Home Trucking Articles Like a Boss: Women in Trade Jobs

Like a Boss: Women in Trade Jobs

Women make up more than half of the American workforce (53.1% in August 2021) but are still underrepresented in many careers, especially so-called “blue-collar” vocations.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in 2013, women accounted for just 7.3% of all craft workers—including construction workers, electricians, and other skilled trades. This statistic is in marked contrast to EEOC’s Office and Clerical Worker category, of which women comprised 75.6%. In fact, of all EEOC’s job categories, women have the lowest representation in craft positions.

It’s clear that women are still woefully underrepresented in skilled blue-collar positions, but the actual numbers are staggering. For example, the Center for Employment Equity at the University of Massachusetts Amherst reports that women are 80% less likely to hold a craft job than men. In some states, like Montana, underrepresentation hovers closer to 93%.

Although numbers are improving—with 43% more women in transportation and material-moving and 23% more women in construction than in 2000—there’s still a lot of growth to be had.

History of Women in Non-Traditional Professions

The U.S. Department of Labor defines a non-traditional occupation as one in which women represent fewer than 25% of all people employed in that field. In general, non-traditional professions offer higher pay, both in entry-level wages and throughout a career. However, women have historically had a difficult time breaking into these jobs.

After working almost exclusively in domestic roles for hundreds of years, women began taking up service and clerical positions at the turn of the 20th century. Women’s line of work really evolved, however, during World War II in the 1940s. With a shortage of working men due to the war, women became crucial to the American workforce, especially in non-traditional roles.

During this time, many women worked in jobs traditionally reserved for men, such as drivers, mechanics, miners, firefighters, factory workers, and conductors. The transition was only temporary, though, as most women were pushed back into domestic and service positions when the war was over. Fortunately, the “working woman” legacy remained, and more women felt encouraged to join the workforce than ever before.

Despite having made considerable progress since the 1950s, much of the non-traditional labor market is still overwhelmingly sexist. Women’s lack of representation in these traditionally male roles primarily stems from this underlying discrimination, lack of mentorship opportunities, issues with sexual harassment, and insufficient flexibility in working conditions.

Underrepresented Vocations for Women

Women are underrepresented in many industries, especially those designated as traditionally “masculine.” The dismantling of gender norms has made it more acceptable for women to break into non-traditional careers but finding and keeping work in these fields isn’t without significant challenges.

The following occupations have a significant lack of female representation. Learn how women can break into these professions, along with industry-specific facts and resources to help them succeed.

Expand All
Aviation (Mechanics and Pilots)
5% job growth for both mechanics and pilots $66,680 (mechanics)
$130,440 (pilots) median salary

Aviation mechanics perform maintenance on aircraft, and pilots fly and navigate aircraft.

Facts About Women in Aviation

Required Education and Skills for This Profession

Airline pilots need a bachelor’s degree and both a commercial pilot’s license and an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Most aircraft mechanics are certified through the FAA and attend an aviation technical school.

Pilots should be able to respond to events quickly and have good communication and observational skills. Mechanics need to be physically strong and have good dexterity.

Challenges for Women in Aviation

  • Pay gap: The airline pilot career has one of the largest gender pay gaps. Industry advocates can work to promote fairer pay for women pilots at the administrative level.
  • Lack of representation: With so few female pilots in the industry, women may feel discouraged to enter this career. Organizations can commit to providing women with more pathways into the aviation field to help address this issue.

Resources for Women in Aviation

Women in Aviation International is a professional association supporting women’s aviation careers.

Kim Kissh is a successful pilot and social media influencer who was part of the National Business Aviation Association’s Top 40 Under 40 2020 list.

Skyline Baron Pilot Valerie, a popular female pilot, shares her flight experiences on Instagram and YouTube.

Construction Workers

Construction workers perform manual labor at construction sites and may operate a variety of power tools. Duties include digging trenches, erecting scaffolding, and cleaning and preparing construction sites.

Facts About Women in Construction

Required Education and Skills for This Profession

Construction workers typically have a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training lasting anywhere from a few months to one year. Some states may require construction workers to have a CDL or crane license.

Construction workers should be physically fit and have good hand-eye coordination, strong mechanical skills, and the ability to work at heights.

