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Demand for female tradespeople eclipses supply, survey finds

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

Taking the issue to Parliamentary

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

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.

“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.”

US pulls ahead

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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