Women and Skilled Labor: A Valuable Resource for Employers
Picture your company over the next decade:
A revenue-generating business with sustained growth…
…contributing to a strong national economy…
…while helping to create an equal society.
You might be wondering how, in this age of the skills gap, that scenario is even possible. But it’s a realistic and reachable goal for many organizations, especially those in the skilled trade industries. There’s a talent pool that many businesses have not yet successfully tapped into to help them achieve their business goals—and that talent pool is women.
During World War II, women were “America’s secret weapon.” They stepped into skilled trade industries while many men were deployed over seas. Due to their contributions, industrial production in the United States doubled between 1939 and 1945. Three-quarters of a century later we are preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution—a revolution that will change not only business models, but also world economies. Unfortunately, the shortage of skilled labor threatens the ability of businesses with skilled trade workers to keep up with changes in technology and demand this is bringing. History demonstrates that women are a viable source for the qualified candidates that are required to respond to the needed labor in industrial industries.
Women: An Economic Imperative
“Any society that fails to harness the energy and creativity of its women is at a huge disadvantage in the modern world.” Those words by Tian Wei, CCTV News, were spoken during the World Economic Forum in January. During the event, business and world leaders stressed the importance of offering women the same opportunities afforded their male counterparts.
From a financial perspective, studies have shown a diverse workforce offers business owners a distinct advantage. The March 2015 Ernst & Young Index revealed that the top 20 global utilities for gender diversity significantly outperformed the lower 20, with an average return on equity of 8.5 percent compared to 7 percent. That 1.5 difference translated to millions of dollars.
While statistics may support the fact that women are significant contributors, they are often overlooked for skilled labor. This is not a generational bias; in the 1940s political and social leaders had to convince both men and women to change their perceptions of gender roles to get behind the war effort. The number of women entering the workforce has steadily increased every year since the 1940s, with the exception of the period between 2001 and 2008; however, many of the skilled trade industries have remained predominantly male-dominated.
There have been women in these industries over the decades, but the percentage has been relatively low. According to the 2010 U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, women accounted for less than 30 percent of the labor force in many of the trade industries:
What’s interesting is that there had been an increase in the number of women in the construction industry from 1985 to 2007—an 81.3 percent increase. However, the recession of 2007–2008 hit and more than 300,000 women left the industry by 2010. Their numbers remain low today.
How to Help Your Business—and Women—Thrive
Carolina Borbon Parma of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency echoed the thoughts of many: “More men need to speak up for the participation of women.”
As an employer, you can help women thrive in the workforce while at the same time strengthening your business. Tapping into this talent pool provides additional resources and a diverse culture that can help to create a strong economy and equal society. There are three simple actions you can take right now:
Be willing to explore non-traditional hires.
Encourage a change in perception throughout your business, and especially among hiring managers.
Offer career advancement to encourage career-minded women to apply and commit to your company and skilled trade industries as a whole.
Each day that a vacancy remains unfilled can threaten the ability to keep pace with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and therefore, the revenue-generating abilities of a business. Including and recruiting women in the candidate search to fill skilled labor jobs provides a richer talent pool, enables your business to fill vacancies more quickly, and strengthens the business as a whole through gender diversity.