ProDec strives to create the best decorating tools in the industry for professionals and are constantly listening to their customers about the products that should be developed. Back in 2020, ProDec released female painters’ trousers to meet the rise of female painters and decorators. ProDec got in touch with 3 women in the industry to share their views and experiences!
It’s no revelation to suggest that traditionally, the painting and decorating landscape has been male dominated in both a professional capacity and as a vocational pathway.
And while it’s true that women remain under-represented in this industry (a recent figure puts them at around 4.1%), signs out there point to interest being very much on the rise.
A further education institution clearly bucking the trend is Tameside College, which last year saw an impressive 37.5% intake of female painting and decorating apprentices.
Some of this shift can undoubtedly be attributed to societal changes and gender equality within the workplace. The construction industry has seen a significant rise in female employees over the last decade or so.
But there are other factors at play here. The popularity and influence of social media has given female painter/decorators a platform to showcase their work and abilities, leading to further support and encouragement.
Seeing females in this field sharing their achievements online has undoubtedly piqued the interests of young women readying their progression into a career after school.
That was certainly the case for Newcastle-based award-winning painting and decorator graduate Courtney Maddison.
“We have more role models now and we’re able to actually interact with them over social media. When I first set up my account on Instagram, I started hunting out female decorators for inspiration and guidance.
I’ve found a lot of older female decorators who have motivated me and shown that there is a place in the trade for us.”
An unexpected creative outlet
Painting and decorating can also offer the kind of creatively fulfilling and rewarding experience some may not have previously considered when searching for professions to complement their skillset and temperament.
Jade Oakes, a young painter who has picked up a slew of awards – including the PDA apprentice of the year Runner-up in 2022 – used her pre-existing interests to help parley a career in the trade.
“I did art all the way through school and considered an art degree but ultimately it wasn’t for me. I had a friend who was a painter and decorator. He took me on [as an apprentice] and I’ve never looked back.”
Courtney’s route into the industry mirrored that of Jade’s.
“I’ve always loved arts and crafts and have been quite a practical person. I used to decorate with my mam, and we’d always have the best time.
I started looking into decorating when I moved back to Newcastle at 19. I needed something practical, something I could really get into and constantly learn new things in.”
So far, it’s been a largely positive experience for both girls. Cheshire-based painter/decorator Jade singles out the varied nature of the job as one of the principal reasons behind the enjoyment and satisfaction as a painter and decorator.
“The trade evolves all the time. It’s never boring. You’re always learning. Being able to compete in all those competitions has been the highlight of my career so far.”
But that isn’t to say it’s been completely challenge-free for either graduate. Both have encountered a little pushback in having to confront some preconceptions, as Jade explains.
“Being a female on site was initially an eye-opener. I’ve been really lucky with the locations where I’ve worked, but the difference in mentality to females in the trade was a shock.
There were some questions to what I was doing in a ‘man’s trade’. I’ve found the best thing to do is just go in there and show them what you can do. They immediately realise they’ve underestimated you.”
Courtney faced her biggest learning curve elsewhere.
“My boss Samantha fell pregnant about a year into my apprenticeship. With it only being the two of us at SMart Design I thought I’d have to find another employer. I didn’t want to leave, and I loved what I was doing, so I took on more responsibilities, such as quoting, collecting materials and completing jobs so Sam could have the rest she needed.”
What was an initial challenge for Courtney proved ultimately to be an empowering experience, helping solidify her ambitions.
“It was tough but as I’m coming to the end of my apprenticeship now, I feel like it has given me so much more confidence and motivation to be the best version of myself. I’m grateful Sam trusted me with her business.”
A career change for the better
Sarah Hughes is relatively new to the industry. When her career as a professional musician saw a devastating downturn during the pandemic, she swapped her saxophone for a paint brush and hasn’t looked back. She now runs a successful painter/decorator business in Buxton.
“Working as a painter and decorator has been the best career change I’ve ever made. I love working in the industry because as a creative person it really satisfies my desire to not be sat behind a desk and use my hands!”
She sees being a female in a predominantly male field as an asset.
“I have an eye for detail and pride myself on being clean and tidy and lovely company in a customer’s house. I love spending a week getting to know customers and experiencing a snippet of their lives, plus I get to see some amazing houses.”
Gender parity may still be a little way off, but Jade feels a level playing field will be a reality, and removing those traditional notions of who may – or might not be – suitable for a career in painting and decorating is the way forward for the industry.
“Having that mix of female and male [at work] tends to bring more ideas to the table. I would say to women thinking of joining the trade not to be discouraged because of the old stereotyping because it’s not like that at all.
It isn’t a gender-specific role. Everyone can paint. It’s all about whether you have it in you to actually step up and do it.”
Sarah also believes the scope is there for more women to take up the trade.
“There is sometimes the assumption that [painting and decorating] is the kind of occupation which is physically too demanding on women.
It took a couple of weeks to where my body was used to the more demanding aspects of the role, but I haven’t found anything I’m not capable of. I only wish I had been steered towards this career at school and found out that it was possible to be a female decorator from a younger age.”