When you think of a woodshop or a construction site, what comes to mind? For most, it’s men in hardhats wielding heavy equipment. That’s because woodworking, carpentry, and construction are historically male-dominated industries. That trend is starting to change, though. Let’s look at the rise of women in the fields of woodworking and construction, and why you shouldn’t be afraid to take start working in the industry that is stereotypically an old boys’ club.
Women in Woodworking in History
Women have been part of the woodworking and construction industry for centuries. If you have a circular saw in your garage, you can thank a woman — Tabitha Babbitt, who invented the circular saw in 1810. Women are responsible for many of the most prominent styles in furniture design, from art deco to modernism, even though their male co-workers took credit for many of these inspirations. One of the most prominent woman designers worked under a male pseudonym — Ray Eames — enabling her to change the face of architecture and design without worrying about whether someone would disregard her contributions because she was female.
What the Industry Looks Like Today
Today, women make up more than half of the global workforce — but they only make up 10% of the construction workforce. That hasn’t stopped some companies from welcoming and embracing women in the industry. Even if they don’t work as laborers, women can grow and thrive as engineers, project managers, restoration technicians and other professionals in the construction and woodworking industries.
Woodworking, in particular, is much friendlier to women than it used to be. You can work in the industry from anywhere, as long as you have access to tools and materials, and it’s easy to become a self-taught carpenter — especially if you’re not framing houses or building other projects that need to be up to code.
Dozens of phenomenal female woodworkers have been changing the shape of the industry, first from behind the scenes and now in the open, showcasing their work under their real names. We don’t live in the 1950s anymore, and society no longer puts so much pressure on women to stay home and take care of the children. They can and should work in any industry their heart desires.
Don’t Be Afraid to Break the Stereotype
If you’re a woman who’s interested in woodworking, construction or any other typically male-dominated industry, don’t be afraid to break the mold, shatter the stereotype and make your mark. The world is open to you if you’re willing to reach out and take it. You might face some challenges if the members of these “old boys’ clubs” act like you don’t belong, but don’t listen to them.
If woodworking is your passion, pick up a hammer and chisel or a circular saw and go to work. Don’t let anyone prevent you from doing something you love. Woodworking and construction don’t belong exclusively to men anymore — as if they ever did. Take up your tools and show them what you can do. You might be surprised how much you end up loving working with your hands, turning a block of wood into something anyone would be proud to showcase in their home.
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington