There’s no doubt that construction is a still a male dominated industry, with women accounting for about one eighth of the workforce. At Jewson we’re all about championing the trade, so on International Women’s Day we want to turn the tables and shout about some of the women who are owning it when it comes to the industry. And it couldn’t be better timing because it’s also Women in Construction Week. So, let’s hear from electrician Amy, gas engineer Lisa and plumbers Jade and Rachel, to hear what it’s like working in the trade.
How did you get into the industry?
Amy (electrician): “I always wanted to do something practical, and when I reached 29, I decided that I needed a career change. I went to college to complete Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications full-time, but didn’t do an apprenticeship. Luckily, as I was finishing college, I managed to get a job with a company and started working straight away. I’ve now been in the industry for almost three years.”
Lisa (gas engineer): “I used to be a dental nurse, but I became bored with the position and was just desperate for a change in career. So, when I saw an advertisement for an apprenticeship, I went for it! I’ve always been a practical person, so it was right up my street.”
Jade (plumber): “I did some work experience when I was 14 at a plumber’s merchant, and I just loved it. So, they kept me on, and I worked half terms and weekends. Two years later, I progressed to doing my Level 1 plumbing and I haven’t looked back since.”
Rachel (plumber): “When I finished school at 16, I just knew that I wanted to do something different. I joined a Level 1 plumbing course, got an apprenticeship soon after and I’ve worked for the same company ever since. Now, I wouldn’t do anything else!”
How’s your experience been working in the industry?
Amy: “Overall, my experience working as an electrician has been positive. Most people that I’ve met have been so supportive of women in construction, but of course, you do get some people who are old-fashioned.”
Lisa: “I know that a lot of women might find working in construction daunting, but there’s no reason why we can’t work in this industry. Although a lot are surprised when I turn up at the door, I get so much positive feedback.”
Rachel: “Overall, my experience has been really positive. I absolutely love my job. I love that I can get up every morning and don’t have to travel to the same workplace, doing the same job. Every job I do is so unique, and every person that I get to meet has a different story to tell.”
Have you found any drawbacks to the job?
Lisa: “There’s not many cons to be honest. With my trade in particular, the only con is that it can be difficult lifting heavy radiators or boilers up onto the wall. But it’s always recommended that any heavy lifting is done by two people to comply with health and safety anyway. Other than that, everything’s very positive!”
Jade: “So far my experience has been very positive. The only drawback I’ve found is that it can be difficult being a working mother in the industry. Some companies don’t understand that you need to do the school run, you just can’t be on site at 7.30am.”
Rachel: “The only downside I’ve found so far is having people doubt my abilities. I think people make an initial judgement, but by the time I’ve walked out and finished the job, they’ve changed their minds.”
What’s your most memorable job?
Amy: “Although there’s lots of jobs that I’m proud of, what’s most memorable to me is the people you meet on a job. It’s that social side of work that I like most, and that grew even more after I joined Instagram. It’s such a great platform to chat with fellow electricians, where we get to share tips and advice – it’s like one big family!”
Jade: “I don’t even have to think about this one! When I was an apprentice, I installed a lovely push-fit gold tap in a basement flat – so very high-pressure mains. I didn’t know the fittings had to click, so when my boss turned on the mains, the tap just popped off, along with so much water! I was mortified, but luckily my boss was very understanding.”
Rachel: “Right at the beginning of my apprenticeship, we worked on an entire coastal street that had been flooded and needed renovating. I learned so much on that job, because every single house needed to be done from scratch.”
What advice would you give to any women thinking of joining the industry?
Amy: “When you’re starting in the industry, it’s important to have a good attitude, to ask lots of questions, to listen and make plenty of notes. Notes are particularly important because you’ll get bombarded with information at the beginning!”
Lisa: “I was late joining the industry, so if I can do it, anyone can. Believe in yourself, have support from friends and family around you and go for it! Let’s do it for the girls, and change the stereotype that it’s a man’s trade, because that’s just not true!”
Jade: “Don’t doubt yourself, just go for it! You can achieve whatever you want as long as you set your mind to it!”
Rachel: “I haven’t come across a single obstacle in my career that I haven’t been able to overcome purely because of my gender. There’s absolutely no reason why women can’t work in construction. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really hard, but it’s so rewarding.”
If you’re a woman thinking of joining the construction industry, visit the Women into Construction website for handy tips and advice.