An enlightening article in the February issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR touched on an important topic and perspective for the electrical construction industry: women in the workplace. It asked an intriguing question, “Do women make better service managers?” While that is certainly worthy of consideration, it got me thinking about a larger issue: How can the National Electrical Contractors Association and the industry as a whole recruit and retain more women to fill those positions and others in our companies?
Women make up approximately half of the U.S. population, but they aren’t well represented in the trades. Some statistics highlighted in the article, which was written by Andrew P. McCoy and Fred Sargent, point out that nearly 80 percent of the U.S. economy falls under the category of services. Across all industries, moreover, women make up 40 percent of the workforce. But in the construction industry, the participation rate is just 6 percent. According to a recent report from the Construction Labor Research Council, women make up just 2 percent of electricians—union and nonunion.
As an EC and NECA’s president, I see that it is imperative to attract the best and the brightest workers. That must include women, who continue to deal with others underestimating what they can achieve and what types of jobs they can pursue. Encouraging every dedicated worker to participate in what can become a successful career path is an important part of our jobs as ECs. In the last decade, many professional women in our industry have moved into focus. How we do business is evolving, and with advancements in technology and new customer demand, the way contractors think about workplace dynamics is also changing.
Initiatives for girls and women are becoming a part of the industry’s fabric. Another story in that issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, for example, featured the volunteer work of the Sisters in Solidarity (SIS) group of IBEW Local No. 292 members in Minneapolis. Formed in 2013, SIS is a mentoring and support group for women electricians that works to develop leadership in its community and union.
On the national level, a growing group called Women In NECA (WIN) was established to provide a collaborative forum for women affiliated with NECA. The goal of WIN is to cultivate strategies that bolster the professional growth of industry women. When a woman joins WIN, her company, chapter or LMCC is directly supporting her desire to be a successful employee and industry leader.
This month in Milwaukee, the WIN Leadership Summit will highlight the work of remarkable women in the electrical construction industry and national leaders. It will build on the success of previous summits and celebrate the ways women contribute to the growth of the electrical construction industry. Current statistics show that 9.5 percent of NECA members are women-owned businesses, and that figure is trending up.
Making connections at industry events such as NECA’s annual convention—October 7–10 in Seattle—and linking up with interactive groups such as WIN is a great approach to getting more involved and strengthening our workforce. If you’re an executive or a supervisor, advance your company’s interests by networking, and talk to your employees, both male and female, about doing the same. Our industry’s future depends on it.