So much has been done in recent years to promote diversity and end inequality – there’s still a long way to go, but there are positive signs that change is starting to happen.
When it comes to women in the trades industry, inclusive of all who identify as women – did you know just how imbalanced it is? Women make up less than 1% of carpenters and less than 2% of electricians and plumbers are women. And of the 20 worst professions in the UK for the representation of women, more than half are trade jobs.
This isn’t right.
To discover the reasons behind the shockingly low representation of women in the trades industry, we spoke to school leavers about the careers advice they were given in school. We also listened to more than 600 tradespeople across the UK. And we also spoke to thousands of homeowners about their attitudes to hiring tradeswomen.
Some of the things we found out were shocking, and others encouraging. But one thing was clear, we wanted to do something about it to make it easier for more women to get into the industry and thrive in their trade careers.
Because it’s 2022, and it’s about time this changed.
The worst jobs in the UK right now for the representation of women
Just 0.81% of vehicle technicians are women, which is the lowest of more than 300 professions in the UK.
Carpenters and joiners are second-worst for the representation of women, with below 1% (0.99%) of the employees being women, followed by electricians where just 1.73% of the workforce is made up of women.
Across the 20 professions with the lowest representation of women, none of them have more than 5% of women in the workforce. And within those 20, 11 of them are in the trades industry.
20 worst jobs for the representation of women
OccupationWomen in workforce 2021Men in workforce 20211Vehicle technicians, mechanics and electricians1,600 (0.81%)195,672 (99.19%)2Carpenters and joiners2,399 (0.99%)240,302 (99.01%)3Electricians and electrical fitters4,177 (1.73%)236,820 (98.27%)4Plumbers and heating and ventilating engineers3,283 (1.93%)166,669 (98.07%)5Metal working production and maintenance fitters3,594 (1.93%)182,955 (98.07%)6Mobile machine drivers and operatives1,240 (2.1%)57,821 (97.9%)7Large goods vehicle drivers8,571 (2.57%)324,693 (97.43%)8Fork-lift truck drivers2,978 (2.61%)110,925 (97.39%)9Elementary construction occupations5,383 (3.03%)172,516 (96.97%)10Glaziers, window fabricators and fitters1,472 (3.45%)41,151 (96.55%)11Floorers and wall tilers1,111 (3.46%)30,990 (96.54%)12Electrical and electronics technicians1,177 (3.61%)31,467 (96.39%)13Electrical and electronic trades2,932 (3.91%)72,107 (96.09%)14Construction and building trades9,829 (4.01%)235,280 (95.99%)15Paper and wood machine operatives1,080 (4.11%)25,179 (95.89%)16Design and development engineers3,357 (4.16%)77,380 (95.84%)17Taxi and cab drivers and chauffeurs10,746 (4.54%)225,770 (95.46%)18Telecommunications engineers2,592 (4.7%)52,575 (95.3%)19Skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades supervisors1,920 (4.75%)38,507 (95.25%)20Painters and decorators6,211 (4.92%)120,091 (95.08%)
The top 20 jobs with the highest the representation of women right now
Looking at the professions where women make up the majority of the workforce, many of the roles in the top 20 are in childcare. These include nursery nurses in first place, where women make up 98% of the UK workforce, childminders are in fourth position, school secretaries are sixth and teaching assistants are in seventh. None of the professions in the top 20 are in the trades industry.
Although it is great to see industries where women continue to be the trailblazers, this is more proof that attitudes towards what’s considered a ‘woman’s job’ or a ‘man’s job’ needs to change.
Just as the trade industry needs more opportunities for women to feel comfortable and excel, there also needs to be more men entering caring and teaching roles to show future generations that women can fit your kitchen or fix your heating just as men can teach, nurture and entertain nursery children.
