Women are being shut-out of engineering and construction due to gender stereotypes, says report

Glynn Davies, a member of the Young Women's Trust apprenticeship working group
Glynn Davies, a member of the Young Women's Trust apprenticeship working group
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Young women are often being shut out of male-dominated sectors like construction and engineering due to gender stereotypes, according to the charity The Young Women’s Trust.

The charity’s research has found that young women who have gone into male-dominated industries have reported a lack of support and even outright gender discrimination.

Data from the Skills Funding Agency and Department for Education shows that the overall number of men starting apprenticeships is overtaking the number of women, which is a reversal of the recent trend.

The Young Women’s Trust found that women tend to go into lower-paid sectors, such as care and beauty, contributing to an apprentice gender pay gap of 21 per cent – or £2,000 a year. They are less likely to receive training during their apprenticeship and are also less likely to get a job afterwards, the trust concludes.

The Young Women’s Trust’s report, ‘Making Apprenticeships Work for Women: a good practice guide’ provides tips to help employers and the Government make apprenticeships more accessible.

The trust is calling for an increase in apprentice pay. It claims that the apprentice minimum wage - £3.40 an hour – prevents many young women from being able to finance their training.

It also calls on employers to use language that appeals to young women when advertising roles and include pictures of women. Words like “support”, “understand” and “interpersonal” have been shown to appeal to women in job adverts, while “leader”, “competitive” and “dominant” deter them, the trust said.

The trust is also calling for more part-time and flexible apprenticeships and for women-only work experience and open days to expose women to a range of roles in different sectors.

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton said: “The growing skills shortage in sectors like construction and engineering is all the more reason to support more young women into relevant apprenticeships. But Young Women’s Trust has found that young women across the country are shut out of these sectors.

“It is shocking that last year, in London, there were no higher level women apprentices in either construction or engineering. “Supporting young women into these apprenticeships benefits women, benefits businesses and benefits the economy. We need urgent action.

“We would like to see clear pathways made available to young women with low or no qualifications, so they can start apprenticeships and progress to the higher levels. Much greater provision of part-time and flexible apprenticeships would also help young mothers and carers in particular, who often have to balance care with work.”

The latest data from the Department for Education and the Skills Funding Agency shows that 81,690 men started apprenticeships between August and October 2016 (52.5 per cent), compared with 73,940 women (47.5 per cent). Data from previous years, going back to 2009/10, shows that 45-47 per cent of people starting apprenticeships were male and 53-55 per cent were female.

The Young Women’s Trust is calling on employers to provide mentoring and women’s networks to support young women apprentices.

A spokesman said: “Being the only woman, or one of a small handful, in the workplace can be daunting. Young women have asked for more support during their training.”

The trust also wants to see more engagement with schools and parents to improve their knowledge of apprenticeships and help them to advise young people about the benefits of becoming an apprentice. Women who have completed apprenticeships can also become role models, the trust’s report said

WOMEN who become apprentices can face sexist attitudes, according to the former construction apprentice Glynn Davies, a member of Young Women’s Trust’s Apprenticeship Working Group.

She said: “I wanted to be a bricklayer, so I started an apprenticeship, From the moment I stepped onto the building site, I was automatically treated differently. I experienced constant sexist remarks like ‘get us a cuppa’ or ‘be careful, you don’t want to break a nail’.

“I approached my course coordinator but the general response was, ‘it’s only banter’, or, my favourite, ‘don’t be so emotional’.

“I decided it would be more beneficial to terminate my apprenticeship and go straight into the labour market.”.