Supporting Blue Collar Women: 10 Initiatives Companies Can Do

how companies can support blue collar women

A significant gender gap in blue collar jobs hinders progress toward a more inclusive and diverse workforce. In 2022, blue collar women comprise only 17% of all workers in the manual labor industry. This lack of diversity holds companies back from a more dynamic and successful labor force, enriched with diverse perspectives and skills that drive progress. In this article, we will explore 10 initiatives and strategies that companies can do to support and empower women in blue collar industries.

Current Landscape of Blue Collar Jobs: Women at Work

There's a slow but steady increase in women entering these fields, pointing out the transformative shift in the traditionally male-dominated blue-collar industry. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed a 43.9% increase in blue collar women workers from 2011 to 2022 in all industries, and sectors like life math, sciences, and engineering design are leading the way in terms of gender diversity. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also projected that the number of women in the labor force is set to reach 92 million by 2050.

While there's a positive trend of more women entering the blue collar industries, there's still a long way to go. Construction remains a particularly male-dominated field, with only around 10.9% of women workers according to a BLS report in 2022. The lack of traditional benefits such as health insurance and paid time off, combined with persistent stereotypes about blue-collar jobs being physically demanding and unsuitable for women, continue to be a barrier for women to enter these fields.

 

Challenges for Women in Blue Collar Industries

Despite positive trends, blue collar women still remain underrepresented. This leads to several unresolved challenges in blue collar jobs:

  • Unconscious Bias in Hiring and Promotion: Many hiring managers still hold unconscious biases that favor men for physically demanding roles, often overlooking qualified female candidates.
  • Perception of Suitability: There's a persistent notion that blue collar jobs are not suitable for women, deterring many from even considering these careers.
  • Gender Pay Gap: Blue collar women often earn less than their male counterparts, intensifying financial insecurity and reducing job satisfaction.
  • Work-Life Balance: Balancing childcare and demanding work schedules remains a significant hurdle, as many blue collar jobs require long or irregular hours.
  • Male-Dominated Environments: Women working in predominantly male environments often face issues ranging from isolation to outright harassment, making it difficult to integrate and thrive.
  • Lack of Access to Training and Mentorship: Opportunities for training and mentorship, critical for career advancement, are often less accessible to women, limiting growth and development.

 

How Can Companies Support Blue Collar Women?

women's important role in blue collar jobs

Addressing challenges requires concerted efforts to promote gender diversity, provide equitable benefits, and create a supportive work environment that encourages women's participation and retention in blue collar jobs. To achieve this, companies can implement the following initiatives and strategies:

Ensure Equal Pay

In the United States, a staggering 75% of blue collar women earn less than $50,000 annually, compared with only 43% of blue collar men. This significant pay disparity highlights the urgent need for wage equity in blue-collar industries. Employers should conduct regular wage audits to identify and address these disparities, ensuring that women in the workforce receive equal pay for equal work.

Support Work-Life Balance Initiatives

Supporting work-life balance initiatives is crucial for retaining blue collar women. This can include offering parental leave, flexible working hours, and support for childcare. By providing these benefits, employers can help women, especially working mothers, balance their work and family responsibilities, reducing the likelihood of workplace fatigue and attrition.

Ensure Physical Safety and Proper Equipment

Employers must ensure that all safety protocols and equipment are designed to be inclusive and accessible to blue collar women. This includes providing properly fitting PPE and ensuring that facilities such as changing rooms and restrooms are appropriate for women. Addressing these issues can help to create a safer and more supportive work environment.

Cultivate Positive Workplace Relationships

Employers should encourage open communication and provide channels for employees to report and address grievances. Building a culture of respect and teamwork can help to prevent issues such as harassment and discrimination, making it easier for women to thrive in blue-collar roles. According to Oliver Wyman Forum, blue collar women are 29% more likely to cite a lack of respect and recognition as a reason for leaving compared with men.

Acknowledge and Celebrate Abilities

Employers should regularly acknowledge the achievements of their female employees and create opportunities for them to showcase their skills and abilities. By valuing the contributions of women in the workplace, companies can help to build a more inclusive and supportive workplace.

