‘Three in five would hire female tradespeople’

Emily Thornberry MP (front centre) with representatives from Tradeswomen Building Bridges and the CIOB
Emily Thornberry MP (front centre) with representatives from Tradeswomen Building Bridges and the CIOB

Three in five people would hire female plumbers, carpenters, electricians and builders to work in their homes, research by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has found.

But 10% said they’ve tried to find one with no success.

In the UK only 1% of tradespeople working in construction are women, compared with North America, where the figure is 10% or more in a number of regions.

The CIOB said it hoped its findings would encourage more women to learn a trade.

The survey found around a third of respondents would prefer to hire a female tradesperson, with 12% totally ruling it out. Helping support women in trades was the most common reason given for wanting to hire a female tradesperson. Half of female respondents expressed this opinion, compared with less than a third of men, while some respondents said they would feel more at ease having a woman carry out work in their home.

Parliamentary event

To raise awareness of the UK’s lack of female tradespeople and inspire construction companies to develop more diverse workforces, the CIOB yesterday (June 16) hosted an event in Parliament with Emily Thornberry MP.

Representatives from the North American campaign group, Tradeswomen Building Bridges, and the University of Westminster, attended the event to share their experience of increasing female representation within key trades carrying out work both domestically and on commercial construction projects in the US and Canada. People from across the construction industry, professional bodies and academia also attended.

Caroline Gumble, CEO at the CIOB, said: “Attracting and retaining talent in construction has been a headline issue for years – but even in the knowledge that the industry needs to be better at attracting people, this quite shocking figure that only 1% of UK tradespeople are women, needs to change.

"Bringing more women – and others from groups that are currently underrepresented into the industry – is vital for the sector’s success and Tradeswomen Building Bridges are an inspiration to us all.

“Even in the knowledge that the industry needs to be better at attracting people, this quite shocking figure that only 1% of UK tradespeople are women, needs to change.”

Caroline Gumble, CIOB

“Our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Charter has now been signed by almost 70 organisations since it launched last year, and while this is a step in the right direction, there is still work to be done and our survey supports that. There are householders and clients out there who would clearly like to be able to work with female tradespeople, but there are not enough of them, and we need to close that gap.”

Progress in the US

Susan Moir, founder of Tradeswomen Building Bridges, said: “Dramatic increases in the numbers of women working in the manual construction trades in North America have been led by the tradeswomen themselves. Forty of us have come to London to share our stories and successes. We have come to learn and hope to inspire the UK industry to open up to more tradeswomen.”

Emily Thornberry MP said: “The UK construction industry has a skills shortage and with only 2% of construction workers being women, that is hardly surprising. It is vital for the growth of our economy that the skills of all our citizens are harnessed. That’s why I am delighted to be sponsoring this important event.

“In order to get more women in the industry, we must fight discrimination on sites and among employers, and stop perpetuating the stereotypes which divide up job roles according to gender. This will only happen if we place this issue higher up the political agenda and provide it with a greater focus.”

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  1. I’d be interested to hear what people think about the manual handling aspect of women in construction. It is a barrier as there are certain materials that are thought to be too heavy for women, and environments where lifting equipment is not viable. Men have complained that they should not have to do more lifting because others are not capable.

  2. But how would you know whether these ‘tradespeople’ actually are ‘female’ ? In these surreal times even the description ‘female’ has a multitude of (questionable) definitions’. No doubt the HR empires will find a solution!

  3. Why would you hire someone based on their sex?

    You hire someone based on their experience, qualifications and attitude.

    And the same goes for all other methods that are implemented to divide us.
    (Race, Religion, Nationality, Sex, Medical Status…….etc)

  4. As far as the manual handing and physical aspect of the job. Who does all the physical parts of a job in the health care and care giver field? Women ! Do you think its easier to life a adult to wash and clean them or lift a piece of pipe or drywall? Take that barrier out of the reason women should not be in construction.

  5. I would definitely hire women for every facet of construction. they are safer, more caring and generally are more focused. Generally, there needs to be a balance of sexes. Men are risk takers, women are generally more cautious so a balance is needed. a lot of generalities, but the question is of a general nature

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