New white paper on women in the trades reflects the state of play and suggests solutions for an equitable future

24 Mar 2022

National Women’s Day in March this year saw the publication of a whitepaper about the experiences of women in the construction industry in the UK today. It was commissioned by On the Tools.

The report balances the challenges and inequalities experienced by women already working in the sector, with suggestions on how to achieve a more positive outlook for the future.  Research for the white paper has been comprehensive - the views of tradeswomen, tradesmen, consumers, industry bodies and construction brands are all represented with information gathered from focus groups, in-depth interviews with women working in construction and the trades as well as targeted surveys.

The construction industry is male-dominated and sadly often perceived as a discriminatory and hostile working environment for women. On the Tool’s report explores why and where discrimination happens and how poor working conditions and limited progression opportunities as well as the pay-gap, compound to produce negative experiences for many women working in the sector.

It’s disappointing that this is the case – and counterproductive, when the skills gap is a pressing concern. When questioned, 78% of female consumers, and 66% of male consumers said they would NOT consider a career in construction. These figures indicate that at present, very few women are entering the industry so there’s clearly a need for a change in perception – and in the reality.

A more positive note

The report highlights some companies and brands that are keen to reverse the stereotype and support women. One of these is Bosch, which offers flexible and mobile working models, and a workforce where 40% of employees are women.

There’s also a section featuring successful women in the sector. These role models have all faced challenges but are determined to focus on the opportunities rather than the trials.

One of role models is Hattie Hassan, MBE and founder of Stopcocks and the Register of Tradeswomen, who contributes widely to the report. Like so many girls of her generation Hattie was discouraged from taking engineering, metalwork or woodwork at school and told to study cookery instead. She then became a primary school teacher until in her late twenties she made the decision to train as a plumber. She’s not looked back and has become an advocate for many other women who have faced challenges and discrimination too;

The same issues that I had, women are still having. We hear about it all the time. Lack of confidence is everywhere. Just go out and do small things; the best way to build your confidence is just to do it. The sky is the limit these days.

“Within self-employment I was working as much as I wanted. I’m a big advocate for self-employed women in construction; I was earning a bomb. I believe that you can progress most if you’re self-employed. ”

This is borne out in the white paper where 77.37% of self-employed women working in the trades are satisfied with their career, as opposed to 74.65% of those working for a company.

Hattie calls for a change:

A woman’s experience in the trade is always going to be different to a man’s. Not necessarily because of men in the industry, but because there are some things women experience that men haven’t a clue about. We don’t want ‘special treatment’, we just want the differences in our lives to be accommodated for. We need equity, rather than equality.”

Taking a stand

LCL Awards is working in partnership with Hattie Hassan in drawing up an Inclusivity Charter that LCL Approved Centres will be encouraged to sign up to in the coming months. 

We are keen to make our centres inclusive to everyone and reflect the needs of all our learners.

Approved centres will be invited to attend a CPD session on inclusivity and diversity on 20th April, where Hattie Hassan will be a special guest. More information coming soon!

To download the white paper for yourself, please click here.