Too many women don’t see themselves in building crafts & SPAB is trying to change that

When Georjie Adams turned up at our Boxley Working Party last year in her stunning tiny wooden house, Bluebell, the SPAB was intrigued, and when it found out she’d made Bluebell by hand, and that she’d had no prior experience in construction, SPAB needed to find out more…

image: Building Bluebell, the tiny home that sparked it all © Georjie Adams 

SPAB writes:

What we found out is that Georjie is now sharing her knowledge with others through In Her Hands. This is the only non-profit workshop in the UK to offer radically affordable courses in basic carpentry, DIY and building skills for women and others underrepresented in construction. Georjie tells us more about her inspiration and the life-changing confidence and wellbeing she’s gained through working with her hands.

What inspired you to start In Her Hands?

It was definitely a gradual evolution. I was building a timber-framed ‘tiny house’ and teaching myself carpentry skills along the way. I’d get patronising comments at trade stores and face sexist attitudes amongst male colleagues, but I also gained confidence, and boosted my wellbeing through becoming more practical and learning to use tools. I realised that what makes you a good builder isn’t just how physically strong you are but determination, consideration and practice. What truly led me to action were the countless conversations I had with other women who believed there was absolutely no chance they could achieve the same thing, or that they would ever be able to confidently and competently use tools. I knew I wanted to do my part in changing that. I also wanted to provide equal opportunities regardless of income, so all our courses are pay-what-you-can and you can ‘pay it forward’ to cover the cost of lower-income and bursary tickets.

Why do you think there are so few women in building crafts?

Just 1% of all skilled trades professionals working in the UK construction sector are women, according to the latest ONS statistics. There’s an overwhelming sense that manual labour is simply not for girls, and it starts young. Despite my father being a builder, I had never once thought (or been told) that I could be one, too.  There’s also extremely little representation of women in construction: most of us only see male trade workers in our homes or in the media.

What barriers do women face when building a career in this sector?

Those of us who do manage to find our way here still face barriers. From incorrectly-sized PPE and workwear, to the fact that tools aren’t designed with our hands or size in mind, these barriers can make our work not only more difficult but also actually dangerous. Then there are issues around accessing toilets onsite, significant gender pay gaps, disparities in training and progression opportunities, and discrimination in the workplace. Many people I’ve spoken to have had their worth or work undermined or questioned, and have felt they have to work harder to prove themselves due to their gender identity.

How can organisations start to address these issues?

The most important thing is genuine interest, intention and awareness. This isn’t just a tick box activity or overnight fix, but one that takes genuine effort – and one that you won’t regret!  Talk to your employees and ask them what they need to feel they can thrive and make sure their basic comforts are being met. You need to show you’re committed to equality and inclusion, not just in policy but in person.

Why is wellbeing such a focus in your work?

Studies have consistently demonstrated that working with your hands has extremely positive effects on mental wellbeing, enhancing mood, and reducing stress.  100% of our participants have stated that our workshops have benefitted their mental wellbeing, and we attribute much of that to those feelings of self-empowerment, as well to the often creative and calming nature of working with wood.There is something extremely rewarding and for some, revolutionary, about the prospect of being able to do things themselves, not needing to rely on others for manual tasks.  Most importantly, we make sure to encourage those who come here to relax, enjoy themselves and try to leave behind any predetermined ideas they may have about their strength and ability. They almost always leave surprised and inspired by what they have achieved!

You can find out more about Georjie’s work at

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