Challenges for Women in Construction

  • Safety: Most construction equipment is designed for men’s hands and bodies. Manufacturers can design equipment better suited for a woman’s size.
  • Discrimination: Forty percent of women construction workers have experienced gender discrimination. Managers and company owners can make sure to offer women the same opportunities as men.
  • Lack of support: The shortage of women in the field translates to a lack of female mentorship and difficulty advancing their careers. Having more women in construction, especially in leadership roles, can help.
  • Bathrooms: Portable toilets pose a difficult issue for women who have specific hygiene needs. Having a disability-friendly portable restroom would help solve this issue.

Resources for Women in Construction

The National Association of Women in Construction provides education, opportunities, and networking for women construction professionals.

Women Construction Owners & Executives USA advocates for better legislation and opportunities for businesswomen in construction.

Professional Women in Construction is a national non-profit association that supports and connects women in construction-related industries.

Groundbreaking Women in Construction is a conference and organization that supports current and future women leaders in construction.


Electricians follow National Electrical Code regulations while installing, repairing, and maintaining electrical systems to provide lighting and power to buildings.

Facts About Women Electricians

Required Education and Skills for This Profession

A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary. Electricians usually learn the trade through an apprenticeship, and most states require electricians to be licensed.

Electricians should be able to distinguish colors, have excellent customer service and troubleshooting skills, and be in good physical condition.

Challenges for Women Electricians

  • Sexism: Some women electricians report experiencing male coworkers offering to do work for them. Employers need to communicate to their male employees that women shouldn’t be treated differently.
  • Learning from men: Because men have a different center of gravity than women, it can be harder for women to learn how to use specific electrical tools without focusing entirely on upper body strength.

Resources for Women Electricians

Women in NECA is a women’s committee within the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) that supports and educates women in the electrical field.

Women in Trades With Amy the Sparky is a YouTube channel where Amy Barratt-Singh talks about her experiences as a woman electrician.


Firefighters contain and put out fires and respond to emergencies related to the environment, property, and life.

Facts About Women Firefighters

Required Education and Skills for This Profession

Firefighters must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Fire departments may also want firefighters to have additional qualifications such as an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification.

Firefighters should have great physical stamina and strength, excellent communication skills, and the ability to handle extremely stressful situations.

Challenges for Women Firefighters

  • Equipment: Firefighter gear and uniforms are often designed for men. Manufacturers need to create attire better suited for women’s bodies.
  • Sexual harassment: Women may face skepticism over their abilities or be subject to harassment and discrimination. Employers can create a supportive environment and take harassment complaints seriously.
  • Working conditions: Because shifts often require extended time away from family, fire departments should ensure working parents have good childcare options.

Resources for Women Firefighters

Women in Fire is a professional association supporting female firefighters through mentorship, education, and career opportunities.

Presley Pritchard is a female firefighter, paramedic, and athlete who became a social media icon after she sued her fire department for terminating her over controversial Instagram pictures.

International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services provides women firefighters with education, advocacy, and support.

Freight and OTR Drivers

Freight and over-the-road (OTR) drivers transport goods across long distances. They typically operate large commercial vehicles with a weight of more than 26,000 pounds.

Facts About Women in Trucking

Required Education and Skills for This Profession

Professional truck drivers usually have a high school diploma or equivalent, attend a truck driving school, and earn a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Commercial drivers need to have at least 20/40 vision and a 70-degree field of vision in each eye, along with the ability to see color. Federal regulations stipulate that a professional driver must hear a forced whisper in one ear at 5 feet away. Drivers should also have excellent hand-eye coordination and be in good physical health.

Challenges for Women in Trucking

  • Lack of female trainers: Because there aren’t many female trainers, women truck drivers often spend weeks training with a man, which can feel intimidating.
  • Sexual harassment: Women truck drivers do face harassment from male peers. Companies should take harassment complaints seriously and thoroughly investigate them.
  • Equipment: Trucks are generally designed for men, and manufacturers need to better design equipment to accommodate an average woman’s size.
  • Safety: Companies and truck stops must work together to ensure safety for drivers, especially at night, by increasing the presence of security guards and proper lighting.

Resources for Women in Trucking

Women In Trucking Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing greater gender diversity to the trucking industry.

Real Women In Trucking supports female drivers with continuing education, advocacy, and networking.

