A redesign of women’s hi vis maternity wear between industry stalwarts BHP, Blackwoods and Co Gear has redefined industry standards of inclusion and diversity, at a time when industrial and trade businesses across Australia endeavour to increase the number of women taking on industrial and trade roles across a variety of industries.
Despite a heavily supported movement championing inclusion and diversity, Co Gear Founder and Director, Kym O’Leary believes there is still a lack of tangible change that has occurred, with many workplaces not being set up to support women’s lifestyles that allow them to thrive in their role. Suitable workwear is one issue that BHP was keen to address.
Ms O’Leary said for quite a while industries have been talking a good game about addressing inclusion and diversity initiatives in their workplaces, but the needle has been slow to move despite a growing number of women taking on industrial and trade roles within these industries.
There is a growing number of women looking to pivot away from roles in metro areas and take on industrial and trade roles with some of the biggest mining and construction companies in Australia. But they are holding themselves back because things like workwear are not always suited for women,” Ms O’Leary said.
“While some businesses may not see the introduction of workwear for women as a significant change, it is actually an immediate and tangible output that can demonstrate commitment to progress,” she said.
“It’s 2020 and businesses need to go beyond creating committees and implementing policies, assuming the job is done. They need to make broader strides and take immediate action where they can, even if it is bucking the one size fits all mentality around workwear.”
For many women requiring high visibility workwear that is compliant, durable, functional and correctly fitted, they have had a limited number of options to select from – and for expecting mothers, the choices have been even fewer.
Mother-to-be and North Queensland FIFO worker, Rejoice Jacobs, says maternity wear should be on more mining and construction companies’ workwear lists. “Having workwear designed to accommodate for the changes you go through during pregnancy is great. After all it’s not only a woman’s belly that grows during pregnancy,” Ms Jacobs said.
“It’s so nice having a comfortable option that will take me through my whole pregnancy, without needing to order larger sizes every few months. I think having this as an option for more women will help them to feel more included at work,” she said.
Ms O’Leary said the real world application of the Co Gear range was a key factor to perfecting the final designs. Considerable R&D was invested in testing the designs across the Bowen Basin and Pilbara mining regions to ensure the maternity workwear designs stood up to the practical challenges women face every day on site.
“When we started working on the redesigns for our range of women’s workwear, we knew that collaboration was going to be a major contributor to our success, and fortunately we had plenty of support from industry leaders such as BHP and Blackwoods,” Ms O’Leary said.
“We also had an exciting opportunity to collaborate with a number of women from varying industrial and trade backgrounds over a 12-month period on our maternity wear range, which went through endless rounds of design changes to ensure it provides comfort, functionality and a flattering fit at all stages of pregnancy,” she said.
“The feedback we received from women across varying roles in often challenging conditions was very positive, and further highlighted the need for businesses to re-evaluate the workwear options they are offering staff,’ she said.
Based in Toowoomba, Co Gear is leading the charge for women’s industrial workwear, collaborating with industry leaders to design a range of high quality workwear that is comfortable and practical for women working across different industrial and trade sectors.