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Hacia Atherton CEO and Founder of Empowered Women in Trades

How a near-tragedy inspired this founder to empower women in skilled trades

This journey often involved battling self-doubt, as I was not only setting up a new business but also venturing into uncharted waters to drive change in a male-dominated industry.

In 2017, Hacia faced a life-altering horse riding accident, sparking a period of profound introspection during her hospital recovery.

She noticed the glaring absence of women in traditionally male-dominated sectors across Australia. Drawing parallels between her own journey of overcoming adversity and the perceived barriers hindering women’s entry into skilled trades careers, she felt compelled to take action.

Founding Empowered Women in Trades (EWIT)

Encountering a female welder and hearing of her struggles motivated Hacia to establish Empowered Women In Trades (EWIT). Her vision was crystal clear: to inspire women to consider trades as viable career paths and advocate for a cultural shift within industries and society to foster a supportive environment for female professionals. Reflecting on her family’s legacy of driving change in Australia, Hacia attributed the inception of EWIT to both her personal journey and her desire to uphold her family’s tradition of catalysing change in Australian history. “Starting Empowered Women in Trades (EWIT) was not only inspired by my personal journey but also by my desire to continue my family’s legacy of being change-makers in Australia’s history,” she asserted. “My decision to create EWIT was fueled by this heritage of impact and my own experiences of overcoming adversity, leading me to champion a significant transformation in one of Australia’s most male-dominated industries.”

Additionally, Hacia underscored the critical shortage of skilled workers in trades like welding and tool making, a revelation gleaned from her involvement in her family’s manufacturing company. She emphasized the urgent need for more skilled workers, particularly women, citing her own experience of a life-threatening horse riding accident in 2017 as further motivation. Despite facing the possibility of never walking again, Hacia defied the odds and not only regained her mobility but also completed a half marathon. She remarked, “Against all odds, I not only walked again but ran a half marathon, which mirrored my determination to lead transformational change in one of Australia’s most male-dominated industries.”

Reshaping the Gender Balance in Skilled Trades

To stay ahead and innovate in the market, I constantly explore trends in unrelated industries and assess how what they are doing well can be adapted to our industry. 

Drawing on her family’s legacy of effecting change and her personal triumph over adversity, Hacia attributed the founding of EWIT to her journey. She articulated her vision to significantly reshape Australia’s skilled trades landscape through the organization. Hacia highlighted EWIT’s mission to elevate female representation in skilled trades from the current 3% to an ambitious 30% by 2030, emphasizing its commitment to breaking down barriers and fostering inclusivity and diversity. She declared, “EWIT’s mission is not just about empowering women to enter and excel in trades; it’s a dedicated effort to transform the current 3% female representation in skilled trades to an ambitious 30% by 2030. By breaking down barriers and fostering inclusivity and diversity, EWIT aims to reshape an industry traditionally dominated by men, making it more accessible and welcoming to women.”

“To cultivate EWIT’s growth, we embraced a philosophy that extends beyond traditional business strategies,” explained Hacia. “We infused positive psychology principles into our core, focusing on strengths, resilience, and well-being to build not just a business, but a movement. Our passion for empowering women in trades became the heartbeat of EWIT, inspiring and engaging others. We fostered a community-driven approach, creating a space where stories of courage and success became a catalyst for change. This approach enabled us to transform individual aspirations into collective action, making EWIT a beacon for transformation in the skilled trades industry.”

“EWIT stands out in the industry due to its unique approach that blends positive psychology with a mission-driven business model,” Hacia continued. “We focus on creating a culture of empowerment and resilience, which is distinct in the skilled trades sector. Our strategies are rooted in building a movement rather than just a business, fostering community, inclusivity, and diversity. To stay ahead and bring innovation, we constantly adapt to market needs, engage in proactive community outreach, and leverage our unique heritage to inspire change. This approach not only drives our growth but also redefines the industry landscape, making skilled trades an accessible and appealing career choice for women.”

“To stay ahead and innovate in the market,” Hacia added, “I constantly explore trends in unrelated industries and assess how what they are doing well can be adapted to our industry. This involves looking at what other countries are doing, particularly in areas where challenges and solutions in female representation in male-dominated industries are being explored. For instance, a recent trip to America provided deeper insights into the challenges and innovative solutions in this space. Additionally, my approach includes transforming challenges into opportunities, which not only keeps EWIT dynamic and forward-thinking but also aligns with our mission to empower women in trades.”

Lessons Learned from Building EWIT

Starting and growing EWIT posed numerous challenges, including navigating funding as a non-profit and battling self-doubt. “Navigating funding without traditional equity investment options meant either self-funding or finding unique revenue streams,” Hacia recounted. This journey often involved battling self-doubt, as I was not only setting up a new business but also venturing into uncharted waters to drive change in a male-dominated industry.

“Stepping out of my comfort zone was crucial,” she emphasized. “I had to quickly learn and master new skills like marketing and sales. To deepen my understanding and effectiveness, I pursued a master’s in applied positive psychology, recognizing its importance in creating impactful, lasting change.

“Building a reputable brand from a mere idea to a business recognized at the Telstra Best of Business Awards has been an extraordinary journey,” Hacia reflected. “It taught me resilience and the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity.

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Consider giving back as you succeed, as making a positive impact can be a powerful motivator

Drawing from her experience, Hacia offers advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, emphasizing passion, resilience, and adaptability. “Starting your own business is an incredible journey filled with challenges and rewards,” Hacia shared, offering insights from her experience.

“To those aspiring entrepreneurs, I offer some key advice and lessons from my own experience. Firstly, find a business idea that aligns with your passion and purpose, as this will fuel your determination and resilience. Embrace setbacks and failures as opportunities for growth, and commit to continuous learning as the business landscape evolves. Don’t shy away from calculated risks, surround yourself with a strong support network, and maintain a customer-centric approach. 

Adaptability is crucial in a rapidly changing world, and a healthy work-life balance is essential to avoid burnout. Build professional relationships, stay true to your values, and celebrate even the smallest wins. Lastly, consider giving back as you succeed, as making a positive impact can be a powerful motivator. Entrepreneurship is not a linear path; it’s a dynamic adventure where passion, perseverance, and the right mindset are key to turning dreams into reality.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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