Why ‘seeing is believing’ is key to fixing Australia’s tradie shortage. Report by Kate Rourke, iStock Head of Creative Insights, APAC
Diversity and inclusion is good business. According to iStock’s VisualGPS consumer survey, 8 in 10 people expect brands and businesses to be consistently committed to diversity and inclusion, with a further 7 in 10 preferring to buy from brands that represent people like them. While companies have made great strides to become more inclusive and diverse, more action is needed when it comes to authentic visual representation.
We all know the power a visual can have in changing perceptions and inspiring people. Showing a wide range of people, lifestyles and cultures in marketing and communications can help to alter perceptions, evoke empathy and build a community. After all, seeing is believing, particularly when breaking down barriers for entry in the workforce for minorities. However, too often advertising relies on overused stereotypes.
When it comes to visual representation in Australia, Getty Images’ VisualGPS consumer survey found that 62% of Australasian women still do not feel represented in media and advertising. Patterns seen in visual content used by businesses in Australia are still much more likely to feature men working than women.
This is particularly evident in the trade industry. The industry suffers a major image problem, with visuals largely depicting tradies as predominantly young, white and male. Many companies also use visuals that don’t accurately reflect the authentic and real-world experience of tradeswomen, for instance visuals of tradeswomen standing on worksites with clipboards or wearing clean hard hats and clothes.
These narrow and stereotypical images of tradies can be harmful in increasing female participation in the trade industry, at a time when the industry battles persistent labour shortages. According to Tradeswomen Australia, women’s representation in core trades remains at less than 2%, with “lack of engagement” and “social misconceptions” key barriers to making trades an attractive career path for women.
Brand marketers, content creators and communicators all have a responsibility to accurately reflect society and challenge stereotypes through content creation. That’s why iStock partnered with Tradeswoman Australia to reflect real tradie women across Australia. Tapping into their community, we found five real female tradies and captured them at their places of work with Australian photographer Louise Beaumont.
The five tradies are of various ages, ethnicities, backgrounds and specialties, and are leading the way in their various industries such as building and construction, automotive, electrical, horticulture and aviation, where systemic and structural gender inequality continues to be a major issue. Through these new images, we’re challenging the status quo and breaking stereotypes so that brands can lead the way in changing perception.
As Fiona McDonald, founder of Tradeswomen Australia, said “we know that greater connection is made with our community when we show real tradeswomen in our communications.” Our VisualGPS Insights platform also tells us that brands are looking for more diverse visual content. In the last 12 months, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of customers searching for “diverse women”, “women in construction” and “strong women”.
Tradies are a beloved part of Australian culture. But we’ve got a long way to go in making the industry more diverse, inclusive and representative of the wider Australian community. Visuals are a powerful tool in our belt to increase authentic representation and change harmful, cliched visuals stereotypes of tradies. After all, increasing the number of sparkies, chippies and brickiers is better for business and the economy!
You can check out the iStock and Tradeswomen Australia gallery here.
Image credit: Louise Beaumont/iStock