Here is a common theme in a television commercial:
A Superwoman with a briefcase, in a business suit, navigating through a successful business career while managing a pefect family life.
Statistics show that this is not the reality of the real working world and it’s not even close. The reality in the building trades and the painting trade in particular is even worse. The percentage of active women in construction is small and it is not increasing in any substantial way. The situation is discouraging if you consider the number of women in management positions. Within a painting company, the crew leaders, supervisors, even sales managers are predominately male. If you look at a painting contractor’s anual staff picture, what do you see? A bunch of male painters in whites, posing in front of shiny company trucks while the admin women are dressed nicely looking like bookends.
Some Interesting Numbers about Women in Construction
According to Statistics Canada, women make up less than 30% in the non-traditional careers such as agriculture, technology and trades. Some of the main barriers:
- Stereotyping of women in schools and society.
- Lack of awareness among women of what is possible in trades.
- Workplace culture.
The construction industry employs over one million Canadians and is responsible for hundreds of billions in economic activity annually. The opportunity is certainly there for women to enter the trades in search of better careers.
The Canadian Construction Association strongly advocates shifting toward diversity and inclusion. Here is an excerpt from CCA’s call to action for diversity and inclusion in 2021:
“As our society and workforce change, so too must our industry adopt best practices through authentic cultural change, embracing diversity and inclusivity – A thoughtful and practical cultural shift toward diversity and inclusion can drive bottom-line profit by sparking innovation, increasing productivity, reducing turnover, improving safety, increasing your market share and customer base, and enhancing your reputation.”
A few years ago, George Zarogiannis of Ecopainting Inc, was interviewed in an industry blog about the role women play at Ecopainting. Below are some excerpts from the interview:
You Hire Women Painters. How Do Your Customers See That?
Most of our customers don’t really think much of it. There is the occasional person that will see the novelty of having a woman painter in their home, but the majority of people’s opinion is really just a reflection of society’s belief. After all, a painter is a painter.
What Roles Do Women Play in Ecopainting?
All of them. One of the company founders is a woman. There are women in administration, marketing and sales. On the field, some crew leaders are female, managing both men and women painters. What is encouraging is that we recently have more women applying and working as painter apprentices.
How different are women painters?
There is the misconception that women would excel in the decorative parts of the painting trade, while men are stronger and would be able to handle the physical aspects of the job better. Pop psychology pushes that concept. You know…Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Decor TV shows, as well as magazines and blogs definitely push that narrative. The reality we have experienced on the field is different. Men, may (sometimes) be stronger, as far as brute physical strength is concerned, but that strength is rarely useful. Most construction projects require incredible mental strength, patience and stamina and women have that in abundance. The hard work that some of our women painters have contributed over the years has been nothing short of humbling. And yes, our women painters have been as comfortable, or not, as men have been when working on 32 foot ladders.
What Do Women Painters Want?
For a woman painter to be successful, it would be helpful if the working conditions were more conducive to her. Preferential treatment is not necessary but there are definitely some special needs and considerations. First of all, it is our company’s intent to make this job the best job any painter can have. Some tangible benefits are: Good pay, good and safe working conditions, fully paid benefits, job security, training, opportunities for advancement etc. And since we are discussing what women want, can someone make some good painter pants for women?
Despite decades of effort to close the wage gap, women still earn about seventy percent of what men earn for equivalent work. This disparity persists across industries and occupations, and it cannot be explained by differences in experience or qualifications. In fact, research shows that when women do the same work as men, they are often paid less, even when they have the same level of education and experience. This is unfair and it’s time to fix it. We need to make sure that everyone gets paid equally for the work they do, no matter what their gender is.
What about other women benefits such as additional maternity benefits, flex time for mothers, childcare allowances? Some bigger and forward thinking companies offer such benefits. Is it possible for small painting contractors to offer such benefits? We do not only think it is possible but likely. As our company grows, the possibilities become very exciting.
Equal opportunity for all Painters
From our Employee Handbook: “Ecopainting Inc. is an equal opportunity employer. This means that all qualified persons are accorded an equal opportunity for employment or promotion without regard to race, religion, colour, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, medical condition, pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition, marital status, sex or age.”
Harassment free workspace:
From our Employee Handbook again: “Ecopainting Inc. will not tolerate any form of employee harassment, either verbal or physical, based on race, colour, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, medical condition, sexual orientation or marital status. It is the intent of the Company, that all employees will work in an environment that is free from harassment of any employee by another employee, supervisor, contractor, client or customer. It is a specific policy of Ecopainting Inc. to provide a work environment that is free of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment includes but is not limited to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. If any employee believes that he/she has been the victim of harassment, the matter should immediately be reported”
In Conclusion, it all comes down to keeping the painter happy, with a little extra consideration for the woman painter.
The original page from 2017 is fully updated in August 2022