Today - the 8th of March, 2016 - is International Women's Day. This annual event began more than 100 years ago, and every March it serves as a great opportunity to celebrate the amazing achievements of women all over the world.

However, IWD is also an opportunity to highlight the many areas where gender equality still hasn't been achieved, and regrettably, our own field is a prime example. Female workers are still astoundingly rare in the construction and trade industries; according to this article from last year, women account for just 11% of the UK construction industry's total workforce, and only 1% of those women actually work on construction sites. Women are similarly under-represented in trades such as plumbing and electrical work, and while the ratios are beginning to shift,  it's clear that there's still a long way to go.

So how can we encourage more people to learn a trade and join these male-dominated industries? First of all, people need to change their attitudes towards tradeswomen, and that applies both to the general public and to representatives of the trades in question. A couple of years ago, the Telegraph ran an article suggesting that roughly one-third of the UK population would be "suspicious" of a female electrician, and countless tradeswomen have shared their stories of the sexist remarks that come their way . Here's one example from Hattie Hassan, founder of Stopcocks Women Plumbers (originally reported on Sky News in 2014):

"Someone sent me an email saying, 'Look, love...plain and simple, women can't be plumbers. You'll break a fingernail and have to go out shopping to console yourself. Or you'll go running screaming when you see a spider.'"

Clearly, these sort of attitudes aren't helping anybody - it's easy to see why a budding female plumber or gas engineer might be put off. For this reason, we also need to do work harder to encourage women to join these trades in the first place, and that responsibility, at least to some extent, falls to training providers like us. The promotional materials distributed by construction/trade training centres are often targeted specifically at male learners, but this approach benefits nobody - after all, it's in the training provider's interest to attract as many new students as possible, regardless of gender.

Here at Access Training, we try to make people of all genders/races/backgrounds feel welcome at our training centres. We realise that we could still be doing more - for example, most of the photos currently on our website are of men, not women. But the sad fact of the matter is that, right now, most of the people who enquire about our courses are male, and while we are keen to do whatever we can to get more women working in the trade and construction industries, it seems that this goal will be extremely difficult to achieve until people - namely the people who are "suspicious" of female electricians, the people who tell women they "can't be plumbers", and anyone else who continues to perpetuate the false notion that women aren't cut out for these jobs - adopt a more positive, welcoming attitude towards people who, at the end of the day, are just as capable of mastering these skills as any man.

Trade training courses from Access Training: