Austal chief executive David Singleton believes the shipbuilder needs to gain a critical mass of female workers to permanently make an impact on gender equality in the industry.
Mr Singleton told today’s Success & Leadership forum this year’s apprentice program was a female-only intake.
“We’ve probably in the last decade (had only) one or two get through,” he said.
“This year we’ve got 18.
“All of a sudden, you’re getting a critical mass.
“You get mentors starting to work in the system and you’re transforming the place.”
The Austal move was inspired by efforts in the Royal Australian Navy to support female participation.
The Navy had a workforce of about 22 per cent women, which was a massive change from only a couple of decades ago.
Mr Singleton said the Navy had found it was better to have large groups of women on vessels together, rather than just one or two on a ship full of men, which many found daunting.
He said part of the motivation for Austal’s approach was that he had come from a disadvantaged background.
“What I was given, an ability to succeed or fail on my own merits, is all I want for my daughters,” Mr Singleton said.
“I’ve always be keen on getting more women into engineering.”