, Beada will collaborate with a team from various departments of the school. They will each bring unique perspectives and knowledge to ensure the GIA and programs are as comprehensive as possible.

Respect and Equality in TAFE

This project aligns with the TAFE rollout of Our Watch’s Respect and Equality in TAFE (RET) framework. This is a process to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. Under instruction from the Minister for Training and Skills, all TAFEs across Victoria are embedding the RET framework in their organisation. Taking a whole-of-organisation approach, the framework covers 5 domains: workplace, student, learning and teaching, communications, industry and community. The process provided by RET is a strong foundation for GIA’s and similarly, GIA’s can be aligned to reinforce the work to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in TAFEs.

Advice from the RET Implementation Lead is that GIAs are potential actions under all 5 domains of the RET framework.

For more information on RET, please see this OurWatch resourceExternal Link .

Step 1: Define the issues and challenge assumptions

Defining the issues

Beada and her team must create a strategy which promotes gender equality, and reduces gender inequality, within Certificate III in Construction. The course is currently male-dominated, and there are concerns that this does not create the most inclusive or safe environment for women and gender-diverse apprentices.

The strategy would involve a series of programs supporting transformational change. This will help to create an environment where gender equality is not only seen, but celebrated.

Challenging assumptions

The team spend some time brainstorming assumptions for what could drive gender inequality in Certificate III in Construction.

Their assumptions range from beliefs that women do not want to work in construction, to thinking that the TAFE can’t address the inequity in the industry. There is strong view that, as TAFE doesn’t directly recruit apprentices, it might not be able to drive-up enrolments of women and gender-diverse people. Many of the team initially believe that it is up to employers, apprenticeship centres and group training companies.

Completing a gender impact assessment provides the team an opportunity to think critically about how the course affects people of different genders. Applying a gender lens, the team broadens the issues to consider:

  • What are the barriers people of different genders face in joining and staying in the course?
  • How do needs and priorities regarding education for the construction industry differ according to gender?
  • How do other intersecting factors, such as age, disability, ethnicity and sexuality influence people’s ability to join and stay in this course?

Applying a gender lens empowers the group to consider how gendered and intersecting experiences may influence how people interact with this course. This will allow them to create a more comprehensive strategy to improve gender equality.

Step 2: Understand the policy context

Beada knows there’s a wide range of evidence which will help support their GIA. Not only does she want to look at data relating to the education sector, but also research from the wider construction industry.

To guide the team’s investigation, they consider:

  • Who is likely to be affected?
  • What are the lived experiences of these diverse groups?
  • What different impacts may be likely for different people?

By gathering as much information as possible, Beada and her team can understand the context of their strategy. That is, how people of different genders experience this course, and how we can encourage gender equality in this space. This will ensure their program is responsive, inclusive and effective.

Internal data

To start, the team look at Southern Star TAFE’s internal data related to the Certificate III in Construction. These findings will provide important context and guide further research. Specifically, they find:

  • In the last calendar year, 492 students enrolled and 13 were women – this is an increase from 7 women enrolling two years prior (real figures, source confidential).
  • When looking at discontinuation figures, the team found that women tend not to complete because of “personal reasons,” more often than other options, and more often than men (real figures, source confidential).

The team note that it can be difficult to find data that is current, specific and gender disaggregated within this course. They agree that this data is relevant, even though not specific, as it helps them understand the intersecting experiences of students in their program.

Desktop research

To deepen their knowledge about intersectional gender inequity in the sector, the team also look at external data and evidence through desktop research. They consult a wide range of sources, including:

The team also search the website for the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector (the Commission), where they find case studiesExternal Link , resources External Link and data sourcesExternal Link to help complete GIAs.

Stakeholder engagement

Beada and her team also want to hear feedback from students and others with lived experience. Particularly, they want to consult with women and gender-diverse apprentices in this course.

