From Plumbing Courses to the Boardroom – Women are taking over
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|By: Alex Parks||Email Article|
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|It’s fair to say that there was a time when females generally had limited career aspirations. They grew up, they got married, they had children and then they looked after them – that was just about it. Women knew it and men knew it; men had the careers, men were the ‘breadwinners’ and men made all the decisions. Throughout history, except perhaps for some notable exceptions such as Boudicea and Cleopatra, that was the established way of things.
The world however has been changing; since the end of WWII women have slowly but surely established themselves as equals and there is little doubt that in modern history, Emmeline Pankhurst is the woman whose single mindedness and determination was the principal architect of change. In 1928 after a personal struggle spanning some 50 years a bill was finally passed establishing equal voting rights for men and women. Sadly, just a few weeks later she died.
If anyone ever doubts that women have ‘got what it takes’ just consider their achievements and their contribution to our modern way of life.
During WW1 but even more so during WW2, women were the indispensable powerhouses behind our war efforts. Women’s voluntary work was largely replaced by conscription in 1941 when by act of parliament the government began to integrate them into a variety of previously male dominated roles. They took jobs in the manufacture of tanks, ships, aircraft and munitions working alongside men in difficult and challenging conditions. Many women became members of the ‘Land Army’ working on and managing our farms.
There is also much to be said about the wartime role women played in espionage in which pursuit many of them risked their lives and ultimately died for their country. Their intellectual contributions in places such as the wartime code breaking centre, Bletchley Park, are also the stuff of legend.
Little wonder then that as we emerged from the dark days of the first half of the 20thCentury women had a new voice and they weren’t about to get shouted down. Unfortunately, it was to be several decades before any really meaningful changes took place.
Things didn’t really start happening for women until the 1970’s and 1980’s. Yes, there were women in business and lots of them, but they were mostly secretaries and typists. Gradually however, women began to take more significant roles e.g. in 1977 Aer Lingus employed their first female pilot who co-incidentally retired in 2010 after 33 years of service. It took BA until 1987 before they employed their first female pilot and today they employ around 200. There are many female pilots in our own UK military as well as other militaries around the world such as Canada, where female F16 pilots operate daily in frontline roles.
One of the most notable post war changes for women was when Margaret Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter from Grantham, became the leader of a political party in 1975; not just any old party either but the Conservative Party, the party of the establishment!
At around the same time in 1976, Anita Roddick started ‘The Body Shop’ which subsequently grew at a meteoric rate. Their shares were soon listed on the LSE and quickly earned the nickname as ‘the shares that defy gravity’. The ‘Body Shop’ chain was sold for £650m to L’Oreal in 2006 just prior to her death.
In the eighties, women were well and truly on their way in the modern world and in the years that followed it became commonplace to see them in senior and middle management roles as well as CEO’s of household name companies. Women are now also firmly established in the formerly closed shops of the legal and medical professions, many of them having achieved ‘eminent’ status. Oh! and don’t forget female Astronauts.
More recently, women have infiltrated perhaps the last bastion of male dominance i.e. ‘the trades’. In the last 5 years, more and more women have begun electrician courses and plumbing training. It is no longer surprising to see female trades people and if men aren’t careful they could eventually find themselves in the minority. Women tend to have more attention to detail, are tidier and more polite: qualities that are invaluable when dealing with ones customers!
There is also an enormous untapped market for female tradespeople. These days’ females routinely own their own properties and given the choice, it is certain that many of them would prefer to be visited in their homes by a female tradesperson.
There is no telling which trades and professions will eventually be totally dominated by women, I just know that some definitely will be. I also know that I gave up worrying about it when the ‘men only’ bar at my golf club was finally abolished; I have to say that I liked it then and I like it now; thankfully, some things never change.
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