International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the achievements of women around the world and on the progress that has been made in advancing gender equality. The trade industry has historically been hard for women to break into, as it is a traditionally male-dominated area. Women have struggled to be accepted, but their resilience and determination has helped to grow their presence and normalise their inclusion in this line of work. In fact, women have at occasions been pioneers in the trade industry, which is sadly not talked about – here are a few examples.
– 500BC: Lady Yun created the process of woodworking
– 1800’s: Tabitha Babbitt patented a cutting, circular blade, the predecessor of today’s electrical saw
– Late 19th Century: Emily Roebling supervised the construction and completion of the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge
– 20th Century: Alice H. Parker invented the residential natural gas furnace
Most tradeswomen have a story to tell about their career progress within this field. These women have had to overcome gender stereotypes and biases and have worked tirelessly to make their mark. Their perseverance and dedication serve as an inspiration to all women who aspire to work in trades. By sharing their experiences, they not only highlight the challenges faced by women in the industry, but also demonstrate the importance of inclusion and diversity in the workplace. TaskHer, an online tradeswoman booking platform, has collected some stories from inspirational tradeswomen which you can read below.
Stephanie, a plumber and gas engineer in London: Having secured a job with a small plumbing and heating company Stephanie thought she was secure in her career as she expanded on her plumbing skills to train as a gas engineer. Towards the end of her training the company, without warning, let her go. Their rationale was that she would ‘never be able to lift a boiler on her own’, something they apparently hadn’t considered when hiring or training her. Stephanie was forced to strike out on her own, build a base of clients and continue her gas training at her expense. Today she installs boilers weekly…all on her own.
Olivia, a London based plumber: Having completed her NVQ1 in plumbing at 17 Olivia was excited to put her skills to use and secure an apprenticeship to start her plumbing career. Sadly, the world wasn’t ready for a young female plumber. She called in excess of 100 plumbers and plumbing companies to secure work experience with no luck. In some cases she was laughed at, in one case she was asked if she was calling on behalf of her son. Having confirmed she was phoning for herself the phone was put down on her. Olivia spent five years working in a hairdressers reception before she found her break – another female plumber took her on and helped her gain the qualifications needed. Today she is a successful plumber working full time in the job she loves.
Letitia, a plumber in the home counties: Letitia came to plumbing later in life, keen to forge a career that would give her a decent income after years of low paid work. Having secured a place in college, she found herself the sole woman in a large class of boys mostly aged 16-20. The taunts started from day one, if she wasn’t being bullied for being a woman she was bullied for being gay. This lasted for the duration of her college career, but Letitia persevered and has now qualified and secured a full-time plumbing job.
Read more stories here.
These stories are a testament that there is still work to be done to include women more, and equally, within the trades.
There’s More to Be Done
Whilst we celebrate the achievements of tradeswomen around the world, we must still gather our efforts to ensure there is encouragement and support for more women to join the trade industry.
The issue lies mainly with employers, colleagues, and organisations. Clients are asking more and more for female inclusion in this space, and the figures speak for themselves – 46% of customers said they would definitely hire a female tradesperson and 43% have no preference. This shows that there is no reason why employers should be hesitant to employ women. Tradeswomen are much more capable than some believe, for both physical and technical requirements, and customers want them.
So, to ensure the trade industry is a welcoming and positive space for women, we need to take proactive steps. Here’s what can be done:
- Employers: Actively recruit and provide training opportunities. Give women an equal opportunity and the chance to show you they are worth the investment. This can be done through non-biased recruitment, outreach programs and apprenticeships.
- Employers: Ensure the workplace is set up to provide needs of women. Introduce new policies and initiatives that address issues such as harassment, gender bias and discrimination. It’s not uncommon for women in the trade industry to face such issues and it’s our responsibility to make sure they feel safe and respected whilst working. It’s also important to enforce these rules when they are not followed.
- Organisations: Promote the visibility of women in the trade. Campaign for a change in attitude towards female tradespeople and help female tradies get the visibility they deserve. This is vital as it shows young women that it is possible to achieve success in this industry. This also includes manufacturers and retailers widening their product ranges to offer appropriate workwear for tradeswomen, in line with the increasing demand.
- Employees: Treat your fellow tradeswomen with respect and integrity. Don’t make inappropriate jokes about their gender, physical attributes, sexuality, and performance. Instead, lead the way with your other colleagues to make them feel comfortable and part of the team in your workplace.
Whilst we celebrate the achievements of tradeswomen today, let’s remember to also be proactive in making a positive and welcoming space for them. We can create a future where women are equally represented and celebrated in the trade industry, as they deserve.
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