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Empowering the Future the Rise of Tradeswomen

Rhino Trade Insurance 19 February 2024

At Rhino, we’re at the coalface of industry trends. We sort insurance for tradespeople all day, every day, and we’ve noticed that a growing number of the tradies we do business with are women. Let’s take a closer look at this trend.

The Rise of Tradeswomen in the UK

Traditionally, it’s been men who have dominated the trades industries here in the UK. Plumbing, bricklaying, gas maintenance and electrical work have always meant “getting a man in”, and the idea of a woman turning up with a toolbox has been little more than the butt of a joke.

Thankfully, this is changing. Once we set aside any out-of-date biases against a woman doing ‘man’s work’, it becomes clear that there’s no reason why women can’t thrive in any trade. As trade insurance experts in the UK, Rhino deal with hundreds of tradespeople every single day and we’re proud to report on the changing trend in gender balance in the industry.

Rhino work with some of the most inspiring up-and-coming tradeswomen in the country and are proud to partner with the likes of Kornelia @shes_electricx, star of the much-loved Rhino billboard ads.

Why is it a Good Time for Women to Join the Trades?

There has been a small yet significant trend towards females entering skilled manual trades – something we think will increase exponentially in the future. But what has triggered it?

Following Brexit, foreign-born male trade workers left the UK in their droves. This left a significant skills gap, ready to be filled by home-grown workers. 

Not only this, but tens of thousands of skilled tradesmen who first qualified in the 1970’s and 1980’s are entering their well-earned retirement. This, again, leaves room for fresh recruits – and in the 2020’s there’s no reason why they can’t be female.

But is there a demand for a female tradesperson? Do homeowners really want a woman to come and fix their boiler, re-wire their house or tile their roof?

The answer is a resounding yes. In 2018, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) published survey results indicating that around 1/3 of homeowners in London would choose a female tradesperson over a male one. This indicates a huge demand for females on the tools, which has been reflected in the rising number of women picking up hammers, spanners, screwdrivers and circular saws in a professional capacity.

So, why the rising demand? One theory is that the need for female tradespeople has always been there, and the supply is only just rising to meet it.

It could also be down to women owning their own homes and being decision-makers far more than, let’s say, 30 years ago. In the distant past, it was more likely that a man was the homeowner and part of this would include dealing with repairs and maintenance. These days, it’s just as likely that a homeowner, joint homeowner or landlord is a female, who may simply prefer to deal with another woman when it comes to things like getting a new boiler installed, changing the locks or fitting a new kitchen. 

Despite the growing number of female tradespeople in the UK, the demand is still higher than the supply. If you’re a female thinking to take your career in a new direction, now is the time to discover if trade work could be the perfect fit for you.

Popular Trades Among Women

By far the most popular trade for women in the UK is gardening and landscaping. According to Statista, 17% of the UK’s gardeners and landscapers are female, which is a huge representation of women compared to most trades. 2021 figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) puts the construction industry in the UK (including joiners, electricians, bricklayers and plumbers) with a female representation of just 1%. 

After gardening and landscaping, the next trade with the highest number of females is painting and decorating, an industry where 4% are female. 

We can only speculate as to why these trades are more popular with the ladies across the board than things like carpentry, bricklaying or heating engineering. It could be that it’s harder for a woman to break into the latter, or the physically demanding nature could put some women off. Regardless, the game is changing, albeit slowly. There is a new generation of young tradeswomen who are taking on traditionally male professions such as bricklaying, electrics and plumbing and absolutely smashing it. Check out our blog about the seven tradeswomen whose social media you should be following!

Challenges Faced by Tradeswomen

Unfortunately, of the main challenges a woman may face when entering the male-dominated trade field is gender-based prejudice. Although most tradesmen are modern in their attitudes, some still hold lingering doubt as to a woman’s ability to undertake trade work. These days, there is no excuse for sexism in the trades, and women are protected legally. This means it’s an offence to harass or discriminate on the basis of someone’s sex, which would include something like assigning women different jobs on site to their male colleagues purely because they’re women. 

Another obstacle women may face is lack of flexibility in training and employment opportunities, leading to reduced participation among women. For example, a woman may be more likely to require flexible working hours due to school timings, and unplanned overtime for most working mothers can be a real challenge. The flip side of this is that women can choose their own hours should they go self-employed in their trade, offering enhanced flexibility over most office-type jobs in the long run.

For women, overcoming such obstacles starts with knowing your rights. Women are protected by the Equality Act 2010 while in the workplace, which outlaws sex-based discrimination. This includes discrimination against pregnancy and maternity. 

Further, women may find that routes into trade work that have been designed with women in mind can make a big difference to how they experience their first foray into trade work. There are several bodies operating in the UK designed to help women access skilled manual work, offering female-friendly training and flexibility. The Women’s Trade Network (WTN) was set up in 2020 in the UK to help address gender inequalities in the trades industries. The network helps women who are looking for a route into trades access free training and employment opportunities, as well as industry mentorships. Initiatives like these are helping to widen female participation across the trade sector, with a focus on construction and housing-related manual trades.

The Importance of Insurance for Tradeswomen

Every self-employed tradesperson, male or female, needs to be covered by trade insurance. Trade insurance is what’s going to cover your back during each job, ensuring that if something goes wrong, you’re protected. 

Rhino Trade Insurance are the UK’s market leading insurance brokers, offering competitive Public and Employers Liability Insurance, Tax Enquiry Insurance, Personal Accident Insurance, Tools in Transit Insurance, Legal Expenses cove and more. At Rhino, we craft personal insurance solutions for thousands of tradesmen and tradeswomen in the UK. 

Let’s look at some of our bestselling insurance policies for tradeswomen:

Public Liability Insurance

Every tradeswoman needs a good Public Liability Insurance policy. At Rhino, it’s our most popular type of insurance, and for good reason. This is what’s going to protect you from financial liability for third-party injuries and accidents while you’re going about your work. This means that if a client or member of the public is harmed in any way while you’re on the job, you won’t have to pay the damages, compensation or legal fees out of your own pocket. It covers property damage too, which is handy, as accidents still happen despite our best efforts.

Personal Accident Insurance

Despite taking all the necessary precautions and setting up your site to the highest safety standards, unfortunately tradeswomen can experience accidents. Therefore, it's plain good sense to have a Personal Accident and/ or Income Protection insurance policy in place if you’re self-employed, as you’ll be left without income while recovering from an accident or illness. This means that you might fall behind on bills and other essential payments – not an option if you’re a main breadwinner.

Employer’s Liability Insurance

If you’re a tradeswomen who employs others, you’ll need this policy by law. Remember, apprentices and temporary workers count as employees, so make sure you’re not caught short without this invaluable policy. 

Tax Enquiry Insurance

As a self-employed tradeswoman, it might be the case that HMRC takes an interest in your tax affairs. Tax enquiries aren’t uncommon among self-employed workers in the UK, especially in industries like construction. Tax Enquiry Insurance will make sure you’ve got solid legal advice and a top legal representative to deal with the paperwork and represent you in court, should it come to that. It offers amazing peace of mind for tradeswomen in an industry already full of challenges. 

Future Outlook for Tradeswomen in the UK

At Rhino, we see a bright future for tradeswomen in the UK. The skills shortage post-Brexit hit the country hard, and qualified tradespeople like electricians, plumbers, carpenters are increasingly hard to find. There has been an upswing of female-targeted training courses and female-friendly apprenticeships which are widening the possibilities for tradeswomen of all ages and stages in their careers.

The small but significant trend towards more women picking up tools and embarking on a career in the trades is promising, and we hope to see many more female tradespeople coming to us for their insurance in the future.

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