How to break into the five trades that need more female representation

Starting up

21 March 2017

The skilled trades offer plenty of opportunity, but it's an area where women are still very under-represented: around 5.2% of self-employed women currently work in the industry, compared to 10% of men.

We've taken a look at five of the trades that are particularly notable for their absence of women and put together a few tips to help women get started on these rewarding career paths.


Stonemasons are responsible for cutting, repairing and carving blocks of stone to be used in construction projects. The job could involve restoring intricate listed properties or fitting stone cladding in newly built homes. The average salary for a stonemason is £15,000 to £35,000 per year and you can expect to work an average of 39 hours per week.

You'll usually need some construction site experience before becoming a stonemason – many people start out as labourers. College courses in construction and stonemasonry are available, as are apprenticeship schemes. While very few women work in this sector, Emily Draper made industry headlines in 2013 when she became Worcester Cathedral's first female stonemason apprentice.

Heating Engineer

This is a highly skilled job that involves installing, repairing and servicing gas heating systems and other appliances. Gas service technicians can expect to make £12,000 to £38,000 per year and work around 40 hours per week on average. For this role you'll need a recognised gas industry level 3 qualification and be Gas Safe registered.

British Gas is actively encouraging women to sign up for its apprenticeship schemes. As for personal skills, you should be confident enough to make snap decisions and be comfortable following technical diagrams.


Plasterers smooth over walls and get them ready for painting or other decoration. The average plasterer works 39 hours per week and makes between £14,000 and £30,000 per year.

You can either start out with on-the-job experience as a plasterer's assistant or take a college course in the trade. You'll need some maths skills to work out surface areas and a bit of creativity, too.


Electricians repair, service and fix electrical appliances and wiring. From fitting ceiling lights to moving plug sockets, it's a varied and interesting job. You can expect to work 30 to 40 hours per week, taking home £18,000 to £42,000 each year.

You'll need a level 3 electrical qualification to get started, which you'll usually acquire on the job as an apprentice. Being able to plan ahead and work methodically are important skills to have. If you're looking for somewhere to get started, Elecchicks operates female-only electrician franchises around the country.


Plumbers can fit bathrooms, fix any problems with the hot and cold water supplies and sort out drainage systems. On average, plumbers make £18,000 to £40,000 per year and work about 37-40 hours per week. To get started you'll need an NVQ in domestic plumbing and heating, and it's useful to get real-life experience as an apprentice.

National female-only plumbing franchises including Stopcocks and Pink Plumbers offer mentoring and assistance. Plumbing would suit you if you're able to follow technical drawings and have good customer care and practical skills.