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What is a good trade for a woman?

Rhino Trade Insurance 17 April 2023

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Trade jobs are NOT just for men.

Here at Rhino, we are proud to work with thousands of tradesmen up and down the UK. But we are also privileged to serve a growing customer base of tradeswomen who are smashing stereotypes and proving that gender needn’t be a barrier when it comes to trade work.

From plumbers to plasterers, builders to bricklayers, female tradespeople are making their mark in traditionally male-dominated professions.

Have you ever wondered why there aren’t more women in the trades? Or whether attitudes to female tradespeople are changing in the UK? And have you ever wanted to know what the best trades for women might be?

No need to wonder. Just read on to discover all about how women are forging rewarding and successful careers in the UK trades, and what the future of trade work might look like.

Why aren’t there more tradeswomen?

First things first. When we talk about ‘the trades’, we are talking about the traditionally male-dominated fields in which working with the hands is usually a feature. 

Here are some examples of some classically male-dominated trades:

  • Builder
  • Plumber
  • Bricklayer
  • Heating or gas engineer
  • Roofer
  • Electrician

Whether it’s the assumption of a difference in physical strength, the idea that women don’t like to get their hands dirty or simply a throwback to a time when women had fewer freedoms – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that times are a-changing, skilled trade roles are increasingly seen as empowering jobs for women, and here at Rhino we’re proud to support it. 

The history of women in the trades

Modern civilisations have been shaped by manual grafts by both male and female hands. However, the physical labour of women – e.g. laundry, housework, sewing, preparing meals and raising children – is often discounted because it was men who did the more ‘visible’ work such as building, production and crafting.

Truthfully, women’s historical contribution to construction and other trades isn’t fully known, but one thing’s for certain, it’s men who have dominated trade sectors since records began.

The real reason that women haven’t historically been able to engage much in such trades has nothing to do with aptitude, skill or the desire to do so. It’s because their labour was concentrated elsewhere – the home.

Things are obviously much different today. Thanks to wonderful things like childcare, family planning and gender equality in the UK, women are able to do pretty much any job they want. And as it turns out, plenty of them want a career in the trades.

 

Do people want a female tradesperson?

Yes! Recent research from the Federation of Master Builders in the UK shows that almost 1/3 of homeowners would actually prefer a female tradesperson. The main reasons for this were that the responders felt that a female might be more respectful of their home, they wanted to support women in non-traditional job roles, and they would feel more at ease with a female tradie.

Now, these findings shouldn’t detract from the amazing, hardworking tradesmen who do a sterling job in helping keep our country ticking over. It’s more a reflection of different individual preferences of the huge range of people who hire tradespeople.

All industries should reflect the wants and needs of their customer base – and the trade industry is no different.

 

What trades are suitable for women?

While the answer might have been a little different during our parent’s generation, the answer is that these days, all trades should be suitable for a woman. There are a few things to bear in mind – which we’ll go into later – but so long as you have the necessary skills and are physically able to perform a job, your gender shouldn’t matter. 

Whereas vocational courses and apprenticeships for roles such as plumber and sparkie might still be majority male environments, attitudes are changing, and most importantly – if you’re a female looking to train as a tradesperson, the law is on your side. The strict anti-discrimination laws in the UK will ensure that anyone discriminating against a female trainee on the basis of their gender is breaking the law and can face serious repercussions. 

Here are some trades which are slowly seeing an increased uptake from the next generation of females:

  • Plumber – female plumbers are increasing in number, although supply is far less than demand. Many people would like the option to hire a female plumber, so if you’re a female considering this area then it seems a smart choice.
  • Locksmith – apparently the 6th most common trade for women to go into, locksmithing can be a great career for a woman with the right skills.
  • Builder – a career in construction can be highly lucrative, with a self-employed builder earning up to £80k per year. Why should women miss out on this in-demand and financially rewarding career?
  • Electrician – electricians require skills in physics, maths and problem-solving, as well as outstanding attention to detail. If you’re a woman and this sounds like you, then there’s nothing stopping you from entering training to be a sparkie.
  • Painter & Decorator – the most popular trade for women in the UK, painter and decorator is a career path which can be rewarding for the right candidate of any gender.
  • Gardener/ landscaper – another trade career which boasts a higher proportion of women than most trades. Working in the great outdoors in all weather and watching your work bloom is a dream job for many – regardless of gender. 
  • Mechanic – being good with cars and motors isn’t just a man thing. Female mechanics will likely find themselves very busy, as many customers may simply feel more comfortable dealing with a woman. The numbers of female mechanics are on the rise in the UK, so there’s never been a better time to join them if engines are your thing.

