A Woman as a Career Painter

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?

Pay equity

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.

6 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.


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