Women in Fleet: how women tradies on the roads are shaping the industry

4 mins read

Women in Fleet
Women in Fleet

Whether you’re looking to buy your first work vehicle, expand your fleet or optimise your existing business plan, it pays to listen to the experts. In this Q&A series, we’re talking to women from across the fleet landscape and trades industries who know how to tackle serious business challenges.

For over 20 years, Danita Wawn has been a leading advocate for employers in Australia and internationally. These days she strives to inspire women to get out on the roads and, quite literally, build Australia’s future. Because Master Builders Australia (MBA) has a strong, long-standing relationship with Toyota, we were lucky enough to block out some of Danita's time for a chat.

During your time in the industry, how have you seen women help shape it?

I find that, particularly in male dominated industries, the women who seem to do well are the ones that are upfront, that don’t tiptoe around things, that are themselves. You’re not trying to be necessarily ‘one of the boys’. You’re still maintaining, if you so wish to, your femininity. In the end, it’s about having that confidence and that capacity to feel comfortable in your own skin but stand up for what you believe in at the same time.

What do you see as the biggest opportunities for women in the building and construction industries today?

It’s endless. First of all there’s a bucketload of jobs and they’re all pretty well paid, in comparison to the work women otherwise do in highly female-dominated industries. There’s also a great capacity to be your own boss. Ninety-eight percent of the industry is made up of small to medium-sized businesses. We’re forecasting a huge amount of opportunities in the next four to five years in a whole range of sectors. Whether that’s labouring, whether that’s semi-skilled or skilled, or whether it’s professional. You can be creative or logistics-focused and you actually see something tangible after your hard work – you see a building go up that someone is going to live or work in.


I’ve now seen women who’ve started out as apprentices end up building their own homes. Some of the success stories are from women who understand the opportunities afforded them. For example there’s a group in Sydney, called the Lady Tradies. And they’re focused on supporting maintenance work in homes with older women, generally living by themselves who don’t feel comfortable letting a man into their home. So now these tradies have found a way to fill that niche in the market.

But, again, in terms of women in the industry, there’s so much potential. The world is their oyster. We’re the third largest industry in the country. We employ more full-timers than any other industry. We have more small businesses than any other industry, we have more apprentices than any other industry. And when we’re looking at job security, what’s better than being able to get an apprenticeship, get a full time job and run your own business? Not many other industries can provide that level of security at the moment.

“In terms of women in the industry, there’s so much potential. The world is their oyster.”

– Denita Wawn, Chief Executive of Master Builders Australia

With a lot of change and uncertainty in the industry post-Covid, what advice would you give to small business owners looking to innovate within the industry?

We’ve been really lucky with Covid in that we were deemed an essential industry very early on so, with a couple of exceptions, we’ve kept on building. We’ve found a lot of businesses might be very good technically, but maybe not so much from a business management point of view. So we want to ask: have they ensured they’ve got the business resilience to cope with the industry’s ups and downs?

For example, we’ve found that tradies have accepted a lot of jobs but haven’t factored in potential price increases that are due to the increase in work. Which means there are shortages in materials, prices are being jacked up and they’re finding that they’re building but they’re not making any money. So we’re advising people to make sure they’re either training themselves up, or they’ve got people around them that can provide that business support. You’ve got to have the right equity behind you. If you’re part of MBA, you’ve got a lot of free services as well as both formal and informal training. Likewise, there’s a reason why we have accountants. Yes, sometimes they’re expensive but it is far more effective to use them proactively rather than reactively.

What is your leadership philosophy?

For me it’s all about intuitive leadership. It’s about providing people with the reasons why we do things, regardless of their role in an organisation. And communicating not only the positives but the negatives from our successes and learning from our failures. I’m a very driven and passionate person and I like to try and inspire those around me.


A big thanks to Danita for taking the time to speak to us. So, when it comes to opportunities for women in the building industry, it seems the foundations are strong and the future is looking even stronger. But it’s crucial for anyone looking to go into a trade to balance technical skill with financial know-how. Accountants are here to help and so are organisations like MBA.

Because MBA is one of our partners, members can take advantage of Toyota Gold Fleet discounts across the Toyota range.

For a closer look into how to keep costs down as you build your fleet, and how exciting new technologies fit into the picture, read the next two instalments in our Women in Fleet series here.


This information provided is of a general nature and for information only. Nothing in this article constitutes or should be considered to constitute legal, taxation or financial advice. Before making a decision about any of the products and services featured on this article, you should consult with your own independent legal, taxation and financial advisors, who can advise you about your personal circumstances.

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