 

Why would a woman go into a trade?

Check out these 5 reasons just for starters:

  • Good salary

Some skilled trades roles come with better earnings than university graduates, which is obviously a big draw in these economically challenging times. The fact that you won’t have £40k in student debt hanging over your head can’t hurt, either. 

  • Growth potential

Trade work has plenty of growth potential – it all depends on how skilled you are and how well you can market yourself within your chosen area. Women shouldn’t feel afraid to set their sights on managerial positions, either. 

According to GoConstruct, the proportion of women in senior construction roles has nearly tripled since 2005.

  • Flexibility

The flexibility to be your own boss and manage your own hours is another pull. Women often find themselves juggling childcare, social and family lives and other commitments, so setting your own hours is attractive.

  • Dynamic working environment

Trade work can be a lot of fun with the potential to meet some great people, whether that’s employees you hire or the customers themselves. 

  • Energetic work

There are plenty of women out there who don’t fancy a career in sedentary work. Trade work generally requires you to be on the go all day, which suits some women down to the ground. So, if you’d rather not have to peel yourself off an office chair at the end of the working day, trade life might just be for you.

 

What skills does a woman need to succeed in a trade?

This is a bit of a trick question. The skills a woman needs to thrive in her chosen trade will be the same as those required by a male – with one or two exceptions.

  • Good work ethic

Anyone – male or female – needs to be a hard worker in any trade. Your customers want the job done quickly, and a work-shy tradesperson often finds themselves with dwindling opportunities for jobs.

  • Attention to detail

Not only do customers want a job done quickly, they want it done to a high standard. Most trade roles require a high standard of attention to detail in each and every job.

  • People skills

In a customer-facing role, it’s always important to be able to talk to people. Whether that’s greeting them in a friendly manner, explaining the scope of a job clearly, or letting them know if you feel uncomfortable for any reason – being able to deal with people is vital.

  • Organisation skills

Lateness, running out of basic supplies and double-booking jobs are all no-no’s for any tradesperson. If customers feel that you’re a mess, they will fear the resulting job will be, too. Remember that word of mouth and online reviews are how you’ll get most of your business, so having a tardy rep just isn’t an option.

  • Resilience 

Unfortunately, women still face a disproportionate amount of discrimination in the trades industries compared to men. Despite changing attitudes, statistics show that women in trade fields face more gender-based discrimination and even sexual harassment than in other professions, such as office-based work. 

Not only this but there’s also the not-so-small matter of the gender pay gap in the trades, with women earning just 61% of what men do for the same job.

It takes a tough person to take on these kinds of disparities, which shows that there is still plenty of work to be done.

 

How to stay safe as a woman in the trades

While these tips also apply to the men out there, it’s an unfortunate fact of life that women often need to be extra mindful of safety due to the disproportionate dangers they face. 

  • Conduct a risk assessment when greeting clients at their doorstep. If you can smell alcohol, the property seems in disarray, or you pick up on any negative vibes whatsoever, just walk away.
  • Always tell someone the address and time of your next job, and check in with them once you arrive and again when you leave. This is a simple but highly effective personal safeguarding method that could save your life.
  • Carrying a panic alarm is recommended when working from customers’ homes.

Any customer worth their salt will completely understand any allowances you need to make to keep yourself safe in the workplace. And if they don’t, protect yourself and steer clear.

 

What is the future like for women in the trades?

The future for women in the UK trades is bright. Not only are there some promising stats indicating that more women are joining the trade ranks but there’s also growing demand for females in some of the most common trades.

If you’re a female who is interested in a career in the trades (remember, all trades are gender-neutral trades), don’t let stereotypes hold you back. If you don’t have a connection in the trade already who can offer you some work experience, a college course or apprenticeship is a great place to start. 

Your local Further Education college should be your first port of call. Don’t worry if you’re afraid of being the only woman in the class. UK teaching institutions should be clued up on Equality & Diversity and are often working in line with wider governmental strategies to widen participation in various careers to marginalised groups. 

Finally, social media can be a huge source of inspiration for pioneers such as female tradespeople. At Rhino we proudly sponsor some incredible female tradies who showcase the grind and reward of their professional lives online. Head over to Instagram to check them out ‘insert handles’.


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