20 best jobs for the representation of women
OccupationWomen in workforce 2021Men in workforce 20211Nursery nurses and assistants215,561 (97.77%)4,912 (2.23%)2Legal secretaries35,032 (96.04%)1,446 (3.96%)3Medical secretaries56,579 (95.25%)2,822 (4.75%)4Childminders and related occupations150,240 (94.98%)7,940 (5.02%)5Personal assistants and other secretaries173,686 (94.87%)9,387 (5.13%)6School secretaries50,358 (91.08%)4,933 (8.92%)7Teaching assistants398,107 (90.68%)40,930 (9.32%)8Therapy professionals43,760 (89.62%)5,066 (10.38%)9Housekeepers and related occupations41,708 (89.55%)4,865 (10.45%)10Dancers and choreographers16,742 (89.3%)2,007 (10.7%)11Receptionists172,480 (89.21%)20,852 (10.79%)12Pharmacy and other dispensing assistants76,166 (88.81%)9,595 (11.19%)13Educational support assistants147,627 (88.68%)18,852 (11.32%)14Psychologists42,091 (87.74%)5,884 (12.26%)15School midday and crossing patrol occupations105,464 (87.01%)15,742 (12.99%)16Primary and nursery education teaching professionals430,707 (86.45%)67,487 (13.55%)17Pharmaceutical technicians30,703 (86.43%)4,822 (13.57%)18Travel agents36,103 (85.8%)5,974 (14.2%)19Podiatrists16,646 (85.77%)2,761 (14.23%)20Beauticians and related occupations87,557 (84.87%)15,611 (15.13%)
The representation of women in 15 key trades
Across 15 key trades in the industry, women only make up more of the workforce in one of the professions – cleaning. For all other 14 jobs in the trade industry, none of them have more than 10% of women in the workforce.
Less than 1% of carpenters are women, and less than 5% of plumbers, builders, electricians and painters in the UK are women.
RankTradeWomen in workforce 2021Men in workforce 20211Carpenters and joiners2,399 (0.99%)240,302 (99.01%)2Electricians and electrical fitters4,177 (1.73%)236,820 (98.27%)3Plumbers and heating and ventilating engineers3,283 (1.93%)166,669 (98.07%)4Metal working production and maintenance fitters3,594 (1.93%)182,955 (98.07%)5Elementary construction occupations5,383 (3.03%)172,516 (96.97%)6Glaziers, window fabricators and fitters1,472 (3.45%)41,151 (96.55%)7Floorers and wall tilers1,111 (3.46%)30,990 (96.54%)8Electrical and electronics technicians1,177 (3.61%)31,467 (96.39%)9Electrical and electronic trades2,932 (3.91%)72,107 (96.09%)10Construction and building trades9,829 (4.01%)235,280 (95.99%)11Painters and decorators6,211 (4.92%)120,091 (95.08%)12Window cleaners3,741 (8.46%)40,460 (91.54%)13Gardeners and landscape gardeners14,121 (9.67%)131,851 (90.33%)14Groundsmen and greenkeepers2,489 (9.67%)23,238 (90.33%)15Cleaners and domestics584,571 (81.63%)131,557 (18.37%)
Why are there so few women in the trades industry?
We spoke to three school leavers to see if they would consider working as a tradeswoman and we also asked them about the career advice they got at school.
Two of the three young women said that they wouldn’t consider being a tradeswoman because of how “male-orientated” the industry is, with one adding “being a woman going into that industry is quite daunting.”
Both also spoke about how the industry isn’t promoted to girls in school.
“In secondary school and college this option is never usually targeted towards women when it comes to apprenticeships – they are stereotypically centred around beauty and hair, giving the sense that this is a ‘woman’s job,’ and being in the trades industry is a ‘man’s job.’ Although, I disagree with that, the option to be in the trade industry definitely feels like it is shut off to women.”
One of the school leavers also followed up with concerns around personal safety. She said: “I don’t feel comfortable as a woman going into other people’s houses and I feel I would come under a lot of judgement.”
This, although a small sample, could indicate that one of the reasons why more women aren’t getting into trades is because of how opportunities are communicated to them.
The pay gap
On average, women earn just 72% of what men do across 15 key trades in the industry, which could be another reason for women not wanting to work in the industry.
On average women earn almost 30% less than men, but for women floorers and wall tilers, they earn 59% less than men in the same profession, making it the occupation with the largest gender pay gap in the trades industry.
Women metal workers earn just 51% of a man’s salary in the same trade, seeing a £18,772 difference in pay over a year. Glaziers and window fitters closely follow, as women earn just 52% of a man’s salary (or 48% less).
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.
