There needs to be a concerted effort to encourage women to enter construction, maintenance and renovation roles parliament has heard, as new research reveals that only 1% of tradespeople are women in the UK.
The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) found that three in five of UK residents would hire a female tradesperson to carry out work at their home.
This week, North American campaign group, Tradeswomen Building Bridges, attended an event in parliament revealing that in many regions of the US and Canada 10% or more of builders, electricians and plumbers were female.
The CIOB 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. This opinion was expressed by half of female respondents compared with less than a third of men, while some respondents said they’d feel more at ease having a woman carry out work in their home.
To raise awareness of the UK’s lack of female tradespeople and inspire construction companies to develop more diverse workforces, the CIOB yesterday (16 June) 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 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.
The Construction Industry Training Board said that the skills shortage in construction and the trades, which has been exacerbated by a combination of Brexit and Covid, was likely to hinder housing and infrastructure projects in years to come.
Increasing diversity in recruitment is seen by many as one way of alleviating the labour shortfall with more women and people from minority ethnic groups being encouraged to enter a profession long seen as white, working class and male.
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 under-represented into the industry is vital for the sector’s success and Tradeswomen Building Bridges are an inspiration to us all.”
She said the CIOB’s Our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Charter had been signed by almost 70 organisations since it launched last year, but far more needed to be done. “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,” she added.
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: “It is vital for the growth of our economy that the skills of all our citizens are harnessed.
“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.”