Bristol Women’s Voice Women In Trade

Bristol Women’s Voice Women In Trade

Event held at the MSHED Bristol

Saturday 31st August 2019

11:30am to 4pm

By Marcia Walker Reporter/Photographer for BWV

An informative and motivating Bristol Women’s Voice, ‘Women In Trade’ event was held in partnership with the M Shed on Saturday 31st August 2019 from 11:30am to 4pm.  The reasons as to why women are still in the minority in the construction and trade sectors in the face of a thriving industry, as it is in Bristol, were explored.  Hosted by Sandra Gordon of Bristol Women’s Voice with thanks to Karen Garvey of Bristol City Council’s Museum, Culture and Creative Industries Team.  The Keynote Speaker was Lord Lieutenant Peaches Golding OBE, photographed third from the left, whose interests include, ‘widening access to opportunities for those most disadvantaged’. 

In her opening speech she gave an encouraging statistic, ‘the National Federation of Builders forecast that over 3,700 new homes are to be built in our region’.  Also advising that, ‘a huge investment of £10 billion pounds has been awarded to Hinkley Point nuclear power station’.  There are more opportunities for women to meet the rising job demands in the construction and trade industry, yet why is the gender gap not closing?  ‘The political and economical barriers and challenges women face in the trade industry and suggestions to overcome this’, panel began to discuss.

Consisting of, as in the photograph above from left to right; Pepper Barney – Architect, Chair: Jackie Longworth – Women’s Equality Network, (Peaches Golding OBE was not on the panel), Fadiya Ahmed – Project Manager, Tracey Blythe – Unite National Executive Council, Karin Smyth – Labour MP for Bristol South.  (Sandra Gordon, Bristol Women’s Voice was not on the panel).  One of the main factors that came out of the panel and open discussion was that women find it hard to get recognition and equality in a male dominated profession.  It seems more women role models are needed, historically women have played key roles in this male dominated industry, particularly in engineering such as ‘Sarah Guppy (1770-1852) – designer, inventor, engineer’, who later took us on a captivating, historical outdoor walking tour after the next inspiring panel discussion ‘Women Working In The Trade Industry In Bristol’.  Earlier we saw a short film by Olivia Plato showing how the Bristol Women’s Workshop is giving women, ‘the opportunity to gain experience in traditionally male skills, such as woodwork and DIY.’ More information can be found at ‘bristolwomensworkshop.org.uk’. 

Challenging ‘A Woman’s Place’

Sarah Holt – Electrician and Joanna Williams – Artist Blacksmith

‘Less than 1 in every 1000 electricians is female’, yet ‘41% of women said they would feel safer with a female electrician working in their home.’  Statistics courtesy of NICEIC electrical contracting industry’s ‘Jobs For The Girls’ campaign – niceic.com/jobsforthegirls.  ‘Men outnumber women nine to one in the trades sector’.

Sarah Holt is, ‘a skilled electrician who applies to her strengths’, and was one of the members on the ‘Women Working In The Trade Industry In Bristol’ panel to discuss this topic and Joanna Williams went on to give a demonstration of Fire Iron Art at her forge located in the Underfell Yard in Bristol. 

‘Women Working In The Trade Industry In Bristol’


Deborah Stanley-Jones – Plumber, Lisa Stone – Teacher Electrical Installations, Chair Nicki Norman – Domestic Violence Services, Caroline Henn – founder/owner Practical Women and Sarah Holt – Electrician.

‘I am a Practical Woman’, Rachel Cartwright proudly says.  This Bristol based team offers electrical, plumbing and carpentry work.  It also helps give confidence to those wanting to ‘tackle some of the more common DIY jobs’.  For more information go to bepractical@practicalwomen.co.uk.

Caroline Henn, founder and owner of Practical Women was animated about the sense of achievement and joy of ‘welding and shaping pipes’, clearly loving what she does, which was one of the main messages of the panel.  If you have quality of work, are safety conscious, reliable and competitively priced women can compete very successfully with men.  The panel inspired change of thinking and encouraged, whatever your age, to seek out construction and trade apprenticeships. 

You can ‘Find an apprenticeship’ at Gov.UK https://www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship

Lively question and answer time for the panel. 

Women are the main carers and this may be one factor why woman don’t go into a male dominated work force, even if a career as a skilled tradesperson would be rewarding.


Jane Duffus, author of ‘Women Who Built Bristol’ 1184-2018 gave a helping hand on Bristol Women’s Voice’s merchandise stall.  She gave a very interesting talk in the morning before the panel discussions on ‘Women In Trade Through History’.  Women pin makers worked 14-18 hour days and also spoke of historical women in business role models.

As previously mentioned, one of Bristol’s best known historical women in business role models was the housewife, designer, inventor and engineer Sarah Guppy    (1770-1852), played by actor Kim Hicks and joined by Sheila Hannon the writer of, ‘Sarah Guppy The Bridge, The Bed, The Truth’, whose historical outdoor walking tour of her home and other locations associated with her life and work was informative and fun.  She was the first woman to patent a bridge in 1811 and was behind the design for The Clifton Suspension Bridge.


Sarah Guppy (1770-1852) explaining the workings of Bristol Quay’s swing bridge.

As Caroline Henn of Practical Women says, ‘grab a drill and have a go!’

It is hoped you will feel inspire to consider a career in the construction and trade industry, because Bristol will need women like you.  Report and photographs by Marcia Walker for Bristol Women’s Voice.

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