8 Things Tradeswomen Have Heard at Work

February 26, 2024

8 Things Tradeswomen Have Heard at Work

When the topic of systemic sexism in trades comes up, you might think about the gender pay gap or male-coded language in the industry. But what about the everyday implications of an industry that is so male-centric? 

For International Women’s Day, we asked  tradeswomen to remember times they have experienced everyday sexism on the job. By shining a light on some of the more outlandish instances of sexism, we hope to highlight just how uncomfortable tradeswomen are made to feel.

From micro-aggressions to outright aggression, here are eight instances of outrageous sexism. 

“Are you calling on behalf of your son?”

Olivia is now a successful plumber, but before she had her big break she faced countless rejections. At age 17, Olivia had completed her NVQ1 in plumbing and was excited to secure an apprenticeship and begin her dream career. 

She called over 100 plumbers and plumbing companies but quickly found that they were not willing to take on a female apprentice. During one memorable phone call, a tradesperson asked, “Are you calling on behalf of your son?” When Olivia stated that she was calling for herself, the line went dead. 

Feeling upset by the never-ending knock-backs, Olivia gave up her dream. For five years, she worked as a receptionist before finding a female plumber who was willing to give her work experience. 

“Don’t be silly! You can’t do this type of work with your nice hair and nails” 

Many of tradeswomen have been discriminated against based on their looks. One tradeswomen deals with constant comments about her feminine appearance. Some customers even point to her hair and nails as the reason why she can’t do basic tasks, despite her qualifications.

“Is that your husband's top?”

One female heating engineer was scanning the shelves at a supply store, when a man appeared out of nowhere. He asked whether her top (which had the Gas Safe logo and her company name) was her husband's. 

When she confirmed that it was her top, the stranger started ranting. “He said women are only good for having babies and being nice,” our tradeswoman said.

“Is your boyfriend coming or can I close the door?”

Time and time again, tradeswomen have been turned away from jobs that they are more than qualified to complete. One of the most common stories we hear is that tradeswomen are rejected from jobs on the doorstep.

When residents open the door and see a female electrician, plumber, or heating engineer, they are immediately shocked. This leads to demeaning questions such as, “Is your boyfriend coming or can I close the door?” 

“You’ll never be able to lift a boiler on your own”

Stephanie started her career with a small, tight-knit company. It was the perfect base to train to become a gas engineer, or so she thought. Toward the end of her training, the company unexpectedly let her go.“You’ll never be able to lift a boiler on your own,” the boss said. 

Making the best of a bad situation, Stephanie struggled through the challenges of self-employment and paid for gas training out of her own pocket. Now, she is a successful plumber and gas engineer in London and installs boilers at least once a week. 

“Not bad for a woman!”

One tradeswomen made a quick stop at a tile store and was subjected to an onslaught of sexist abuse. She bought her items, went back to her car, and was just about to leave when she noticed something odd. 

“All the staff had lined up at the window to watch me back out of the car park onto a busy main road,” she said. “They were hysterically laughing, and when I made it out of the bay, they all clapped and shouted, ‘Not bad for a woman!’”

“Why have they sent you?”

This tradeswoman arrived at a domestic property in her work uniform, with her tools in hand. She rang the doorbell, and it swung open. The  homeowner was shocked to see her, and said, “Why have they sent you? We’re waiting for a gas engineer.” 

“No offence but you’re not gonna be able to do this job” 

Most tradeswomen have heard this comment in one way or another, but it is even more frustrating when the job hasn’t even begun.

Female tradies are treated as if they are too weak or fragile to even attempt to lift the heavy tools that they handle on a daily basis. 

Fighting for Change 

Sexism in the trade industry isn’t going to change without a fight. We want TaskHer to be a beacon of light for tradeswomen who are tired of everyday sexism and customers who want to support a valuable social cause. 

Want to learn more about our tradeswomen? Read about Jade’s struggle to find an apprenticeship in our Women Behind the Tools series. 

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8 Things Tradeswomen Have Heard at Work

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