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Our Industry Hangs In The Balance 

What can be done to achieve balance in an overwhelmingly unbalanced industry?

There’s no way in any universe that what we have in skilled trades now could be described as “in balance”.  The proportion of women is around 6% where we’re well represented, such as in painting and decorating and around 1% in plumbing, with gas engineers and electricians far less. According to Gas Safe only 0.5% of engineers on their Register are women. Bricklayers, Builders and Roofers are very much lower. 

What can be done?

What would a balanced industry even look like? 

Some employers complain that ‘women don’t apply’ for jobs in the construction and maintenance industries. But few employers write job ads that encourage women. We still rarely see gender neutral language. Using terms like ‘tradespeople’ would be a step forward. Language that actively encourages women such as saying ‘tradeswomen and tradesmen’ is hardly ever used.

What needs to happen for us to reach a proper balance?  

In spite of saying ‘women are welcome’ few employers put their money where their mouth is by investing in making their workplaces inclusive. Many still don’t have toilets, showers etc for women. Even employers proud of the numbers of women they employ don’t usually provide workwear or boots that fit women.  Interesting though, that when a tool was redesigned based on women’s feedback that it was too big, men said they preferred it and it was easier to use*!

Including women’s smaller bodies within Health and Safety regulations seems to be too much to ask for.

Training to ensure banter is actually that and not misogyny and hate speech labelled as humour is rare. Where it does exist the men who’re strong enough to call out behaviour are few and far between, especially now that to be ‘woke’ is an insult.

Advertising jobs for women is as illegal as advertising them for men – even when this is an attempt to create balance. Colleges run the same risk if they offer women only courses. 

We’re hemmed in by legislation that prevents us from creating balance and actively enforces the status quo of the current imbalance. 

Truly a world gone mad! 

We have seen that when women are given the opportunity to handle tools they take it with massive enthusiasm. 

Construction and maintenance are so overwhelmingly male dominated that it hardly occurs to anyone that women can ‘do it’ and the low numbers of women are cited as evidence of our lack of interest. 

We believe the industry needs to change to encourage women to enter but the fact is, not enough men are entering it either.

The skills gap is real and coming soon – it’s actually here already, but going to get much worse very quickly. 

From what we hear from women, many of them (up to 25%) are very keen to enter the industry but the dinosaur of the system everyone is operating in actively keeps us out. A YouGov study found that only 11% of those asked would even ‘consider’ a career in trades. This suggests women are more interested than men, in working in trades right now, but for some reason aren’t breaking through – we’ll discuss the thorny issue of placements and apprenticeships another time!

The industry has to seriously address its image if it’s going to attract the tradespeople the country needs even to stand still, never mind reach the numbers we need.

Could it be that the changes that would encourage women could make the industry more attractive to men too? 

The average age at the last count was 59 and only 5% of people in the industry were under the age of 35. This is much too urgent for us to wait for the children in schools to be the ones to create the change. It’s up to us to make the culture more attractive NOW!

Are we going to wait till it’s too late to find out if women friendly changes are what’s needed to breathe new, more balanced life into the industries?



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