Here at On The Tools, we take pride in our annual awards ceremony that celebrates the hardworking tradespeople of the construction industry. A night filled with laughter and good times, our winners are rewarded for their hard work.

However, recently, we have learnt that following our awards, there has been some backlash. Specifically, towards our ‘Plasterer of the Year’ award winner who has been receiving countless amounts of abuse within a closed trade-related Facebook group, that is in no way associated with On The Tools. Voted for by the public, Stephanie Leese fully deserved to win the title of ‘Plasterer of the Year’. Based on her skill and achievement, we were shocked to see the abuse she has since received about her work.

Not wanting to name the culprits, or give them any exposure at all, it was shocking for us to see the extent people would go to when they were protected by a computer screen. The abuse Stephanie received was initially in regards to her work. Going back through her pictures on Facebook and finding work that she had done when she first started out in the trade, Stephanie was hounded with remarks such as: “Have you seen this dog s***e work?”

But it didn’t just stop there either. Then, the comments developed and became more and more sexist. One offensive person even told her to “get back into the kitchen.” Other comments attacked her appearance too but still, Stephanie held her head high and brushed these comments off. She described to the Liverpool Echo: “I’ve never heard a fella insult another fella’s family on the site.”

“They’ll say ‘look at the state of that wall’, that’s banter, not ‘your wife’s an ugly b**ch’ – but that’s what they were saying about me.”

“It was things they wouldn’t dare say to my face – but they were suddenly so brave because they were hiding behind a computer keyboard.”

“Even then I was angry but just shrugged it off.”

But then, they took it one step further. They got her daughter involved. One culprit created a fake pornographic image which featured the eleven-year-old girl. Way beyond banter or a joke this cruel abuse towards both Stephanie and her daughter was shocking and disgusting to hear about. Stephanie described: “I know what their defence would be: ‘If you can’t take the banter, you shouldn’t be on the site,’ but that’s not banter, and a pornographic image of my daughter isn’t banter.”

Far from banter, we were really horrified to see people’s reactions towards Stephanie winning this award. Won fair and square due to her skill and passion for her trade, she was voted for by the public and deservedly won the award. But these attitudes have really highlighted the issues that are still rife within the construction industry. Currently, women make up a tiny 11% of the industry, and only 1% of this is actually on site. But is there any surprise?

With reactions like this, is it any shock that women don’t want to be a part of the industry? Sexism like this needs to change and women should no longer have to struggle to gain a job within the sector. And, with a skills shortage currently holding the industry back, female construction workers are needed now more than ever.


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