March is Women's History Month, which encourages people to become more familiar with the achievements and influence of women in today's society. As such, it's an ideal time to highlight the role of female electrical contractors (ECs).
EC research findings from 2016
Many surveys attempt to establish trends that help people achieve a deeper understanding of the electrical construction industry. Some of these studies find women do not demonstrate the same tendencies as men. In the 2016 Profile of the Electrical Contractor, women made up 3 percent of the total respondent pool of more than 2,400 people.
The results of the 2016 Profile show that, in general, ECs are getting older—but that wasn't necessarily the case for female ECs. Women aged 35–54 comprised 42 percent of female respondents, but the same age group represented only 30 percent of the total sample. Similarly, whereas 7 percent of women said they were 65 or older, 24 percent of all respondents said they fell into that age group.
Women were also most likely to be employed by larger companies during their careers, with 46 percent saying they worked for firms with 10 or more employees and 35 percent working for EC firms with five to nine employees.
When the survey examined gender-based percentages of people in authority positions, it found 79 percent of those in the sample were in company ownership or top management positions, but that percentage fell to 63 percent concerning women. However, females were just as likely as men to work as project managers, master electricians or the equivalent.
The 2018 version of the same survey—the study is published every two years—did not specifically mention women within the group of approximately 1,600 respondents. However, it did bring to attention how the duties performed are substantially more diverse than in the past. Moreover, although a skills shortage remains in the industry, most EC firms said their employment stayed steady or grew. Those things are positive for both genders.
An increase in women-owned EC businesses
Statistics indicate that, while women-owned EC companies are still in the minority, the number has tripled over the past 15–20 years. Profiles of the women in those leadership roles indicate that, while challenges exist, they usually get satisfaction from the work and believe the overall industry offers appealing opportunities for females.
Furthermore, they say the workforce is much more hospitable to female ECs now than in the past and especially if women who want to pursue the role have an excellent work ethic and aren't afraid of potentially being the lone woman EC on a team or at a company.
Women electricians typically perform the same roles as males with one exception. Since women usually have smaller physical builds than men, they may get asked to work in tight spaces more often than their male counterparts.
Many women-led ECs are family-owned businesses. They say the day-to-day operations keep them busy and require them to fulfill numerous roles. Additionally, some note that having a thick skin is an advantage, although professionalism and knowledge displayed by the females often make doubters see past their previous prejudices.
Ways for women ECs to network
When they decide to work in electrical construction, women have to reckon with being in the vast minority while training and when they enter the workforce. However, that's gradually changing thanks to concentrated efforts to help female electrical professionals connect.
One of them is a Facebook group called Open Circuit, which aims to reduce the isolation tradeswomen may feel. When women realize they aren't alone in the industry, they can feel more empowered and well-equipped to thrive in what's still a male-dominated environment. Thanks to the internet, it's easier for women ECs to connect with others like them as they develop their skills.
(Editor's note: For more on recruiting women into the workforce, read "The Untapped Resource," in the February 2019 issue on workforce development.)