Women Choosing Painting as a Career

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.

women painting over graffiti
Painters priming over graffiti

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

wallpaper removal by painter
Painter removing wallpaper

Pay Equity

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

8 thoughts on “Women Painters”

    • Painting is a great career for women. Most buildings have surfaces and they need to be protected and look good. Even during these economically hard times coming up, maintaining the surfaces of buildings makes financial common sense. I am not sure what area you are in but here in Toronto, Ontario the YWCA has a pre-apprenticeship program for women. It only lasts a few short months but it gives you the basics. We hired women painters out of their program and we are overall happy with the results.
      If you don’t have such a program look into what the union is suggesting for women that want to get into the trades. If these options are not available to you find a paint contractor that will let you work, even starting at a lower wage and prove yourself with your hard work and smarts. I know our company has benefited immensely by employing women painters. They are some of our best we have. Good luck!

      • Hello, yes is very excited job, I started my career in painting interior house and when I start a job I can’t wait to finish it and to see the big difference and eyes of the customers so happy. I am trying to grow now my business and my career in construction in CA . God bless woman’s and Happy Mothers Day

        • Happy Mothers Day to you Entela and to all painters that are mothers! Thanks for stopping by to share your own story. Women painters bring a lot into our trade and the earlier paint contractors realize this, the better off they will be. We always appreciated the contribution women made to Ecopainting and to our communities.

    • Oh my don’t. It is one thing walking in and it’s a fresh clean area to paint and it is very satisfying changing a space. But all the mudding and dust and over head sanding and rolling ceilings is the worst and very hard on the body. Men do have way more upper body strength and if there isn’t a man around to do a massive ceiling paint and sanding it’s on you. I do enjoy painting been in it for 13 years but it is beyond physically exhausting. If you are alone , everything is one you. From brining in all your tools and ladders, paint, it’s a mess, it’s dirty, Dusty, at the end of the day all you can’t wait for is a good scrub in the bath! I am amazing at painting but to me it is a horrible job for a woman. I am embarrassed walking into a store for lunch looking like I do in dirty paint filled clothes, paint on my hands, caulking all over my hands, sanding dust on my face and hair. Trust me do so
      Thing else more creative and satisfying. If you are creative and love to paint … refinish furniture . That’s what I have started. It’s for me, I control the job and customers. It is beyond satisfying… amd it doesn’t kill your body. When you are alone and have a lot of painting and missing and sanding and cleaning and caulking and corrections it is a lot of work to do by yourself. Woman are strong but it is still hard on our bodies with everything else we have that goes on.

      • Laura, painting is definitely a demanding job as most jobs are in the trades. Harder for men or women? I am not sure about that as most of our painters are women but we also have men painters working for Ecopainting. I agree that when you are a one person business operator carrying supplies in and out of every job is tough work. Since we work in crews we share the difficult aspects of the work such as sanding or ceilings. Thank you very much for your comments.

      • Ah yes! You are SO right. I have been a house painter for almost 7 years now and I totally feel all that you’ve said. At 34 years old, my body is hurtin’ from house painting. That’s a great idea to get into refinishing furniture. Any tips for a beginner like me? How are you marketing yourself and what’s the best way to make money doing it? I know how to refinish furniture, physically, but I guess I struggle to see how you can make a full time living off of it.

        Much love, Meg


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