Blurring boundaries

Girls can be athletic. Guys can have feelings. Girls can be smart. Guys can be creative. And vice versa. Gender is specific only to your reproductive organs (and sometimes not even to those), not your interest, likes, dislikes, goals, and ambitions. ― Connor Franta, A Work in Progress

There are many professions and vocations out there that are traditionally more popular with one gender.

But if you're passionate about a career area that's normally associated with the other gender, these stereotypes and expectations can be limiting – both for women and men. As a result, all of society is diminished.

We say ignore the expectations and follow your passion regardless. There's nothing wrong with being the only girl or guy in the class.

In some areas there's a whole new collective surge of interest from unexpected quarters. For example, Western Sydney Institute is reporting a huge increase in enrolments from female jockeys. More than half of the 265 students currently enrolled at the Australian Racing and Equine Academy at Richmond are female. So far the women are showing that they are just as skilled as their male counterparts. Institute Director Robin Shreeve describes them as "a powerhouse of talent".

There are also more and more women showing interest in the automotive refinishing industry. Sydney TAFE's Automotive Refinishing Technology course has seen a notable increase in female enrolments. This line of study can lead to jobs in "blokey" areas like smash repairs, painting and restoration.

A TAFE-trained female locksmith is also capturing attention in what's traditionally been a male-dominated industry. Melanie Greenwood, 22, didn't grow up dreaming of being a locksmith. Her "aha" moment came when she accidentally locked herself out of her apartment and was staggered at the $150 cost of engaging a locksmith. That was when she decided it could be a career path for her. She studied for four years at Sydney TAFE's Ultimo Campus as the only woman in a class of 17 men.

Joanna Tsakiridis is another woman who's not afraid to stand up and be counted in a male-dominated industry. As a glazier she cuts glass, manufactures windows, timber sides and security doors. She studied the Certificate III in Glass and Glazing at Lidcombe TAFE surrounded by male students.

And the gender-blurring cuts both ways as well. There are more and more guys following their passion into female-dominated areas like early childcare, education and hairdressing.

TAFE NSW ambassador Ito Rivero knows all about this. He's blazing a trail in the early childcare industry, providing young children with a much-needed male role model after hundreds of men left the sector in the 1990s. Ito is very passionate about his mission and understands how crucial it is. "If you want to build a strong nation then you have to build a strong foundation in children," he says.

Veterinary nursing is another industry with a dearth of men. But that didn't stop James following his passion for animals into a career as a vet nurse. He was the only bloke in his Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing class at TAFE Western's Orange College, but held his own with the women.

Ultimately it comes down to being true to yourself rather than following societal expectations. After all, a long and fruitful career runs on personal passion.

Discover your ideal career by taking our Career Quiz