A workaround is to abandon the idea of an applet all together and go for a screenlet.
"Screenlets are small owner-drawn applications (written in Python) that can be described as "the virtual representation of things lying/standing around on your desk". Sticknotes, clocks, rulers, ... the possibilities are endless.You can install Screenlets from the Ubuntu Software Centre: simply type Screenlets in the search box.
The goal of the Screenlets base-classes is to simplify the creation of fully themeable mini-apps that each solve basic desktop-work-related needs and generally improve the usability and eye-candy of the modern composited Linux-desktop. Source
- Find the Screenlet that you want from the list on the User Screenlets web page.
- Follow the instructions from the link and save the .tar file to your Downloads folder (or anywhere of your choice.)
- Open the Screenlets Manager (Applications > Accessories)
- Click on Install and select Install Screenlet from the drop-down dialog.
- Navigate to your download and click Open.
I'm using the WirelessScreenlet2 application for my WiFi needs.
Right-click the Screenlet to set your preferences including the theme and behaviour as well as the network and card.
Sources & References
Screenlets Org Home Page
User Screenlets Home Page