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Women who ‘talk the tools’ and ‘walk the work’: Using capital to do gender differently and re-gender the skilled trades

Abstract: Social and cultural capital are valuable assets that assist individuals to succeed in work. This article reports on gender segregation in the skilled trades. We use Bourdieu’s theory of capital to illuminate how women are successfully recruited and retained in the skilled trades. Our findings indicate that women with pre-existing forms of capital are advantaged. Notably tradeswomen utilise masculine gender capital while maintaining aspects of feminine and female gender capital. In doing so, they re-gender the skilled trades and do gender differently. The study also found that female and feminine gender capital detracts from other forms of capital women bring with them or acquire in their trades work. Male gender capital privileges men and disadvantages women. We conclude that capital is an important point of intervention where women can be supported; however, the problems that gender capital creates for women can only be resolved by cultural change.

Credit: Elizabeth Wulff, Donna Bridges, Larissa Bamberry, Branka Krivokapic-Skoko

Date: 2021