Best Cities for Tradeswomen

Women in Trade
Trades like construction, agriculture, manufacturing and engineering have traditionally been male-dominated. But with women taking on roles they wouldn’t have in the past and society being more accepting, the number of women working in skilled trades has begun to steadily increase.

To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March, we’ve done some research to help women in trade discover where their best opportunities are in the UK.

We looked at four trades in particular - construction, agriculture, manufacturing and engineering. We investigated things like average general pay, cost of living, number of businesses and current job vacancies and the gender pay gap within each region. Each of these factors was given a score and we ranked the regions accordingly.

Overall, Scotland came up top for three out of four of the trades – making it the best place in the country for tradeswomen to seek these opportunities. South East of England was ranked at the bottom for all four.

Read on to discover more about the best region in the UK for your specific trade.



Women in Construction

Women in Trade - Construction Map
With the overall industry pay gap of 5.6% and minimum wage for female employees at £11.97, the North East of England is the best region for women working in construction, followed closely by the West Midlands, Scotland and Wales. In the North East, weekly pay is the second highest (£1,081) and average weekly cost of living is the lowest, (£408.30), as is the average price of a house (£151,206).

Compare this with the worst ranked region, the South West. Weekly pay is significantly lower (£871), the average weekly cost of living is higher (£488.10) and the average property price is double (£308,106).

Construction workers see some of the highest salaries across all trades. Billie, a qualified female plasterer who got into the trade through her father, encourages other women to join her in construction work: "It’s most important to know that no matter the job, women can! No job is too big or load too heavy. Plastering is my passion, even if society says it shouldn’t be".


Women in Agriculture

Women in Trade - Agriculture Map
Historically, women have played minor roles in agriculture in the UK but the number of female farmers in the 21st century continues to rise. With a slightly smaller industry gender pay gap at 2.6% and lower minimum wage rate for women at £9.55, Scotland and Wales fare best for women working in agriculture, both boasting the most agricultural businesses and some of the lowest average general costs of living across the UK.

Scotland was the top region for women in agriculture, with the South East being the worst. 295 agriculture businesses exist in Scotland, compared to the South East’s 15. The average weekly cost of living in Scotland is £429.40; that’s £136.40 less than what it costs in the South East.


Women in Manufacturing

Women in Trade - Manufacturing Map
For women in manufacturing, the study reveals a positive gender pay gap of -6% and a minimum wage of £10.01. In light of this, for manufacturing jobs, we again see Scotland and Wales come up top for women. Although weekly general pay is highest in London (£1,024) and the East Midlands (£1,061), the cost of living and average property price in these regions makes them less appealing.

Currently, the most job vacancies are available in London, Scotland and the West Midlands. South West England has the least jobs available.

Although it boasts one of the highest general average salaries and has plenty of jobs available, the South East is ranked last yet again. This is likely due to its high average cost of living and property prices, as well as a lack of manufacturing businesses in the region.


Women in Engineering

Women in Trade - Engineering Map
With the highest gender pay gap for women in engineering at 8.3% and minimum wage at £13.57, women in engineering should head to Scotland, the East Midlands or London where general average salaries are high and jobs plentiful (although fewer jobs are available in the East Midlands).

There are few engineering businesses in the North (6 in total). And women have the general potential in these businesses to earn more working in the North West rather than the North East. However, the North East has significantly lower house prices and a lower cost of living, making it the better choice between the two.

Again, the South East is the worst choice for women in engineering, with a small number of engineering businesses (9) and a high average general weekly cost of living (£565.80).

Brighton-based Charis Williams, or ‘the Salvage Sister’ as she likes to be known, upcycled metal, reclaimed wood and salvaged materials to create unique household items.

She says the trade industry needs to stop enforcing negative stereotypes: "I forge, weld, woodwork, build, and upcycle. I like to be able to turn my hand to anything the job throws at me & I love to learn. The industry needs to be made more accessible for females and less sexist, and they need to start providing women with decent work clothes."


Women in Plumbing

Women in Trade- Plumbing Map

With a UK industry gender pay gap at 3.9% and the minimum wage rate for women at £14.17, women looking to get into or further their plumbing careers should make the move to Scotland, Wales or the West Midlands.

Scotland and Wales once again fared best in the rankings for women working in plumbing. Scotland boasts the most plumbing businesses (1,731) and currently has the second-most job vacancies for this industry (303).

While Scotland was the top region for women in plumbing, the South East fared as the worst. With just over 1,400 fewer plumbing businesses than Scotland and the highest average living cost of £565.80, the South East struggles with opportunities for tradeswomen in plumbing.

The UK’s capital landed in 6th place, with 1,309 plumbing businesses and the highest number of job vacancies at 1,272.


Tradeswomen throughout history

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, we’ve looked back throughout history and picked out some important women in trade we think you should know about.

Eleanor Coade (1773 – 1821)

Surrey-born Eleanor Code was one of the few women to be acknowledged as a major influence on 18th century architecture. She invented and produced the first ever artificial stone, the Coade Stone. The ceramic material was one of the most widely used materials in the 18th century and was exceptionally resistant to weathering and erosion. The recipe and the production process were both closely guarded secrets, something which only added to the appeal of her product. Its versatility made it immensely popular for a great variety of sculptures.

Emily Roebling (1803 – 1903)

When the chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge fell ill, it was his wife, Emily Roebling, who stepped up to the plate. She worked tirelessly, managing, liaising and campaigning between city officials, workers, and her husband’s bedside to see the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge to completion. The Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883 and Emily was the first person to cross the bridge, carrying a rooster with her, as the story has it, for good luck. To this day, the bridge holds a plaque honouring Emily and her husband.

Beulah Louise Henry (1887-1973)

Beulah Henry was an American inventor. In the 1930s, she was given the nickname “Lady Edison” for the many inventions she patented, including a bobbin-free lockstitch sewing machine, a doll with flexible arms, a vacuum ice cream freezer, a doll with a radio inside and a typewriter that made multiple copies without carbon paper. Henry made a large fortune during her career by capitalising on her inventions through manufacturing companies to produce her creations.

Women’s Waterloo Bridge

Did you know a group of women built Waterloo Bridge during WWII? Probably not – the idea that women had been significantly involved in building Waterloo Bridge wasn’t included in any official records of the structure. It wasn’t until 2015 that the hard work of these women could be confirmed by a historian who found a series of photos of the build. According to the U.K.-based Women’s Engineering Society, around 350 women worked on Waterloo Bridge.

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The Best UK Regions for Tradeswomen is brought to you by Dickies Workwear.

Dickies wanted to find out where in the UK posed the best opportunities for tradeswomen by looking at factors such as average pay, cost of living and job vacancies. Each of these factors was given a score and we ranked the regions accordingly.

We collected data from four trades in particular – construction, agriculture, manufacturing and engineering, and compared the data by region.

We started by looking at the avg. weekly and annual salary per industry sector and region during Q1 2020.

We also collected data on the avg. cost of living per head and house property prices per region.

We ranked the work opportunities available in each region, by looking at how many businesses there were within each industry and current job vacancies. We also looked into the gender pay gap within each industry.