Building on evidence from TAFE student satisfaction surveys, they arrange focus groups with:

  • graduate apprentices from Southern Star TAFE who are women or gender-diverse
  • employers of women or gender diverse graduate apprentices from Southern Star TAFE
  • trainers and educators at Southern Star TAFE
  • current students who identify as First Nations and those from CALD backgrounds
  • finalists and winners in Victoria’s Training Awards – particularly women or gender diverse people in workforces dominated by men on their experience
  • internal teams such as Student Support Services and Apprenticeship Support Officers (through Apprenticeships Victoria).

Evidence collected by Beada and her team

From their internal data, desktop research and stakeholder consultation, the team document a range of insights into the different experiences of women, men and gender-diverse people. These insights will guide them in building a strategy that promotes gender equality and reduces inequalities.

Step 3: Evaluate options

After collecting and considering the evidence, the team are determined to apply a gender transformative approach. They discuss a few options for how they could approach this strategy, as well as the gendered impact of each method.

  • The first option involves applying existing models and practices to help recruit more women and gender-diverse people in construction pre-apprenticeship. The team believe this will help reduce the gender segregation seen within the course.

    This option includes:

    • providing mentoring programs for women and gender-diverse people enrolling in pre-apprenticeships
    • partnering with key organisations to promote the education and training pathways to schools. This includes NAWIC or Tradeswomen Australia Group with Australian Apprenticeship Centres
    • holding parent information evenings to teach parents about the benefits of supporting their daughters and gender-diverse children as they go into trade pathways
    • working with the local industry to update them on the work and activities underpinning this option
    • creating and developing value-based messaging and marketing that promotes intersectional gender equity.

    This option would require some of the budget to:

    • fund deliberate outreach programs to the parents and community to promote pre-apprenticeship pathways
    • resources to support productive and positive partnerships
    • develop new products and marketing collateral that promote intersectional gender equity.

    Gendered benefits of option 1

    • It considers the systemic issues causing segregation in this course and intends to promote gender equality through established methods.
    • Educating parents and employers about gender equality in the sector should reduce gendered stereotypes and improve opportunities for women and gender-diverse people.

    Gendered risks of option 1

    • This option does not fully address workplace safety for women and gender-diverse apprentices.
    • It provides little opportunity for the TAFE to influence gendered safety on the worksite.
    • Research shows this approach may not properly address cultural barriers to women working in male-dominated spaces, noting the reviews of women in construction programs from Victoria (Holdsworth et al. 2020External Link ).

    Overall impact

    • This option does not fully encourage changes to promote gender equality in the industry.
    • Although it encourages active participation by women and gender-diverse people, the option does not protect apprentices once enrolled.
    • Since it does not address systemic issues of safety, the team rate the overall gender impact of option 1 as negative.
  • For the second option, the team want to focus on promoting transformational gender equality. They also want to use the RET framework’s 5 domains to deliver a strategy featuring transformative change for women and gender-diverse people in Certificate III in Construction. To do so, they will work closely with the community and the industry. This option includes:

    Workplace initiatives

    • Build understanding of gender equity across the department, with support from leadership.
    • Partner with local Australian Apprenticeship Support organisations and industry leadership to review the overarching apprenticeship pathways for women gender-diverse people.
    • Work with the local Australian Apprenticeship Support organisations on a strategy to support disclosures of sexism, harassment and assault.
    • Develop appropriate referral pathways for sexism, harassment and assault within the course.

    Student initiatives

    • Provide mentoring programs for women and gender-diverse people enrolling in pre-apprenticeships.
    • Partner with key organisations to promote the education and training pathways to schools, such as NAWIC or Tradeswomen Australia Group.
    • Hold parent information evenings to teach parents about the benefits of supporting their daughters and gender-diverse children in trade pathways.
    • Work with local Apprenticeship Centres to ensure enrolment processes are informed on gender equitable practices.
    • Introduce learning sessions on equality and respect into student induction processes, specifically tailored to gendered experiences in the construction pathway.

