Why do we need more women in the trades? Today everyone is looking to develop a more diverse workforce, which is a good thing. But do trade-industry companies and contractors really understand the benefits of having a female perspective on their staff, especially among customer-facing roles out in the field? I can tell you it’s not just to look good. In business, especially for smaller companies, each and every employee makes a significant impact. It’s obvious that having variety in the types of employees on your team can reap countless benefits, but there are actually quite a few hard facts to back this up.
While researchers don’t know exactly why companies with women on staff perform better, the benefits of women in the workplace speak for themselves. Studies show recruiting women can substantially boost a company’s bottom line. According to Harvard Business Review, a firm that goes “from having no women in corporate leadership (the CEO, the board, and other C-suite positions) to a 30% female share is associated with a one percentage point increase in net margin — which translates to a 15% increase in profitability for a typical firm.” Similarly, a study by McKinsey & Co. of 180 publicly traded companies in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States found that companies with board diversity saw return on shareholder equity average 53% higher than other companies.
Not surprisingly, a range of consultants and academics have demonstrated that boards with higher gender diversity are more innovative, more strategically minded, and generally more effective. Although these studies were based on big, corporate entities, the concept still applies: Women are good for business.
Women Make Things Better
When the Center for Creative Leadership conducted a large survey (PDF), it concluded that having more women in the workplace actually makes an organization a better place to work, for people of all genders. Specifically, it meant higher job satisfaction, higher organizational dedication, more meaningful work, and less burnout. Additionally, employees cited reasons for staying with their organization (those with a higher percentage of women at work) were due to enjoyable work, a job that fits well with other areas of their life, and opportunities to make a difference.
Let’s face it: Women are nurturers. So it is no surprise that employees produce better quality work when they are taken care of and feel comfortable, trusted, and safe. This makes for a nicer working environment and can have a positive effect on both job satisfaction and performance.
Women also bring a different mixture of skills, talents, and strengths to a business, according the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). With a tendency to support, collaborate, reward, and inspire, women can considerably improve a workplace’s functionality. Of course, men can be good team players too, but these types of soft skills tend to be more natural for women.
Communication among employees and management is essential, which means both genders need to be able to clearly express their needs, ideas, and concerns in a safe and open environment. However, since men are more geared to communicate through confrontation, women serve more as peacemakers, critically solving issues that may arise on any given day. It is a vital dynamic that can make for a better work environment.
Women Are an Untapped Resource
And let’s not forget that women can also be an untapped resource in a time when the trades are desperate for more talent. Although women make up a significant segment of the workforce — 57%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — very few are working in the trades. In fact, women account for only 10% of the trade workforce. The Bureau also shows that only 2.1% of plumbers are women, only 1.7% electricians are women, and only 1.5% of the workforce is women in the field of HVAC.
It is probably safe to say that businesses with female employees will attract and retain more female employees, so in a time when the trades are in dire need of new talent, that initial move toward diversification can pay huge dividends well into the future. Additionally, a company’s reputation as diverse and fair could entice people to choose your services as consumers increasingly look to support businesses that provide an all-inclusive workplace.
What You Can Do
No one said it was going to be easy to change the trade industry workforce to attract more women, but there are many proactive measures you can take to help. A good place to start is to look inward and assess your current hiring process. Do your job listings use language that could be uninviting to female candidates? Similarly, if a woman does apply for a job, is the application allowing for more diverse candidates to be accepted? Who is screening the applicants, and are they open to hiring women?
It is also important to start looking at the entire candidate and all of their strengths. There may be some women who could be great workers but need to learn a few skills. If you do not already have one, start a training program. While technical knowledge is a plus, it is not the only important criteria. Interpersonal skills can go a long way when a person is eager to learn and has the potential to become a model employee.
After looking at your own business, you could start to implement more proactive recruitment tactics — but note that these would require a bit of effort. Seek out local partnerships with community college programs and technical schools to set up a scholarship program specifically for women. Or go straight to the source; find out where women’s groups meet in your area and sponsor an event or host a dinner where you can encourage women to seek out a career in the trades. Don’t be afraid to get creative.
By being conscious of workplace diversity, it is possible to recruit and retain more women. And as outlined, there is factual, statistical data that hiring more women can help your business perform better and at the same time bring a different perspective and skill set to your team. Undoubtedly, women can change the dynamic for the better. The numbers make the case: Not only should you try to hire women, but you should actively seek out women to hire and advocate for more women in the trades. After all, as the studies prove, it could add to your company’s bottom line.