One in three tradeswomen experience discrimination

New research from Rated People has revealed the biggest challenges faced by women who work in the trades industry, as well as the trades which have the lowest representation of women and the biggest gender pay gaps.

The study discovered well over a third of tradeswomen (39%) aren’t taken seriously because of their gender. One in seven (15%) have had personal safety concerns when working, and almost one in 10 (9%) say they’ve had customers who won’t let them work on a job when they see they’re a woman.

It’s 2022 and this needs to change

The findings are taken from the newly-launched 2022 edition of Rated People’s Home Improvement Trends Report, where researchers spoke to more than 600 tradespeople across the UK about working in the industry, and over 2,000 homeowners about their attitudes to hiring tradeswomen.

Positively, there’s growing demand from UK homeowners – nearly half (46%) say they’d definitely hire a tradeswoman, 43% have no preference and only 11% of UK homeowners say they’d prefer a tradesman. Almost one in three (29%) women in the UK also say they would feel safer hiring a tradeswoman to do a home improvement or maintenance job in their home.

But the research highlights just how out of balance the industry is. Over half (11) of the 20 professions with the worst levels of representation of women in the UK are within the trades industry.

Women make up less than 1% (0.99%) of carpenters and joiners in the UK, and less than 4% of electricians, plumbers, floorers and tilers are women. Across the 10 trades with the lowest representation of women, none of them have more than 5% of women in the workforce.

The 10 trades with the lowest representation of women: 

Rank Trade Women in workforce – 2021
1 Carpenters and joiners 2,399 (0.99%)
2 Electricians and electrical fitters 4,177 (1.73%)
3 Plumbers and heating and ventilating engineers 3,283 (1.93%)
4 Metal working production and maintenance fitters 3,594 (1.93%)
5 Elementary construction occupations 5,383 (3.03%)
6 Glaziers, window fabricators and fitters 1,472 (3.45%)
7 Floorers and wall tilers 1,111 (3.46%)
8 Electrical and electronics technicians 1,177 (3.61%)
9 Electrical and electronic trades 2,932 (3.91%)
10 Building trades 9,829 (4.01%)

Please mind the gap

On average, women earn just 72% of what men do across 15 key trades in the industry. But for floorers and wall tilers, this drops to a staggeringly low 41%. The few women who are carpenters earn just shy of £17,000 a year on average, but men in the same trade earn over £31,000 – a difference of almost £15,000 a year, or put another way, an annual carpenter’s salary for a woman is just 53% of a man’s.

Women electricians earn 54% of what men do. Women in construction and building trades only earn the equivalent of 57% of a man’s salary, and women plumbers would take home just 61% of what a man would in the same trade.

The 10 trades with biggest gender pay gaps: 

Rank Occupation Average women’s annual pay Average men’s annual pay Difference in pay Women’s pay as a percentage of men’s
1 Floorers and wall tilers £12,514 £30,764 £18,250 41%
2 Metal working production and maintenance fitters £19,814 £38,586 £18,772 51%
3 Electrical and electronic trades £19,814 £38,586 £18,772 51%
4 Glaziers, window fabricators and fitters £13,557 £26,071 £12,514 52%
5 Carpenters and joiners £16,686 £31,286 £14,600 53%
6 Electricians and electrical fitters £20,336 £37,543 £17,207 54%
7 Construction and building trades £18,250 £31,807 £13,557 57%
8 Painters and decorators £16,164 £28,157 £11,993 57%
9 Plumbers and heating and ventilating engineers £21,900 £35,979 £14,079 61%
10 Electrical and electronics technicians £26,593 £33,371 £6,778 80%

Opportunities for tradeswomen in the UK

There are good indicators that change is starting to happen though – 32% of women in the UK now say they’d consider working in the trades industry. This could be a knock-on effect of the pandemic, people re-evaluating their jobs for example, or perhaps from increasing awareness of the opportunities that are available. According to Access Training, admissions of women on trade courses increased by 27% in 2021.

Google data also shows many homeowners are actively trying to find tradeswomen across a variety of trades. People searched for women painters the most in 2021, pulling in 27,500 Google searches over 12 months, and women builders, gardeners, plumbers and electricians also saw between 5,000 and 10,000 Google searches in 2021.

When speaking to tradeswomen about the biggest benefits of working in the industry, flexibility is key, with the top three advantages all about having increased autonomy. Almost one in four (22%) said ‘being their own boss’ was one of the biggest benefits for them, 18% said it was the flexible working hours, and 15% said they loved being able to choose how much work they took on.

Helping women homeowners feel safe was also a plus-point, with almost one in ten (8%) tradeswomen saying they valued getting to help women who don’t feel comfortable or safe having a tradesman come into their home.

The Rated People Empowering Tradeswomen Programme 

Following the research, Rated People has launched their new Rated People Empowering Tradeswomen Programme to help more women get into the trades industry and build successful careers. Whether they’re considering a career change, or they’ll soon be leaving school and considering their options, the programme is designed to help women at all stages of their trades careers.

The Rated People Empowering Tradeswomen Programme includes discounted skills training with Access Training, discounted business advice and coaching with Business Trades Coach, Alison Warner, and free exposure and discounted job leads on Rated People.

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