10 trades with the biggest gender pay gaps
RankOccupationAverage women’s annual payAverage men’s annual payDifference in payWomen’s pay as a percentage of men’s1Floorers and wall tilers£12,514£30,764£18,25041%2Metal working production and maintenance fitters£19,814£38,586£18,77251%3Electrical and electronic trades£19,814£38,586£18,77251%4Glaziers, window fabricators and fitters£13,557£26,071£12,51452%5Carpenters and joiners£16,686£31,286£14,60053%6Electricians and electrical fitters£20,336£37,543£17,20754%7Construction and building trades£18,250£31,807£13,55757%8Painters and decorators£16,164£28,157£11,99357%9Plumbers and heating and ventilating engineers£21,900£35,979£14,07961%10Electrical and electronics technicians£26,593£33,371£6,77880%
The biggest challenges for tradeswomen
More than one in three tradeswomen say they experience gender discrimination by customers, with 39% saying “some customers don’t take me seriously because of my gender”. And almost one in 10 said some of their customers have completely refused to let them do a job when they see they’re a woman.
One in seven (15%) say they have concerns for personal safety, almost 10% (9%) say they face social stigma and judgement from their friends and family, and almost one in 10 (9%) say sexism is the biggest challenge they face.
The benefits of working as a tradeswoman
We also asked tradeswomen what they most valued about working in the trades industry and this revealed flexibility and autonomy are some of the biggest benefits:
22% enjoy being their own boss18% said flexible working hours was the key benefit for them15% like being able to choose how much work to take on12% said that they just love their job8% said getting to help women who don’t feel comfortable having a tradesman in their home was rewarding for them
Opportunities for tradeswomen
Positively, there are some good indicators that things are starting to change in the industry. This could be a knock-on effect of so many people reevaluating their careers and jobs during the pandemic, but encouragingly, 32% of women across the UK say they’d now potentially consider changing career to work as a tradeswoman.
Access Training also revealed that the admissions of women on trade courses increased by 27% in 2021, suggesting the tide is starting to change.
Our research found that nearly half of UK homeowners (46%) say they would definitely hire a tradeswoman and 43% said that they would have no preference between hiring a tradesman or tradeswoman. Just 11% of UK homeowners said they would only look to hire a tradesman.
We also analysed Google search data to gauge homeowner demand for tradeswomen. UK homeowners looked online for women painters more than any other trade in 2021, pulling in 27,500 Google searches over a 12-month period, and women builders, gardeners, plumbers and electricians make up the rest of the top five most searched for types of tradeswomen.
Female/Women + TradeAnnual Google Searches1Painter27,5002Builder9,2903Gardener7,8104Plumber7,0305Electricians5,600
The Rated People Empowering Tradeswomen Programme
Building on our research, we wanted to create an ‘Empowering Tradeswomen’ programme to help more women get into the trades industry and build successful careers. Whether that’s someone who’s considering a career change, or someone who’ll soon be leaving school, the programme is designed to help women at all stages of their trades careers.
It’s brilliant that more women are now considering a career in the trades industry, but there’s still a long way to go to reduce the imbalance and gender pay gap.
There’s so much more that can be done to increase awareness around the opportunities of working as a tradeswoman – starting with careers advice at school, all the way up to how tradespeople are represented in our culture and mainstream media.
At Rated People, we’re making a pledge to feature more tradeswomen in our marketing and comms and we want to promote the incredible work being done by tradeswomen already in the industry. To make it easier for more women to get into and thrive in the industry, the Rated People Empowering Tradeswomen Programme includes discounted skills training with Access Training, discounted business advice with Business Trades Coach, Alison Warner, and free exposure and leads on Rated People – head here for all the details.
The ‘Rated People Empowering Tradeswomen Programme’ is valid for tradeswomen customers who sign up as the main account holder and verify as such through our vetting & quality process between February 21st and May 21st 2022. Offers and Promotion Partners may differ. This offer runs in addition to all other offers available to all Rated People customers. Contact us for more information. Standard Terms & Conditions apply.
Nationwide survey completed with Censuswide, to 2,015 UK residents aged 16 and above.
Nationwide tradespeople survey to 626 tradespeople aged 18 and above – research complete December 2021.