The Rise Of Women In Trade Industries

By Magnolia Potter

The days of women having to work inside the home are long gone. Those who want to pursue careers now have a variety of choices that were previously unimaginable for women. Trade industries are seeing a rise in female employees, in everything from construction and welding to plumbing. 

The rise of women in trade industries is bringing to light many questions around company culture, the “boys’ club” mentality that organizations functioned on for so long, and has brought to light the cultural forces that have excluded women from these positions historically. These industries open new opportunities for women personally, professionally, and economically.

One of the many barriers to entering many professional spaces is the issue of education and its financial unavailability to marginalized groups. Trade industries, however, have a level of accessibility that isn’t available in other areas. Due to inexpensive educational requirements, and the ability of apprentices to find training outside of a traditional education structure, trade careers can be a life-changing opportunity.

Traditional Roles and Barriers

It is no secret that trade industries are considered masculine pursuits. Trade jobs, from plumbing and welding to construction, have been structured from the inside out to be the opposite of women-friendly. But when it comes down to it, women have been the saviors of these types of industries. 

Made famous by the iconic Rosie the Riveter posters, during World War II women were asked to move into industrial positions and take the place of the men who had been drafted overseas. They continued working in manufacturing, as mechanics, and in other male-dominated industries after the end of the war. 

The assumption was that women would return to being homemakers once their spouses and family members returned from the war, but this was far from true. Many women wanted to continue working their jobs after the war, especially after getting a taste of the type of economic freedom they could have through these jobs. 

One of the advantages of trade jobs is that they teach skills that can be useful both on and off the job. Those training to be mechanics, for example, can reduce the cost of car maintenance for their household, further benefiting their economic position. Trade positions may provide on-the-job training, or require prior education that can be acquired through sources outside of the traditional college education system. These factors are providing women with greater economic advantages as they continue to make up a larger and larger portion of tradespeople.

Economic Leverage 

Once women have entered the industry, they are afforded economic leverage that simply did not exist for women before. From welders to mechanics, these professionals are more consistently and highly paid than many entry-level workers. On average, a certified welder makes just over $20 per hour, while the average entry-level job in the US pays only $14 per hour. 

Research has shown that women are often responsible for changes in the way that money is spent. As women’s salaries increase, in industries that are more accessible, they have greater ability to influence where money is invested in the economy overall. The trend towards supporting sustainable businesses, for example, was originally considered a female concern. Today, the focus on a business’s values and sustainability is a hot-button issue. With higher salaries, women also have greater negotiating power and the ability to take ownership of their own careers. 

There are many factors to professional fulfillment, from economic standing to medical and mental health, to pay level. As companies become more concerned with the overall support of their employees, women are able to contribute to the conversation around medical and mental health benefits in the industrial workplace

Women are almost 10% more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness than men and experience a lack of maternity compensation. With more women taking on roles that are imperative to the continued development of key industries, they can help create changes that are long overdue for supporting women throughout the workforce. By addressing these issues with respect to women, improvements can be made for employees across the board, regardless of gender. 

Opportunities for Marginalized Groups

Marginalized groups face an extensive set of barriers to finding jobs that will become successful careers and allow them to live comfortably. These challenges include a lack of financial resources for investing in training, lack of available educational resources, and the difficulty of receiving training for more lucrative positions while maintaining a current, less desirable job. 

Industries that require advanced education exclude those who are not in an economic position to acquire traditional degrees. Trade industries, however, are providing opportunities for lucrative careers, without the heavy price tag and extensive time commitment of traditional education. 

For women who are interested in changing careers while continuing to work within their current industry, education and training can be particularly difficult to find. However, many are able to access training through trade programs, community education, and certificate programs, all of which carry a much lighter price tag than universities. Many of these classes are held at varying times of day, increasing their accessibility even more, and making them accessible to those looking for a job that fits their passions and goals

As women have discovered this accessibility, they have found trade jobs that value demonstrable skill over a college education, and that are accessible to those working on tight budgets and chaotic schedules. Many women are finding success in these male-focused industries, and are paving the road for others to follow. 

Resources such as Tradeswomen, Inc, and Sisters in the Building Trades are being built by women in the trade industry to encourage and support other women in finding employment and career fulfillment. 

Women-Built, Women-Driven

The rise of women in trade industries has created more than just a space for women in male-dominated companies, it has contributed to the growth of women-led efforts that support the place of female professionals as a whole. The economic influence that female business owners hold goes far beyond simple consumer analytics. 

As more women have access to educational opportunities and the careers that follow, they are experiencing greater economic freedom. Women with greater spending power are able to drive the education and support of other women. 

The creation of educational opportunities such as apprenticeships by women already in these industries could cause a disruption in the boys’ club nature of trade industries, putting women in powerful roles. As this continues, women are able to advance into higher positions within trade organizations, driving systemic change from positions of power. 

They can influence the hiring, mentorship, and advancement of other women, and use their leverage to provide greater medical benefits that support women in the workplace. These are only a few examples of how women are able to affect change as they rise through male-dominated spaces.

Trade industries are traditionally male-dominated, and women have faced multi-faceted barriers to pursuing traditionally masculine careers for generations. As women have continued to enter these industries, however, research is showing that they are not only surviving but thriving in male-dominated career paths

The more women who enter these industries, the more they create opportunities for those who come after them by adding representation, education, and professional support for women entering trade careers. By building not only their own careers but supporting other women, they are helping to support the rise in the number of women pursuing trade-based careers. 

Maggie Potter is a blogger at assignyourwriter.co.uk who writes from time to time and covers a variety of topics. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a good book.

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