If you’re a woman working in trades and looking for a toolbelt, you can expect a slew of standard options in pink or if you’re lucky simply manufactured in a smaller size.
Only about 3% of tradies are women and there are many barriers to women entering this sector, including flexibility for those with caring responsibilities, women’s toilets in TAFEs and – yes – uniforms that fit.
In a 2013 report commissioned by the New South Wales Skills Board’s predecessor, the Board of Vocational Education and Training, it was found that while issues like this may seem small, they can be a daily, major irritant to women in trades.
Melissa Tinetti, Director, Built Environment and Sustainability at RMIT has personal experience of this.
“From my experience as a woman in the construction industry it has always been a challenge to find suitable toolbelts and, at times, even clothing,” Tinetti said.
RMIT fashion student Charlotte Hunter added as the trade industry becomes more gender diverse, so too must the workwear.
“Coming from a female perspective, toolbelts currently available in the market are not designed for my figure,” Hunter said.
“Their anchor points are predominantly around the hips and slide down with any excess weight.”
For non-male bodies, this uneven weight distribution could cause injury if worn for long periods of time.
RMIT Fashion Design students designed a series of gender diverse toolbelts for a project involving Vocational Education Trades students, addressing the need for more inclusive trade wear for women and gender diverse people.
To mitigate the potential for injury and design a toolbelt that works on a wider array of figures, Hunter decided to work with two major anchor points on the shoulders and waist.
“The symmetric design allows for even weight distribution and by anchoring around the waist of a feminine figure, the belt will not slide down and potentially cause injury.”
As part of the project, fashion design and plumbing trades students discussed their ideas.
Sebastian La Rocca, Program Manager for Plumbing and Carpentry, was blown away by the innovative designs.
“The students really captured the essence of a toolbelt and reimagined it in so many different ways, I would love to see some of these concepts become reality,” La Rocca said.
While there are no plans to take these designs to market yet, it has pushed the students to think differently about how our everyday tools and clothes can be better designed with diversity in mind.
“This has shown me we don’t have to just accept what already exists, we can adapt and change products to make people’s lives easier and more productive,” Hunter said.
“By paying attention to the needs of the wearer, a new and necessary product can be created. With this fresh lens on design, I can bring initiative to my final year of study and hopefully solve problems and fill gaps in any market.”