Implement Transparent Promotion Practices

This involves setting clear criteria for advancement and ensuring that all employees, including blue collar women, have equal opportunities to move up the career ladder. Companies should actively support and develop female talent, providing gateways for working women to take on leadership roles. Highlighting successful women leaders and their journeys can inspire and encourage more women to pursue careers in these fields, helping to break down barriers and drive change.

Promote Opportunities for Growth and Development

Companies should offer comprehensive training programs that are equally accessible to all employees, regardless of gender. This includes technical training, leadership development, and opportunities for career advancement. Mentorship programs can also play a crucial role in supporting blue collar women by pairing them with experienced professionals who can provide guidance and support as they navigate their careers.

Provide Gender-Inclusive Training Programs

Training programs that focus on gender inclusion are essential for fostering a supportive work environment. These programs should address issues such as unconscious bias, gender stereotypes, and the importance of diversity in the workplace. Encouraging male employees to participate in these training sessions can help to create a more inclusive culture that supports women in the workplace.

 

Female Leaders in Blue Collar Industries

blue collar women in automotive industry

By stepping into and excelling in blue collar roles, women are not only shattering stereotypes but also paving the way for future generations. Their leadership and determination demonstrate that skill and capability transcend gender, fostering a more inclusive and innovative workforce.

Cathy Heying: From Minister to Automotive Mechanic

Cathy Heying's journey is a remarkable testament to the possibilities for blue collar women. Initially working as a minister and social worker, Cathy transitioned into the automotive industry, a field typically dominated by men. Driven by her desire to make a tangible difference, she founded The Lift Garage in Minneapolis, which provides low-cost car repairs for people with low incomes.
This initiative not only empowers individuals by enabling them to maintain reliable transportation but also breaks down barriers within the blue collar labor force. Cathy’s story highlights how passion and commitment can lead to significant social impact and pave the way for women to enter and thrive in traditionally male-dominated blue collar industries​.

Laura Ciriello-Benedict: Leading in Plumbing

Laura Ciriello-Benedict's success in the plumbing industry showcases the potential for women to excel in blue-collar roles. Despite having no initial interest in plumbing, Laura embraced the opportunity to join her family business, Ciriello Plumbing. She became one of the few female Master Plumbers in her state and eventually took over as president of the company.

Laura’s leadership focuses on challenging traditional ways of thinking, exploring new opportunities, and positioning her team for continuous improvement. She also actively promotes the industry to young women, highlighting the excellent pay and benefits and the rewarding nature of the work. Her commitment to mentorship and apprenticeship has helped a lot of women enter and succeed in the plumbing trade, demonstrating that with determination and support, women in the workforce can achieve outstanding success​.

 

FAQs About Women in Blue Collar Jobs

Can a woman be a blue-collar worker?

Yes, women can and do work in blue-collar jobs. Despite being underrepresented, women are increasingly entering fields such as construction, manufacturing, and transportation, proving that they can excel in these traditionally male-dominated industries​.

How many women are blue-collar workers?

According to Deloitte's Blue Collar Workforce Trends Report 2023, women make up about 8% of the blue collar labor force. Although they are still in the minority, their numbers are gradually increasing as more women pursue careers in these fields.

What is the best blue-collar job for women?

There is no single "best" blue-collar job for women, as it depends on individual interests and skills. However, some blue-collar jobs with significant opportunities for women include welding, electrical work, and plumbing, all of which offer good pay, benefits, and career advancement potential​.

What is the highest rate of female employment?

The highest rates of women's employment are often found in sectors such as healthcare, education, and administrative support. However, within blue-collar industries, areas like light manufacturing and certain trades like plumbing and electrical work are seeing increasing female participation​.

Which blue-collar job pays the most?

Among blue-collar jobs, those in the skilled trades typically pay the most. This includes positions such as electricians, plumbers, and HVAC technicians. These roles not only offer high wages but also provide significant opportunities for career growth and development​.

 

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The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.

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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.