TaskHer discusses ways to get more women in trades with female electrician Denise and female plumber and heating engineer Vikki
The trade industry has a long way to go to create an inclusive, welcoming environment for women. To get to the heart of the issue, we need to listen to women in trades.
Today we are speaking to Vikki, one of our female plumbing and heating engineers, and Denise, one of our female electricians. They know the roadblocks that stop women from entering trade industries, and they have got some ideas for how the industry can improve.
It is no secret that women are massively underrepresented in the trade industries. NICEIC, the UK’s largest voluntary register for electrical businesses, estimates that only 1 in 100 electricians are female. A recent government study from January 2023 found that 95% of heating engineers are male.
Go Compare also found that 33% of women work as painters and decorators. This statistic might seem positive, but this trade requires fewer qualifications and certificates than the other mechanical trades that we have mentioned. Focusing on the growing percentage of women who work as painters and decorators does not address the barriers that women face when trying to gain qualifications and experience.
Adding on to that, administrative barriers are not the only problem that women have to contend with. ‘I’ve had the front door shut in my face,’ Denise says. ‘I went to the home of an elderly gentleman to do a job, and when he opened the door he said, ‘I didn’t realise it would be you doing the job. I don’t want you to do it.’’
Worryingly, the statistics reflect this kind of treatment across the board. One study found that 1 in 3 tradeswomen experience discrimination from customers. From that group, 1 in 7 tradeswomen have had concerns for their personal safety, and almost 1 in 10 say that sexism is the biggest challenge that they face.
So, how do we turn the tables for women in trades? Vikki and Denise are both self-employed tradeswomen who run their own businesses and work for TaskHer. Combined, they have over two decades of experience working in the trades industry, and understand the difficulties that female plumbers, female electricians, and female heating engineers experience.
Vikki was frustrated when she realised that general plumbing and heating groups were flooded with spam. Whenever a woman posted a question in the group, they were inundated with inappropriate messages.
‘As soon as you post a question, the guys jump on it’ she says. ‘So that’s why we started the female group; so we could actually ask questions and get answers.’ Now, Vikki’s group has over 250+ female plumbers, and it acts as a safe space for women in the industry to talk about their experiences.
Like Vikki, Denise sees the benefit of female-oriented trade groups. She joined a group called Women in Construction and made lots of new connections. This led to her being invited to Work Week at a local primary school. She arrived dressed in her uniform, and the children had to guess what her job was. The visit was a success: the children guessed that Denise was a female electrician and asked her lots of questions.
‘Sometimes older people are set in their ways,’ says Denise. ‘Exposure makes things possible.’ Denise is a firm believer in educating young children about all the possibilities ahead of them. ‘We need to tell them that there are skills and careers other than being a doctor or a lawyer, and that going down a different path can be much more valuable.’
As we talked to Vikki and Denise, we learned that both of them place a lot of value on exposure. Vikki advertises herself as a female plumber, and she also regularly posts about her work on Instagram and Facebook. ‘I post quite a lot about my day-to-day work,’ she says. By sharing her experiences as a successful female plumber, she hopes to inspire other young women to imagine themselves as successful tradeswomen.
Apprenticeships are one of the most common routes into trade jobs. It is true that recent studies have discovered a massive increase in the percentage of women undertaking apprenticeships, but this does not level the playing field. Many women feel intimidated by the idea of entering a male-dominated workforce, even just to gain work experience.
For Denise, taking on an apprentice is a no-brainer. Now, she has a team of three employees and regularly hires apprentices who need practical, hands-on experience to complete their degrees. This is just one of the ways that she supports women in trades.
If you don’t have the time to offer full-blown apprenticeships to hopeful women in trades, do not worry. You can still have a positive impact on young people.
Vikki discovered this when her female plumber and heating engineer Facebook group started to grow. Soon enough, professionals and hopeful female plumbers started networking. ‘Us professionals on the group will offer them work experience if we’re in the area,’ she says, ‘We’ll say, come and do a day’s work with us. There’s quite a nice network in that Facebook group.’
Supporting professional female electricians, plumbers, and heating engineers is just as important as supporting hopeful women in trades. TaskHer is the only platform that focuses exclusively on women in trades. Just like Denise and Vikki, all our tradeswomen have up-to-date qualifications and years of experience. They are fast, efficient, and reliable.
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