Social housing maintenance matters. Almost any survey of tenants would put ‘repairs’ pretty much at the top of their concerns. Billions of pounds are spent each year on planned maintenance and responsive repairs.

Only 1% of people working on the tools in the construction sector are women and there is no evidence to suggest that the numbers in social housing building maintenance are any better. We have an ageing workforce and, at the same time, we have a skills crisis with around 19% of trade operatives due to retire in the next decade. Yet despite the progress made by women entering other industries, social housing building maintenance trades remain almost exclusively male. The Tradeswomen into Maintenance project aims to do something about that.

This project was sponsored by the Construction Industry Training Board and (CITB) Mears Group. It was the brainchild of Jane Nelson, Group Executive Director of Mears, and aims to increase the number of women working in carpentry, plumbing, painting and decorating, plastering, bricklaying, gas engineering and all of the other trades in social housing maintenance. The project’s Steering Group consisted of representatives from across the housing sector and I was pleased to represent the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

CITB is committed to widening the diversity of the construction industry and it is to be commended for encouraging action in our sector through its support of this project. Mears Group is a well-known maintenance contractor and its support of this important initiative clearly demonstrates a strong commitment to developing a diverse workforce which reflects the many communities which Mears serves up and down the country.

This Legal Guide could be a game changer. I hope it will give organisations the opportunity to embed their equality and diversity commitments within the procurement process and give those that do so the edge in providing a diverse and culturally-sensitive service. It includes legal clauses drafted for social housing procurers to include in tender documents to encourage more tradeswomen into the sector. Please help share it as widely as possible.

I commend this Guide and would particularly like to thank Andrew Millross, partner and Kate Watkins, associate at Anthony Collins Solicitors, for their advice, assistance and diligent drafting.

CIH has its roots in the 19th century and the pioneering work of Octavia Hill. The Association of Women Housing Managers was established in 1916 by women who had worked with Octavia and later went on to become the CIH. The roots of the social housing sector lie with these women and it is fitting that the sector is now increasing its efforts to ensure that women are represented at every level of our organisations and across contractor partners.

I am always impressed and delighted by the work that I see our members doing to tackle inequality and enhance services to tenants.

Repairs and the state of their homes really matter to tenants. We need more women on the tools carrying out those important repairs and this Legal Guide can help achieve that.

Alison Inman OBE, President of the Chartered Institute of Housing

This Legal Guide is one in a series of booklets produced by the Tradeswomen into Maintenance project all aimed at increasing the number of women trade operatives in social housing maintenance. Others in the series are:

  • Resource Directory – Signposting for girls and women wanting to train or work in the manual trades in social housing maintenance sector.
  • Research Report – The recruitment and retention of tradeswomen in social housing maintenance.
  • Best Practice Guide – Making social housing landlords and maintenance companies open and welcoming to tradeswomen.

A Schools Toolkit, which is mapped to the national curriculum for schools and colleges in England and Wales, has also been produced as part of the Tradeswomen into Maintenance project. Details on this toolkit, the above guides and other helpful information can be found at

For further information

Download a copy of the guide here