There was a time when any thoughts of skilled tradespeople would instantly conjure images of men. But, thankfully, that era is beginning to pass. In the last ten years, the number of women in trade has been steadily increasing. In fact, in the last decade, it’s jumped an astonishing 120%.
However, this increase hasn’t just been a steady trickle. Around half of the growth has happened in the last three years. That means that things are getting better at an increasing rate. On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2021 we want to take a moment to find out: where we are…
Why Have Numbers Grown So Much?
There are many reasons why the figure has grown. For a start, the notion of trade has changed significantly. Gone are the stereotypes, and instead, expertise, skill and ability take centre stage. Those few women who followed their passion ten years ago have paved the way for more to follow in their footsteps.
As cultural expectations are continuing to change, workplaces are becoming more open to hiring women. There are some companies that have specific business goals to find more women to increase their diversity. In some cases, this is in response to increased demand from some demographics. For example, some customers feel safer inviting a woman into their home than a man.
In the UK, around 33,000 women are working as tradespeople:
- 24,000 construction workers
- 8,000 electricians
- 1,000 plumbers
Which Trades Are Attracting Women?
The majority of these women who have entered skilled trades can be found in the construction sector. There are now more women laying bricks, mending roofs, and putting up scaffolding than ever before. The fields that are lagging behind the most are carpentry, electricians, and plumbing.
What Are The Benefits For Women?
80% of women in trade are their own boss and, on average, employ two people in their business.
While there is no doubt that an influx of more workers buoys the sector, there are also benefits for the women entering this workforce. By choosing to pursue a trade, women are gaining access to an in-demand skill set. They are often able to start earning at a higher rate as soon as they leave mandatory education. Wages can frequently be higher than if they had instead chosen to go to university.
This access to higher wages and a career track with the opportunity to work independently is a massive gain for many women. Starting on a higher salary goes a long way towards addressing the lifetime earnings gap between men and women.
Working for yourself allows women the flexibility to schedule work around childcare commitments, which tend to fall more heavily on them. In many ways working as a tradesperson is an excellent opportunity for many women.
How Things Stand Now
3.6 million jobs are expected to open up in metal and electrical trades as well as building and construction industries.
The world has most certainly changed in the last ten years. A recent survey by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) found that around 1 in 3 homeowners would prefer to hire a woman than a man as their tradesperson if it was an option.
The reasons for this preference varied, but a good percentage stated that they believed that a woman who worked as a tradesperson would be better at the details of a job than a man.
It is possibly more encouraging that 2 out of 3 people have no preference for the gender of their tradespeople. But the chances are pretty high that most of these people aren’t going to have the choice of hiring a woman. As it stands, when you look at tradespeople as a single group, less than 5% of them are women.
How Women Get Into Trades
61% of women have chosen their trade career because of the earning potential in the industry.
There are a lot of different routes that women are taking advantage of. The most common ones involve on-the-job training. It is not uncommon for women to take on a small role in a construction company to earn money while they decide what else they want to do.
It’s from this short experience that many find something they are good at and enjoy. This is a big part of why the numbers of women in construction jobs are so much higher.
Apprenticeships are a great option. The combination of hands-on experience and continued education is ideal. The chance to earn while they are still learning is appealing to a lot of women. Generally speaking, women are a bit more pragmatic about their career choices. An apprenticeship can be a practical choice, but it is also a door to finding your passion.
The least used route by women into trades is through education. While there are loads of fantastic college programmes that can be a route into these careers, few young women choose to try them. This is likely because girls who decide to stay in education are not often pointed towards learning a trade. In fact, many parents will discourage their daughters from pursuing a career as a tradesperson.
Continuing The Upward Trend
By 2029, if the same level of growth continues, there will be around 51,0000 women in industry.
While it is clear that things are improving, there is still plenty of space for improvement. When it comes to training, the trade sector is suffering from a significant skill shortage. Yet, in spite of this, girls are not being encouraged to pursue careers as tradespeople.
There has been an intentional effort to get girls to consider careers in science and technology. We still need to see that happening in the trade sector. The next step in this journey is to start letting girls know that when it comes to vocational training, they have more options than just childcare or travel and tourism.
The last decade has seen a lot of positive change in terms of women taking up roles as tradespeople. Let’s hope that the trend continues so that companies, customers and new tradespeople can all enjoy the benefits.
The other area where there are still improvements to be made is the workplace environment. While the situation has improved, there are still some lingering misconceptions about women working a manual trade that linger. Hopefully, with some training and further exposure to competent women in the workplace, these attitudes will continue to improve.
Support For Women In Trade
Recently there has been a growth in directories that champion women in trade roles. They allow consumers to specifically find women with the skills they need in their area. Some of these include Female Tradesperson and Women Traders Directory.