Featured image for article about diversity in construction and why we need more women in the trades. Image shows female tiler preparing a window surround for tiling.

Gender diversity in the construction industry has been an ongoing issue for decades, and while there have been recent signs of progress, there is still much to be done to truly begin levelling the playing field. 

This is by no means a problem unique to construction, however, according to new research by Rated People, 11 of the 20 worst professions for the representation of women in the UK are, in fact, in the trade industries. 

The concerning findings continued when discussing the disparity in earnings between genders. On average, women earn just 72% of what men do in these trade jobs—that figure drops to just 41% for floorers and wall tilers. Only in gardening and groundskeeping do women earn more. 

Lack of targeted education continues to be a problem

As part of the Rated People report, three school-leavers were asked if they would consider a career as a tradesperson. Two of them said no, explaining how their reluctance initially stemmed from a lack of communication with females about careers in construction at the school and college levels. 

The third respondee said that while she would consider a career in construction, she echoed the points surrounding the lack of messaging towards women, as well as expressing concerns around personal safety when it comes to entering other people’s homes. 

Another survey of 1,000 British schoolchildren, commissioned by Local Heroes, reinforces the point of not enough being done at an education level, finding that only 13% of primary school girls aged 6-11 chose trade roles as a potential career. 

What is the demand like for female tradespeople? 

After speaking to current women in the trades about their own experiences of working in the industry, Rated People revealed that 40% believed customers don’t take them seriously and that 9% even said that some customers wouldn’t let them do the job after seeing that they were a woman. 

Alarmingly, one in seven women added that they have been concerned about their personal safety. 

Despite the ongoing diversity issues, nearly half of UK homeowners (46%) did say they’d definitely hire a woman. 43% have no preference between hiring a woman and a man, and only 11% say they’d prefer a man.

In the report, they look at Google search data from 2021. This showed that the search term 'woman / female painter' rated the highest out of the searches where Female / Woman + term was used. Followed by builder, gardener, plumber and electrician.

The report also details how 75% of homeowners who hired a female tradesperson would rate their work 4 or 5 out of 5, in comparison to 57% for male tradespeople.

While there is still clearly much work to be done, there has been notable progress. 32% of women now say they’d consider a career in the trades, and admission of women on trade courses are up by 27%.