Cindy earns bragging rights
When Cindy Wilson qualified for her A Grade licence she was feeling pretty good about herself. So much so that the 44-year-old mother of two felt entitled to brag. She wasn’t the only one who felt her achievement was worth celebrating. Cindy’s story became MMM’s brag of the day.
“We finish work at 2.30pm most days and I usually listen to Triple M on my way home. On the day I finished my apprenticeship and got my licence I was really excited. So when the 'Brag of the Day' segment came on I thought ‘why not give them a call’,” Cindy told us.
“I was really lucky and ended up winning. I guess it was because I’m older and didn’t start my apprenticeship until I was 40. I won an awesome prize – two tickets to the Under the Stars festival in Hastings.”
“When I was 25 I thought ‘I’m going to do it now’ but it just wasn’t possible financially. I had a marriage, a house, a mortgage and life was travelling on.”
Tragedy leads to opportunity
Some years later Cindy’s mother tragically passed away. “She had always said to us that when she passed away ‘you’ll have the house, so you’ll be secure’. That was always her dream,” Cindy says.
Cindy and her brother sold their mother’s house. She paid off her own mortgage and went travelling around Australia. When she returned to Melbourne, Cindy felt that she didn’t want to do what she was doing any more.
“I’d had enough of working in hospitality. I thought to myself ‘you know what, I can afford to do what I want now’. I just decided I wanted to be happy, it was my time. I enrolled in an electrical pre-apprenticeship at Box Hill TAFE and actually had a job the week I left. I was really fortunate,” explains Cindy.
It wasn’t an easy undertaking. Cindy was the breadwinner for her family, while her husband worked casually and took the lead in caring for their two young daughters. For the first two years, Cindy worked for Living Electric on large construction sites, getting to see large scale projects from start to finish.
“As a woman I had one or two instances that were unpleasant. There were a couple of people who wanted to see how far they could push me. But never an electrician or anyone from any of the companies I was working for. I found it easier to deal with because I was a bit older. If I was a young girl some of the really crude comments could have really hurt me, but every electrician I worked with was very protective. They liked to make sure I was ok, which was great. I felt really comfortable and safe at all times,” she says.
“I find that being an electrician, working in the company of males, they just don’t have the backstabbing and bickering that you find in an office environment. They just say it how it is, say their piece and move on to talking about their cars or the footy. It’s just so easy and comfortable and everyone is welcoming and accepting. A few of them call me Mum which is a bit mean, but ok. I think of a lot of them as brothers,” she says.
The best trade for women
Cindy recommends the electrical trade to any woman – young or old – looking to follow in her footsteps.
“You do need to have a thick skin and you need to be physically fit and ready to work hard. I used to think I worked hard in hospitality, but no. There’s lots of carrying and lifting and as long as you feel comfortable with that and are prepared to give 100 percent every day, it’s great. It’s free, it’s liberating and you get to use your brain. It’s an excellent way for women to feel powerful,” says Cindy.
Cindy often finds herself working on sites where she is the only woman around. But rather than feeling isolated or as if she does not belong, she has experienced nothing but encouragement from her workmates and others.
“I walk around the hospital where I’m working at the moment and I have women stop me to say ‘wow, it’s great to see a female tradie’. There’s so much encouragement and solidarity. I was with two guys who work under me the other day and a woman saw us, and saw that I was dirtier than the boys. She said ‘how come you’re dirtier than them, you’re working harder than them, they’re not pulling their weight’. But it was totally fine. If I’m working with apprentices I’ll never ask them to do something that I wouldn’t do myself, and if it’s a really tight spot or less safe, I’d rather make sure it is safe before putting them in that position. I guess maybe it’s because I’m a mother, or maybe it’s just because I’m a human who cares about other humans,” she says.
“I love it. We work from 6am-2.30pm which are great hours as far as I’m concerned, especially for the traffic. It’s awesome, I have great bosses and the people I work with inspire me. I love my job,” says Cindy.