It’s fair to say that the modern world of work is a very different place to what it was 10, or even 5 years ago. While gender inequality still exists; statistics show that every single year; more and more women are pursuing and succeeding in roles which they previously wouldn’t even have been considered for.
Nowhere is the gender imbalance more prevalent than in the manual field; which has been and still is dominated by men. Trades such as plumbing and construction are highly gender-segregated; and you might think it’s rare to find a woman performing one of these roles. However, times are changing. The reality is that more women ARE taking these roles. In this blog, we’ll investigate the statistics behind women in manual trades, and look at what has caused such a positive shift in the field.
Women in manual trades: the statistics
Recent years have seen a significant increase in the number of women in manual trades based careers. Numerous surveys have been conducted, which show an established uptrend. Amongst these examinations; a survey of 10,000 traded found that women represent 6% of trade workers in the UK. Another, from the Office of National Statistics, shows almost a 2% increase in the number of women working in the construction industry between 1999 and 2014. On the face of it, this might not seem like much. You might look at it and say that men represent 94% of trade workers, or that 2% is a measly figure given how far society has come since the 90s. It’s true that we won’t see a total balance or even close to that for a long time yet; but the change we have had needs to be seen as a positive thing. Surveys of construction companies in the UK have revealed that three quarters of employers believe they’ve seen an increase in the number of women working in the sector. This is only going to increase; and will become even more noticeable.
So, why the change?
So, why is it then that we’ve seen such a significant increase? The answer is debatable, but there are several potential reasons. Firstly, society has undergone a massive shift in terms of gender equality. These days, women are far more independent and the sexism that once existed in the workplace is far less prevalent. It’s no longer acceptable to choose or favour candidates based on gender, with actual skill being given higher priority. This has directly led to the increase of women in manual trades.
Secondly, there is the fact that the UK are currently facing a real shortage of skilled tradespeople. This had led to an increased demand in fields such as construction; and thus women are being considered for these roles instead. Another consequence of the shortage is that skill-trade jobs are becoming some of the most highly paid. This means that more and more women are gravitating to these positions; with around 60% choosing this an option because of the sheer earning potential.
Thirdly, there is the sheer flexibility of trade roles. With such a variety of roles on offer; more and more women are identifying gaps in the market and starting their own business, even employing others. Amongst other benefits, this helps to achieve a healthier work-life balance; as they are in charge of who they work for and when they work.
It would be amiss to pretend that sexism and gender preference doesn’t still exist in the workplace, because it does. Despite the positive statistics, many women in the construction industry and other manual sectors have claimed that they’ve been treated unfairly or differently because of their gender.
However, society is taking positive steps forward. 42% of women who took part in surveys believed that attitudes in the workplace HAVE improved, and that the increase of women in the workplace has gone a long way to breaking down outdated values and sexist belief systems. Some responses claimed that in many cases, it isn’t sexism or gender imbalance holding women in the workplace back; but self-belief. The more confident and positive a women is about her ability to perform to a standard that is just as good as any male worker; the better her chances will be of making a success in the industry. Believe, and you can achieve anything you set your mind to.