Women in the Workforce – International Women’s Day

Source: Dmitrii Shironosov - 123RF

Sunday, March 8 is International Women’s Day – recognizing the importance of gender diversity and equality in all sectors of a community, workforce, and world.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are now 109,000 more women working than men. It’s believed by experts that this trend will continue and gain more momentum as the number of working women increases, while the amount of men in the workforce declines.   

While 50% of the workforce in the US comprises women, roughly only 10% of construction jobs are held by women.

  • Women’s careers are showing movement up the ladder with nearly one-third (31%) of women in construction holding managerial and professional positions in 2010.
  • Women in construction in 2010 included – 39,000 women working as unskilled laborers and 147,000 in skilled trades – painters, carpenters, repair workers, electricians, drywall installers, truck drivers, heating and air conditioning mechanics, plumbers, etc.
  • Women follow patterns similar to men when it comes to who they work for – roughly 70% of women work for private employers while 5% are government employees.
  • Fewer women in construction are self-employed, 24% versus 28% of men in 2010.

Research has shown a correlation between diversity and improved financial performance.

According to OH&S, the theory that women are not as capable contributors to the workforce has long-since been debunked. Women are active in so many of the areas that men have historically dominated like sports, politics, and more.

Nevertheless, the construction industry has the opportunity to recruit, and retain, more women in the industry for the better. Women can bring impressive physical labor skills, new ideas and perspectives, and other humanitarian considerations to a workplace—and the construction industry is no different.

However, there is still much work to be done in ensuring equal pay, flexible benefits, equal professional growth opportunities and accommodating work environments.

Entire other studies and reports dive more in-depth about how far we’ve come in gender diversity and equality, but also how far we need to go.

Nationwide, only about 4 percent of firefighters are women, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, even as that figure has risen to about 14 percent in police work and the military.

Even traditionally male occupations like farming and construction management have higher percentages of women than firefighting.

However, in recent years, many women firefighters have raised concerns that their job may be putting them at a higher risk of breast cancer. Recent studies show this very well could be the case.

The San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation (SFFCPF) noticed an alarming trend in 2012 when five female firefighters were diagnosed with breast cancer in that year alone.

As a Berkeley News article explains, Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are used in grease- and water-resistant coatings and can be found in fabrics, furniture and food packaging, but also notable in firefighting foam and turnout gear.

These “forever chemicals” won’t easily break down in the environment or our bodies, and they have been linked to a number of cancers and interfere with immune function, endocrine function, and breast development.

A companion paper that also appeared online in Environmental Science and Technology included a detailed method that will allow researchers to rapidly screen blood samples for the presence of a variety of different toxic compounds. This method could help identify what other toxins women firefighters are exposed to.

A future study undergoing preparation plans to report on the levels of flame-retardants in the blood samples of the women firefighters and office workers.

According to Forbes, education and health services, which are seen as more female-dominated, added 36,000 jobs. Jobs in the mining and manufacturing sectors—viewed primarily as male-oriented industries—lost 21,000 jobs collectively.

Women are also highly represented in government service jobs, standing at 58%, and holding 56% of positions in financial-related roles.

Another interesting statistic is that women earn more degrees than men. For the graduating class of 2016-2017, women earned 57.3% of bachelor’s degrees, 59.4% of master’s degrees and 53.3% of doctorate degrees.

This is highly financially beneficial for women, as holding college and advanced degrees closely correlates with higher salaries, according to the Pew Research Center.