Male-dominated industries like manufacturing, construction and trucking are facing critical worker shortages. Baby boomers are retiring. Meanwhile, millions of prime-aged male workers have simply disappeared from the workforce. “You hear about a lack of job readiness, an inability to pass a drug test,” said Harry Holzer, a public policy professor at Georgetown University. “It makes sense that these employers regard women as a group that expands the applicant pool and at a higher-quality level.”
As a result, according to The Washington Post, male-dominated industries are focusing on women workers. And they’re finding what white-collar industries like engineering and sales have already discovered: Being female-friendly isn’t as easy as it seems.
The Iron Workers Union just offered eight months of paid maternity leave to its female workers. The benefit is unprecedented, but it isn’t likely to make a huge dent in the budget, since only two percent of the male-dominated Iron Workers Union are women.
While eight months’ maternity leave is a great incentive, the disincentives are just as strong. WaPo reports, “Almost 9 in 10 female construction workers have dealt with sexual harassment on the job, a Labor Department study found.”
Other industries trying to recruit women include the “trucking and automotive technician sectors – 88.5 and 91.7 percent male, respectively.”
The American Trucking Association, which needs to recruit a million new drivers over the next seven years, has worked with the Girl Scouts to create a trucking badge. They’re also working with employers to “get drivers home more often.” The result: The percentage of women has increased from 6 to 7 percent over the past year.
With new women-friendly policies, male-dominated industries hope to avoid experiences like that of Bridget Booker, an iron worker who hid her pregnancy under baggy overalls. When she miscarried, she was back at work within 48 hours. “I did it to survive,” Booker told the WaPo reporter. “As a woman in the trade, you have to prove yourself every day. Not a day goes by that you don’t have to let them know that you’re up for the task.