Image of a female tradesperson for International Womens Day

The Local Heroes on International Women's Day

Posted on 08/03/2018

Tradesman? Tradeswoman? Tradesperson.

In celebration of International Women’s Day today we’ve been speaking to some of the fantastic female tradespeople on our platform. It’s fair to say that we operate in a heavily male-dominated industry. Women make up just 6% of all people in skilled trades, while only 1% of electricians are female. So, we were keen to speak to female Heroes about their experiences and whether they see the split between men and women in the industry balancing out anytime soon.

Women make up just 6% of all people in skilled trades, while only 1% of electricians are female.

Customers are more trusting of women

Overwhelmingly (and promisingly!) female Heroes talked about the positive experiences they’ve had in customers’ homes. Sam Gregory, who works for a handyman company (a handywoman?), told us “some people comment that it’s a bit odd having a woman come to quote for the work, but some people say they’d prefer a woman to do the job. Especially other women and older customers who are nervous about strangers coming into their home. It’s all about trust”.

“Single women are often relieved to see I’m a woman”

Pip Harris, locksmith

Pip Harris, a locksmith, agreed that “single women are often relieved to see I’m a woman”. She explained that when people are locked out of their homes they’re often in an emotional state, and some feel more relaxed that it’s a woman helping them out in this time of need.

Cartoon of woman for International Womens Day

A competitive advantage

A lot of female tradespeople say that being a woman is an advantage over the competition. Natasha Clark-Withers, a heating engineer who owns her own company, says “it’s a bonus to be a girl in the industry, it’s more niche. Across the board, it’s not just women who are keen that you’re a woman. People trust me more and think my prices will be more reliable! It’s a great way of standing out – people are more likely to remember ‘Natasha the plumber’ than ‘Bob the plumber’”.

“It’s a bonus to be a girl in the industry, people are more likely to remember ‘Natasha the plumber’ than ‘Bob the plumber’”

Natasha Clark-Withers, heating engineer

Challenges in the trade community

However, while all the women we spoke to get a positive reception from customers, most had experienced some negativity from fellow tradespeople. Kari, a plumber, described how on construction sites “some people stare and give you weird looks. They’re very set in their ways and find it hard to get used to women working on site”. Natasha agreed that “some older guys just don’t get it”.

“Some people stare and give you weird looks. They’re very set in their ways and find it hard to get used to women working on site.”

Kari, plumber

Why don’t more girls become tradespeople?

Aside from a few negative experiences on site, female Heroes spoke enthusiastically about how they enjoy their jobs and the variety of work they undertake. So, what do they see as holding back young women from entering into skilled trades? “Some girls might not go into these trades because they’re nervous, scared or embarrassed as they think there’s a stigma that it’s a man’s job”, Kari speculated.

“Some girls might not go into these trades because they’re nervous, scared or embarrassed as they think there’s a stigma that it’s a man’s job”

Kari, plumber

Kari herself went into hairdressing after she left school because she was scared of what people might think; “as I got older I didn’t care as much what people think and just wanted to do what makes me happy”.

Cartoon of female tradesperson for International Womens Day

Changing attitudes

The good news is that many of the Heroes have noticed attitudes shifting in recent years. Natasha, who has been in the trade for 8 years, has noticed changes since she was first an apprentice, but thinks attitudes will change even more now with globally recognised women’s rights movements like ‘Time’s Up’ and ‘Me Too’ gaining more traction and media attention.

“Some people comment that it’s a bit odd having a woman come to quote for the work, but some people say they’d prefer a woman to do the job”

Sam Gregory

We certainly hope that this will encourage more women to feel more confident about joining the industry, and we’d like to say massive thanks to all the female Heroes who work tirelessly to help customers in their homes.

We’re always looking for quality tradespeople to sign up to Local Heroes, and would love more women to join us.

Become a Hero

Notes

https://www.electriciancourses4u.co.uk/blog/demand-for-more-women-in-skilled-trades/