Women are the new DIY masters

There has always been a bit of a bias in family homes about who does what, with women tending to the children and cooking and the men sorting out the repairs and alterations. There are many families that even believe in the idea of ‘blue jobs’ and ‘pink jobs’. However, there are many women out there that are carving a way of their own in DIY and they are setting a very high standard.

Women are picking up the tools

What’s more, as we hover mid-recession, it’s a sensible time for women to join men in picking up tools. When times are tough, anything is better than coughing up for a hefty call-out fee, followed by the cost of labour and materials. “DIY seems like the savvy, even the chic, thing to do at a time when frugality and anti-consumerist sentiment are proliferating,” wrote Ann M Mack, the director of trendspotting at the global advertising agency JWT, in its report published last year. Plus, with a growth in female home ownership and single women now accounting for more than one in five UK households, women often have no choice but to brush up on skills traditionally practised by men.

Men and DIY

Even if you live with a man happy to leap to your assistance every time a doorknob rattles, the chances are that he might not be up to the job. In 2008, a survey quizzed 3,000 men about their DIY knowledge and found that less than three quarters of young men (under 40) could change a fuse, while 30 per cent didn’t know how to bleed a radiator. Among the older generation (over 40) only 11 per cent were unable to change a fuse. It points to a future in which DIY skills may no longer be passed down through generations of men. Instead, both sexes will tackle them, coming at them with similar levels of knowledge. In short, pretty clueless.

Collette Dunkley set up Chix & Mortar last March after clocking an increase in DIY interest from women. The company provides weekend DIY courses for women, approved by the National Construction Academy. She says that women are still uncomfortable negotiating with builders and tradesmen, as well as dealing with DIY suppliers: “The best way to overcome this is for women to learn the skills themselves.” For the past four months, Dunkley’s courses have been fully booked: “Women are beginning to realise that anyone can change a washer, hang a picture or fit a plug. It’s just a matter of knowing how.”

But how might this female awakening affect our relationships? According to Andrew G. Marshall, a marital therapist, younger couples are likely to be more fluid about who does the DIY. “For them, it’s more about working to your talents, or even who gets home first from work. So a man might enjoy doing the cooking while his wife gets on with organising home improvements,” he says.

High standard of work

While this works on one level — and is a prime example of the post-feminist division of labour — Marshall argues that sharing duties, the recipe advocated by Beaujot’s Canadian research, can also cause tension. “In the past, everyone knew where they were. Women drove DIY tasks, chivvying the men along, but men were the do-ers . . . in other words, women chose the paint, men put it on,” he says.

“Now many more men have an opinion on style and design and women have a say about how it’s done. Everything is fought over. I see massive power struggles in couples because neither man nor woman will give up control over anything.”

In fact, the concept of a useless man not knowing his spanner from his spirit level is sometimes even promoted by women, whatever the reality, according to research by Dr Rebecca Meisenbach, of the University of Missouri, USA, which was published last month in the journal Sex Roles.

Overall, we want to encourage as many people (male or female) to pick up and paintbrush and get more involved with DIY as possible. However, we are delighted to see that more and more women are excelling at DIY tasks that ever before. We want to hear from you, who is the main DIY master in your household? Get in touch with us via the contact page!