Common theme in a television commercial: superwoman in a business suit, navigating a briefcase through a seemingly successful and perfect family and business life.
Safe to say, women are not there yet. In the general working world there are enough statistics that can document women’s progress. In the trades, and painting in particular, the percentage of women is very small. Even a smaller percentage of women painters are crew leaders and supervisors. Here is a common staff picture of a painting contractor: male painters in whites posing in front of company trucks with women dressed in business suites representing the administrative positions.
Some Interesting Numbers about Women in Construction
Canadian women make up less than 30% in non-traditional careers such as agriculture, technology, and trades, according to Statistics Canada. 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.
According to the Canadian Construction Association, the construction industry employs close to one million Canadians and is responsible for about $123 billion in economic activity annually. The opportunity is certainly there for women to enter the trades.
The Canadian Association of Women in Construction is a group working hard to help women succeed in the Canadian construction industry. Ecopainting is represented in CAWIC.
George Zarogiannis, the President of Ecopainting Inc. was interviewed about this issue in an industry blog in 2009.
Below are some excerpts from the interview
Your company hires 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, but the majority of people’s opinion is really a reflection of society’s in general. A painter is a painter.
What roles and positions do women have 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 job manager are female, managing both men and women painters. We did have, and still have women apprentices working and applying to work for us .
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 (you know…Men are from Mars, etc.), late night decor shows and magazine articles would make you think that is the case. The reality we have experienced is different. Men, may (sometimes) be stronger, as far as brute physical strength is concerned, but that is not needed most of the time. Most construction projects require the mental strength, patience and stamina that sometimes only women can provide. The hard work that some of our women painters have contributed over the years has been humbling. And yes, our women painters have been as comfortable, or not, as men have been on 32 foot ladders.
What do women painters want?
If a woman is to succeed in a non traditional career, it would be helpful if the working conditions and work environment are more conducive. Preferential treatment is not necessary, but there are some needs and considerations. First of all, it is our intent to make this the best job any painter can have. Some real benefits are:
Good pay, good and safe working conditions, fully paid benefits, job security, training, opportunities for advancement etc. These are good for men and women alike, but are there any special considerations?
Women still earn a bout 70.5% of the wages men earn. This will not be the case within our company. In addition, to that, any promotions, or any advancement opportunities will be offered equally.
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”
It all comes down to keeping the painter happy, with a little extra consideration for the woman painter.