About Women's & Maternity Safety Workwear

Women in Engineering & Construction working together to solve a problem

Apto was born from a group of women working in engineering and construction and their passion to solve the long-standing issue of women in their industry (and other male dominated industries such as construction, infrastructure and mining) wearing ill-fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) workwear.

In 2010, Michelle Shi-Verdaasdonk and Gaye Francis – Chair and Deputy Chair, respectively, of Engineers Australia’s National Committee on Women in Engineering (NCWIE) decided to form a working group to address the issue around fit for purpose women’s protective workwear.

In collaboration with two designers at Challenger Institute of Technology (now South Metropolitan TAFE), four prototype garments were designed. These were showcased to an overwhelming response at the 15th International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists (ICWES15) in 2011.

Following this initial success, NCWIE partnered with John Holland for a pilot to test the prototype designs under real site conditions using volunteer participants.

Engineers Australia’s involvement in the project finished after the pilot.

In 2012, with permission and the good wishes of NCWIE, Apto PPE was founded. With Laurice Temple joining the team, Apto officially launched on International Women’s Day with the vision to take the women’s fit for purpose initiative to its full potential and fill the gap in the marketplace.

Apto worked in partnership with Australian designer Linh Thai, Designer’s Assistant, in Melbourne to design more women’s shirts and pants that would make up Apto’s Signature and Maternity ranges.

These new designs were tested onsite and refined accordingly to ensure optimum safety, comfort and style.

In 2015, following Michelle and Laurice’s decisions to leave as Directors, Apto was bought by Gaye’s other business, R2A Due Diligence Engineers.

While Apto took a back seat while Gaye started her family, she has watched keenly to see if the gap in women’s workwear would be filled and if women would embrace wearing PPE that stood out from their male counterparts.

While other entrants have joined the women’s PPE marketplace, not much has changed for women in industry.

“There was such momentum and discussion around women in engineering in 2007 when Australia Engineers declared it to be the Year of Women in Engineering. But more than a decade later, I watch and hear women’s stories that indicate little has changed, and our collective voice has been somewhat diminished.

“The fact that women in Engineering, Construction, Infrastructure and Mining would prefer to wear men’s workwear that’s unsafe and uncomfortable demonstrates women still feel the need to ‘fit in’ rather than ‘stand out’ and be themselves as women.” Gaye Francis, Apto Director.

In 2019, Apto re-launched with a re-energised commitment to support women in engineering, construction, infrastructure, mining and other industries to be safe, comfortable, stylish and feminine. We believe, that’s the least women deserve.


As women in traditionally male industries, our vision is for an inclusive profession that embraces diversity. We hope that our women’s safety workwear range will start positive conversations about diversity within organisations especially out on site. It is important that the needs of women in our industries are recognised and that they don’t have to make do with less safe, unstylish down sized versions of men’s PPE.

Apto PPE celebrates women in the engineering and construction industries by providing flexible and innovative PPE designs.