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Why is it not recognised as a scandal that women attempting to enter the construction industry are still entering a hostile environment?

Why is it not recognised as a scandal that women attempting to enter the construction industry are still entering such a hostile environment?

Mica May, Director of Marketing for Stopcocks Women Plumbers and Builders looks at the scandal of the low numbers of women successfully pursuing careers in construction.


Why is it that the of low numbers of women in IT, Architecture, Astro-Physics are recognised as a problem but no one seems to think twice that in construction, at the dirty hands end of the industry – skilled trades, the numbers of women are so low as to not be counted*?

How come it is still OK that a girl was told by her careers advisor just this summer that she is ‘too good’ to become a plumber?

Why is this not a scandal?

Why do even some of the other poorly represented groups of women not recognise this issue, as if citing the problem somehow demeans or reduces the validity of theirs?

We know that women are capable of working as plumbers and builders because some do persist and succeed; magnificently.

The industry is doing nothing to change the situation, they ignore it and say they are helping increase the numbers of apprentices; as though by addressing that wider issue the problem will be solved, or does not exist.

They seem to believe it is not their problem, this means they do not need to address the hostility of the environment women in the industry face.

So whose problem is it?

The biggest construction firms do take on some female apprentices, but the vast majority of building and plumbing work carried out is not by those big construction firms, it is by small companies working in their local towns working in the homes of individual families.

These firms hardly ever take on women. Why?

We know women are strong enough because they are completely capable of carrying toddlers around for hours and in the developing world women carry the heaviest loads.

We know women are clever enough because we know Marie Curie discovered radium, Hedi Lamarr carried out the research that resulted in mobile phones and that the secret code cracking centre of WW2 Bletchley Park was staffed largely by women.

We know women are capable of dealing with dirty smelly things; anyone who has changed a nappy understands this fully.

We know women have the drive, whatever you thought of Margaret Thatcher, she certainly had drive, in her eighties the Queen of England has drive, Oprah has drive.

Surely seeing a woman fix your home would be a great example to your daughter? She may not decide that she wants to do that, but she is being informed that she is capable of it if she chose, rather than the message she now receives which is that girls don’t or can’t do some jobs. Why not? And what damage is being done to her psyche as she internalises that message?

Why is the industry allowed to get away with behaving as though this doesn’t matter? Why are women who work in skilled trades not recognised and praised as the leaders they are? Why are they not being sought out to speak and inspire future generations of women?

What is the difference between a woman who is a plumber and a woman who is a politician or a surgeon? And how come only we are shouting out at the scandal?

For articles that talk about what we are doing about it go to

*Estimated at somewhere between 1% and 0.01% according to which trade is being looked at

  • Bernadette Hyland
    8:23 AM, 17 September 2015

    Enjoyed the post. I think it is part of the snobbery towards manual labour in this country. Not sure what building trade unions such as UCATT are doing, they do have a women’s committe now. There was lots of good work around women and manual trades during the 80s when local authorities did take on apprentices and had good policies around equality. Unfortunately this is the past!
    solidarity LS

    • admin
      8:37 AM, 17 September 2015

      Thank you Bernadette.

      Because the vast majority of plumbing and building firms are so tiny I think few of them are unionised.
      The numbers of women are very small, and even smaller on building sites where the environment is often perceived as being even more hostile than in small companies. So UCATT can do little.

      You’re right, there is huge snobbery hereabout manual work, we women need to get over it and work together.
      Female apprentices still do get taken on by Housing Associations but the vast majority of females who enter construction don’t do it straight from school, they are reinventors and too old (at 25+) to be eligible for funding for their courses. Sadly we’ve heard several horror stories from women who have worked for these kinds of employers as well as for small businesses.

      Thank you for your support

    • admin
      10:23 AM, 22 September 2015

      too right 🙁

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