Workwear for women …at last!

A leading training provider – JTL – has formed a strategic alliance with a company that is seeking to make it simpler for young women to work in the building services engineering sector, by designing workwear especially for women to wear during working hours.

JTL is working hard at attracting more young women to be electricians or heating and plumbing installers and sees the provision of well-fitting workwear that wasn’t designed to fit a man, as a major step in the right direction.

Annie Bowman, a qualified painter and decorator from Sheffield who has worked across Europe has put her money into a self-funded business to develop a range of workwear especially for women. Only women seem to realise that the female body is quite a different shape to the male body and as such, wearing men’s workwear can make a professional woman feel uncomfortable and at times vulnerable, if they are working in a profession that is predominantly a male dominated business sector.

With the increasing numbers of women working in the building sector, particularly as painters and decorators, electricians and plumbers, Annie Bowman decided the time had come to try and change things for her fellow women workers; “Men might find ‘builders bums’ and gaping tee shirts acceptable, but women professionals see these in quite a different light, and I decided that there was a need to design working trousers and other garments that were specifically for women to wear,” she said.

Working closely with a production laboratory and a Portuguese manufacturer, Annie came up with a design for work trousers that had stretch where it was needed, a higher waist band and in a material that responded to the needs of women better than the standard workwear available from merchants and online in the UK. This was the starting point for Hoydens Workwear, Annie’s new company in Sheffield, which she funded herself.

With a number of initiatives around the UK seeking to attract more women to male dominated professions, Annie contacted a few to see what they thought of the idea and the response was generally favourable. One response came from leading training company JTL, which provides more apprentices each year in the electrical and heating and plumbing sectors than any other company in the UK. JTL runs an Ambassadors scheme to try and attract more young women and more young people from the black, Asian and Minority ethnic groups to the building services sector – areas of the UK population under represented in the apprenticeship world in these sectors.

JTL’s Equality and Diversity Officer is Yasmin Damree-Ralph: “The problem with workwear for young women has been a subject we have discussed with our female apprentices regularly and it has always been a serious issue with our young women apprentices. Many end up wearing their own jeans to work because the workwear available simply doesn’t fit them but often these clothes are not robust enough to last long on the front line! Having workwear that makes you look as if you belong to the profession is part and parcel of feeling comfortable in your job and whilst there is no definite evidence to support it, we feel it’s possible that it’s this sense of feeling uncomfortable, or out of place in the workplace that discourages young women from considering a career in the electrical or heating and plumbing professions. So when we heard about Annie’s new business and the garments she was looking to provide we had to take a closer look!”

Having made the link, JTL was convinced that Annie had hit on a solution to one of the key issues that stops young women applying for apprenticeships in the numbers you might expect. So Yasmin invited Annie to bring some of her garments down to the new training centre in Ashford JTL opened earlier this year, and invited five of the company’s young female apprentices to try the new garments out and take part in a photo shoot for the new garments.

The apprentices came from across England and Alice Duarte, Meleisha Stuart, Hannah Barker, Kimberley Worster and Gina Mann arrived ready to try these excellent new work trousers and see how they felt about them. The response was unanimous – the very best workwear trousers they had ever worn! For the first time, they had access to workwear trousers that were robust, would stand up to regular washing as required by their professions, but most importantly felt really comfortable to wear all day, and which looked good and made them feel comfortable to be working and walking around in their usual workplaces. Thumbs up from everyone, including two trade magazine editors invited along to see them for themselves as well!

It’s early days for the new workwear company but Annie Bowman was delighted with the response and how good the girls looked and felt in her new range. The trousers are just a start and she has also designed and produced pockets – or tool bags – that the girls can wear around their waist with the tools they use most often slung from them to make working even easier: “It was wonderful to see these girls genuinely chuffed with the new workwear we provided and to realise that there is a lot to be said about designing and producing a range of workwear for young women here in the UK,” said Annie. “This is just the start and I plan to increase the range of clothes we produce and the range of colours and sizes we can supply, but this was a really important milestone in the development of Hoydens Workwear and the warmth and support from JTL and their apprentices was amazing.”

JTL plans to provide every young woman apprentice it recruits with a set of woman-special workwear from Hoydens and sales of the initial range are going well with repeat orders coming online almost daily. Any companies interested in providing access to women only workwear for their staff can take a closer look at . Annie Bowman is hoping to be able to supply women’s workwear via well-known online suppliers in the near future – keep an eye on the web site for more information.

About Elizabeth Jordan

I'm the Assistant Editor on BMJ. If you have any product or people information, or some news you'd like to share, please feel free to email me.

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