As women in construction are celebrated on International Women's Day, a new survey reveals 21% of women in the UK are considering trades opportunities.
Women currently make up around 14% of construction industry professionals, according to Go Construct, and this number is set to rise, providing greater diversity of choice for those looking to find a builder.
The new research from Powered Now shows that among the 21% of women considering construction careers in the last 12 months, the most popular careers were: handywomen, bathroom and kitchen fitting, roofing, decorations and painting, and extension providers.
The research also showed that 15% of women currently working within the trades have seen their client demand reach record highs during the pandemic.
Ben Dyer, CEO of Powered Now, said: "In a turn of events, the pandemic has highlighted that the trades is a haven for employment, and perhaps has been an unexpected catalyst to help move the industry closer to gender parity.
"It isn't often that you associate International Women's Day with construction, but hopefully people will start to recognise the careers that are indeed available to women."
Women in Construction Have Growing Influence
There are some major initiatives currently aspiring to even up the gender balance within the homebuilding industry. Leading architect Laura Jane Clark’s network and Heather Thurlby’s female-only directory Female Tradesperson are spotlighting women experts within homebuilding, plumbing, electrical services and more.
Clark, founder of Lamp Architects, Homebuilding & Renovating contributor, and star of TV programmes including Amazing Spaces, Shed of the Year, and Your Home Made Perfect, believes that increased inclusivity within the industry is helping more women expand their platforms, providing increased choice for homeowners and aspiring homebuilders.
“When I started out, generally my voice wasn’t heard at all. You’d be the only woman in the room. It’s changed since then,” Clark told Homebuilding & Renovating.
“There are more female plumbers and female builders, which is great. And there’s a lot of men getting into design, so there’s much more conversation that everybody is part of, in terms of DIY and building homes, that has helped to push everyone together.”
Clark’s Siren Sister is a network of diverse female architects, designers and artists, and her ambition is for it to become the first port of call for television, media and film companies to widen and diversify their existing talent base.
“I have always been conscious of the lack of diversity in television and a lack of female voices and expertise in architectural and design programming. I thought if I could build a network of experts, then producers could go directly to this network and choose from a diverse range of talent," she said.
Thurlby’s FemaleTradesperson.co.uk is a one-of-a-kind directory promoting and supporting female-owned and run construction and trade businesses across the UK. The inspiration came from her own experiences working within the heating and engineering sector, which made her want to provide women with a voice to shout about their business.
“I hope that our directory will not only encourage women in the industry by providing a platform they can trust and rely on, but it will also create a shift within the industry which will ultimately help future generations of girls to choose roles that used to be traditionally male,” she said.
Media Portrayal Is Vital
More women in construction need to be showcased to help inspire the next generation of female workers, according to Beth Skinner, a self-employed bricklayer who recently passed her apprenticeship at Hull College, believes negative media coverage can be an inhibiting factor.
Skinner sees the media as the most important aspect of encouraging women into construction. “A lot of it falls down to the way the construction industry is portrayed. Unfortunately, you’ll often see it advertised as a load of blokes having a laugh, or for people who didn’t do very well at school,” she said.
“Construction will always be a male-dominated industry. But it is great for women to be able to see other women in construction and think ‘I can do that’. If you’re a female bricklayer, you stand out. But if young women don’t see this, and it is not advertised to them in the right way, then they won’t know of the options available to them.”
Skinner believes that addressing media coverage of women in construction could have a beneficial knock-on effect. “It would reflect on other industries too. Seeing influential women can encourage young women, and likewise it could help inspire young men to get into industries that are more female-driven.”
Despite the progress being made, a worrying report from Randstad in 2020 revealed that more than two-thirds of women in construction said they had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace.
Speaking recently on the Build It podcast, Skinner said: “Being a female, I have to work hard. I have to proof myself and show people that I’m serious about what I do. I don’t think anyone gets into construction thinking it’s an easy way to make a living.”
On discrimination, Skinner added: “It won’t change overnight. It will take more women getting into industry, and a new generation of workers to come in with different attitudes. And ultimately, the conversation needs to be driven by big platforms which can make a difference.”
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