    Teaching and learning initiatives

    • Partner and work with TAFE to review the curriculum design so it addresses any inequality in the program.
    • Evaluate and review all learning settings for safety and wellbeing.
    • Reduce harassment and discrimination by partnering with local Apprenticeship Support Service providers.
    • Train all staff, teachers, students and employers on referral, disclosure and risk assessment practices to help reduce harassment and discrimination.
    • Trial and evaluate a construction pre-apprenticeship class exclusively for women and gender-diverse people.
    • Build capability of educators to teach classes in a way that embraces gender equitable teaching practices.

    Communication initiatives

    • Work with student engagement and promotion teams to generate marketing showing gender equitable pathways in construction.
    • Communicate and promote the gender equality strategy across the whole TAFE, including the Board.

    Industry and community initiatives

    • Partner with gender equity specialists to promote an awareness campaign championing the TAFE’s commitment to gender equality.
    • Celebrate employers who demonstrate positive approaches to workplace safety and wellbeing.

    This option will require more use of the budget and require more support than the other options. However, it does still fit within the budget. It also directly addresses the issues learned by the team while utilising existing partnerships. Most importantly, it is the option that is most in keeping with the Gender Equality Act, as it includes tangible actions that promote gender equality.

    Gendered benefits of option 2

    • Directly engages with the drivers of gender inequity in the construction skill pathways, using the RET framework’s 5 domains.
    • Addresses barriers preventing young women, girls and gender-diverse people becoming apprentices in this course.
    • Challenges stigma and stereotypes, which allows TAFE to create a more inclusive environment for women and gender-diverse people.
    • Applies preventative measures for harassment and abuse, as well as appropriate referrals and support for victim-survivors.

    Gendered risks of option 2

    • The option doesn’t address the gap of intersectional data in internal and external resources, but this has been flagged for future action.
    • There may be resistance and backlash from current employers of apprentices and employers that TAFE works closely with, however the benefits far outweigh this risk.

    Overall impact

    • This option is transformative, and addresses some of the key challenges and barriers to equality in the sector and perpetuated by TAFE.
    • The team rates the overall gender impact of option 2 as positive.

Step 4: Finalise recommendations

Having weighed her options, Beada recommends that the organisation proceed with option 2. Not only does it promote gender equality, but it also aligns with the RET framework. She documents her specific recommendations, by area, as outlined in option 2.

Preparing for progress reporting to the Commission

Now that the project team have submitted their recommendations for approval, they will prepare their progress report to the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector. This is part of their obligations under the Gender Equality Act.

The report will include identifying all policies, programs and services that were subject to a gender impact assessment, and any actions that were taken as a result.

Since TAFE has instituted a central register of GIAs, the team logs the information needed to report on this GIA. Beada and her team are proud of the work they have done to promote gender equality, and they are excited to see the benefits for the students and the sector.

Actions taken as a result of the GIA

Only some of the team’s recommendations were approved at this stage. However, the remaining suggestions have not been lost. Even though not all the recommendations were approved for this GIA, Beada and her team will be able to revisit these learnings and recommendations in other aspects of the School’s work.

Some of these actions will take longer to implement than others, but the team records the following approved actions:

  • A pilot pathway for Certificate III in Construction will be trialled and evaluated, exclusive for women and gender-diverse people.
  • A partnership with the Australian Apprenticeship Support network and Student support teams are in discussion and will be established.
  • A disclosure and referral pathway for workplace sexual harassment and violence perpetrated against apprentices will be established with the local family violence and centre for sexual assault services.
  • A capacity and capability building program will be implemented, in partnership with the local Women’s Health Service.
  • Educators will receive training to increase their skills in applying intersectional gender equality in the classroom.
  • A forum will be held to teach the importance of gender equality to local employers of construction apprentices.

Reviewed 24 July 2023

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