Special Report

Report highlights gender pay gap for tradeswomen

A report issued ahead of international women’s day has revealed that tradeswomen in plumbing, heating and ventilation are in the top 10 lowest ranking roles that attract an equal pay to men in the same trade. 

  • 39% of tradeswomen say they’re not taken seriously because of their gender and almost one in 10 say customers have refused to let them do a job because they’re a woman 
  • Just 1% of carpenters are women and less than 2% of electricians and plumbers are women  
  • Across 15 key trades in the industry, women earn just 72% of what men do – for floorers and tilers, this drops to 41% 
  • Change is on the horizon though – 32% of women would now consider working as a tradeswoman and women admissions to trade apprenticeships have increased by 27% 
  • Rated People has launched its new ‘Rated People Empowering Tradeswomen Programme’ to help change attitudes and make it easier for more women to get into and thrive in the industry 

New research from the find-a-tradesperson platform, Rated People, has revealed the biggest challenges faced by women who work in the trades industry, inclusive of all who identify as women, as well as the trades which have the lowest representation of women and the biggest gender pay gaps.  

The study discovered well over a third of tradeswomen (39%) aren’t taken seriously because of their gender. One in seven (15%) have had personal safety concerns when working, and almost one in 10 (9%) say they’ve had customers who won’t let them work on a job when they see they’re a woman.   

It’s 2022 and this needs to change  

The findings are taken from the newly-launched 2022 edition of Rated People’s Home Improvement Trends Report, where researchers spoke to more than 600 tradespeople across the UK about working in the industry, and over 2,000 homeowners about their attitudes to hiring tradeswomen.  

Positively, there’s growing demand from UK homeowners – nearly half (46%) say they’d definitely hire a tradeswoman, 43% have no preference and only 11% of UK homeowners say they’d prefer a tradesman. Almost one in three (29%) women in the UK also say they would feel safer hiring a tradeswoman to do a home improvement or maintenance job in their home.   

But the research highlights just how out of balance the industry is. Over half (11) of the 20 professions with the worst levels of representation of women in the UK are within the trades industry.  

Women make up 1.93% of plumbers and heating and ventilating engineers in the UK. Across the 10 trades with the lowest representation of women, none of them have more than 5% of women in the workforce.   

The 10 trades with the lowest representation of women:

Rank  Trade  Women in workforce – 2021  
1  Carpenters and joiners  2,399 (0.99%)  
2  Electricians and electrical fitters  4,177 (1.73%)  
3  Plumbers and heating and ventilating engineers  3,283 (1.93%)  
4  Metal working production and maintenance fitters  3,594 (1.93%)  
5  Elementary construction occupations  5,383 (3.03%)  
6  Glaziers, window fabricators and fitters  1,472 (3.45%)  
7  Floorers and wall tilers  1,111 (3.46%)  
8  Electrical and electronics technicians  1,177 (3.61%)  
9  Electrical and electronic trades  2,932 (3.91%)  
10 Building trades   9,829 (4.01%)  

On average, women earn just 72% of what men do across 15 key trades in the industry. But for plumbers, heating and ventilation engineers this drops to 61%. The few women who are plumbers and heating engineers earn just shy of £21,900 a year on average, but men in the same trade earn £35,979 – a difference of almost £13,000 a year, or put another way, an annual plumber’s salary for a woman is just 61% of a man in the same trade. 

The 10 trades with biggest gender pay gaps:

Rank  Occupation  Average women’s annual pay  Average men’s annual pay  Difference in pay  Women’s pay as a percentage of men’s  
1  Floorers and wall tilers  £12,514  £30,764  £18,250  41%  
2  Metal working production and maintenance fitters  £19,814  £38,586  £18,772  51%  
3  Electrical and electronic trades   £19,814  £38,586  £18,772  51%  
4  Glaziers, window fabricators and fitters  £13,557  £26,071  £12,514  52%  
5  Carpenters and joiners  £16,686  £31,286  £14,600  53%  
6  Electricians and electrical fitters  £20,336  £37,543  £17,207  54%  
7  Construction and building trades   £18,250  £31,807  £13,557  57%  
8  Painters and decorators  £16,164  £28,157  £11,993  57%  
9  Plumbers and heating and ventilating engineers  £21,900  £35,979  £14,079  61%  
10  Electrical and electronics technicians  £26,593  £33,371  £6,778  80%  

There are good indicators that change is starting to happen though – 32% of women in the UK now say they’d consider working in the trades industry. This could be a knock-on effect of the pandemic – people re-evaluating their jobs for example, or perhaps from increasing awareness of the opportunities that are available. According to Access Training, admissions of women on trade courses increased by 27% in 2021.   

Google data also shows many homeowners are actively trying to find tradeswomen across a variety of trades. People searched for women painters the most in 2021, pulling in 27,500 Google searches over 12 months, and women builders, gardeners, plumbers and electricians also saw between 5,000 – 10,000 Google searches in 2021.  

When speaking to tradeswomen about the biggest benefits of working in the industry, flexibility is key, with the top three advantages all about having increased autonomy. Almost one in four (22%) said ‘being their own boss’ was one of the biggest benefits for them – 18% said it was the flexible working hours, and 15% said they loved being able to choose how much work they took on.   

Helping women homeowners feel safe was also a plus-point, with almost one in 10 (8%) tradeswomen saying they valued getting to help women who don’t feel comfortable or safe having a tradesman come into their home.  

Adrienne Minster, CEO of Rated People commented: “There’s still a lot to be done, but it’s a challenge we’re embracing. With 14 of the 15 top trades recruiting significantly less women than men, getting more women into trades services can also play a huge role in helping to address the industry’s workforce shortage.  

“We’re making a pledge to feature more tradeswomen role models and we want to promote the incredible work being done by tradeswomen in the industry.” 

With thanks to Rated People for sharing their research. More information about Rated People here.