A collective of six LGBTQA+ tradeswomen from across the nation have come together to launch ‘Trade Places’, a photo series featuring them as tradesmen through drag, aiming to raise awareness around gender equality in the trades industry.

The creative initiative comes as 39% of tradeswomen say they aren’t taken seriously because of their gender, and almost one in 10 (9%) say they’ve had customers who will not let them work on a job when they see that they’re a woman. Viper chatted to Poppy Tingay, Founder, Corky’s Painters about this ground-breaking idea and her journey as a tradeswoman:

How did you become a tradeswoman?

My journey to becoming a tradeswoman was rather unique in that I approached a top painting and decorating company in London with the idea of being their in-house mural artist, specialist decorator and colour consultant. Their response was to learn the trade properly first and go from there so I did and I loved it. I always have enjoyed hands-on work so the job was fitting!

‘Corky’s Painters’ is a celebration of Queerness and the tradeswomen industry; how has the creation of the collective impacted the industry, according to you?

By highlighting LGBTQ+ individuals in the trades, “Corky’s Painters” increases visibility for queer tradespeople, helping to challenge stereotypes and broaden what it means to be a tradesperson. The collective can provide a crucial support network for queer tradeswomen who might otherwise face isolation or discrimination in their field. This sense of community helps members share experiences, resources, and advice, fostering a more inclusive environment within the trades.

You took on drag to raise awareness and nailed it! What was the inspiration behind each drag king featured on the video?

Each Drag king was based on a stereotypical male archetype we had experienced within the building/painting and decorating trades. This was a powerful way for us as tradeswomen to express and play out some painful truths when on a busy site. The drag king personas we created were more introspective, representing an alter ego or a heightened version of each of our own experiences.

What would be your advice for any woman interested in this career but afraid of the barriers that could come with it?

Start by getting the necessary training. Solid training will not only build your skills but also your confidence.

Find someone who has experience in the industry. This could be another tradeswoman or anyone supportive of women in trades. Educate yourself about your rights in the workplace regarding discrimination and harassment. Knowing what constitutes unfair treatment and how to address it can empower you to stand up for yourself and seek help when needed.

Create a portfolio of your work. Stay Persistent and Resilient. Continue Learning. Be Confident. Believe in your skills and ability to succeed in this field. Confidence can significantly deter those who might underestimate you based on gender stereotypes.

Advocate for Inclusivity. Every successful woman in trades helps shift the industry towards greater inclusivity and equality.

Just do it!

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