Tales From The Frontline

July 20, 2022

Tales From The Frontline

Discrimination faced by women in skilled trades...

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from speaking to tradeswomen over the last 18-months it’s that they don’t want to be seen as victims. They are trailblazers, confronting gender stereotypes, keen to learn and perfect their respective crafts, and to show the world that being a woman is no barrier to success in trades.

The second thing we’ve learned from these interviews is that all of these women have faced discrimination and situations that would be nigh on impossible to imagine occurring in most employment settings, owing entirely to their gender.

All tradeswomen told us that they suffer from daily micro-aggressions, which range from being asked if they are capable of doing the work, to being refused access to properties because owners or tenants don’t think they are qualified.

Here are some of the more shocking real world stories from our tradeswomen*:

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.

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.

Donna, a multi-skilled tradeswoman in the west country: Donna was a trailblazer in the industry, having trained back in the 80’s when women in trades weren’t rare but non-existent. She found work largely in the emerging LGBTQ+ scene in London at the time. Occasionally she had to find work on larger building sites where she experienced open verbal discrimination and even sexual assault. Donna now runs courses teaching other women trade skills.

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 college place 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.  

Emma, an Electrician in the Midlands: Having realised that her job as a care worker was never going to allow her to buy a home Emma followed the lead of her brother and trained as an electrician. Once qualified she found work with a local firm and settled into her role. Emma soon found herself being sent into unsafe situations in properties with known problem tenants more often than her male counterparts were asked to, but Emma wanted to prove herself so she did as was asked of her.

This came to a head one day when she was asked to carry out repairs in a known drug den. The occupants made her so fearful for her personal safety that she left the building and phoned her manager to ask if a colleague could be sent to accompany her back in. She was told in no uncertain terms that this was not possible and she was to finish the job.  Emma dropped tools there and left both the house and her job. She is now a highly successful sole trader with a loyal following of local customers and is looking to expand her workforce.

* names have been changed to protect identities

How TaskHer supports women in skilled trades

- TaskHer provides tradeswomen with supportive customers, who see their gender as a positive attribute, not something to be judged upon or wary of.

- By taking customer contact details and payment information up front we reduce the risk of malicious customers.

- TaskHer provides secure and prosperous work for those wanting to run their own businesses, which is often because they have faced problems being employed or on construction sites.

- We’re building a community of tradeswomen to help encourage & support the next generation of women in skilled trades.

- By connecting prospective tradeswomen with work experience opportunities from qualified tradeswomen (coming soon).

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