Social media influencers like Clarissa Rankin and Tierra Allen (Sassy Trucker) provide an inside look into the profession from a woman’s perspective.


Automotive mechanics inspect and repair cars and small trucks. Diesel service technicians work on buses, trucks, and any vehicle with a diesel engine.

Facts About Women Mechanics

Required Education and Skills for This Profession

Employers usually prefer mechanics to receive training in automotive technology from a vocational school. Employers may require certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.

Mechanics should have good dexterity, be physically fit and personable, and understand how engine parts function.

Challenges for Women Mechanics

  • Sexism: Women working on cars face discrimination from co-workers who may view them as less capable or competent than men. To combat this, companies should educate staff on the importance of treating women mechanics as equals.

Resources for Women Mechanics

Women in Auto Care offers opportunities and mentorship to women in the automotive industry.

Patrice Banks is an automotive influencer and the CEO of Girls Auto Clinic, a business with a mission to help women learn to fix their own cars.

Women Who Wrench is a Facebook community for women in the automotive industry.

Postal Service Drivers

Postal Service mail carriers collect and deliver mail for the U.S. Postal Service.

Facts About Women Postal Service Drivers

Required Education and Skills for This Profession

Mail carriers must be 18 years old or 16 years old with a high school diploma. If driving, postal workers need to receive a passing grade on their road test.

Mail carriers should have an excellent grasp of the English language, be physically fit, and have good customer service skills.

Challenges for Women Postal Service Drivers

  • Pay gap: Women experience a wage gap of 10.4% in the Postal Service. Government advocates can help female postal workers achieve fair pay through lobbying efforts.
  • Career advancement: Women make up a good portion of the Postal Service industry but hold fewer elected positions in government. Greater representation of women in leadership roles can help change that.

Resources for Women Postal Service Drivers

APWU POWER, Post Office Women for Equal Rights is a committee in the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) that advocates for women.


Welders can work in a wide variety of industries fusing metal parts manually or with machinery. Using a heat source, such as an electrical current, welders bond metals to join pipes, steel beams, and other metal components.

Facts About Women in Welding

Required Education and Skills for This Profession

Welders typically have a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Some professionals earn certificates in welding.

Welders should be detail-oriented, in good physical condition, and have excellent hand-eye coordination, spatial orientation skills, and agility to operate welding equipment.

Challenges for Women in Welding

  • Sexual harassment: Companies should create an environment where women feel comfortable making harassment complaints.

Resources for Women in Welding

Women Who Weld is a non-profit organization that teaches women how to weld and how to find employment.

Weld Like A Girl uses welding as a form of empowerment to help boost self-esteem and wellness for women and girls.

Lashanna Lintamo is a social media influencer hoping to increase the representation of women and minorities in the welding industry.

Carmen Electrode is a welding industry mascot that aims to inspire, motivate, and empower women welders through a blog and social media.

Challenges Women Face in Non-Traditional Careers

Women face a myriad of challenges in the modern workplace. The gender pay gap, sexism, and being judged by their appearance are significant obstacles for women in any career field.

In non-traditional careers—where female representation is even less—women may experience even greater levels of discrimination and harassment. They also may be viewed as incompetent and weak, especially in physically demanding jobs.

What’s more, equipment or facilities may not be suitable for women, such as larger uniforms, heavier machines, and smaller restrooms that don’t take into account women’s needs.

Fortunately, research shows that improved training and education, increased numbers of women in the field, and more mentorship opportunities can help bridge the equality gap.

How Women Can Find Support

Women can feel isolated in the “boys’ club” atmosphere of non-traditional jobs, but there is support available for women in trade and male-dominated jobs. In addition to various state-based and industry-specific organizations, these resources can help women find success and encouragement in non-traditional roles.

Career Contessa
This platform offers job opportunities, a podcast, online education, webinars, and coaching to help women overcome the unique challenges they face in the working world.

Coalition of Labor Union Women
CLUW is a national organization supporting women who are part of labor unions.

Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW)
NEW helps train, prepare, and place women in non-traditional jobs in New York City, including the construction and maintenance trades.

This networking platform connects underrepresented technical professionals and helps them grow careers.

Tools & Tiaras
T&T is a non-profit organization that motivates and encourages young girls and women who want to pursue non-traditional roles in mechanical, industrial, technical, and trades (MIIT) careers.

Trades Women of IG
This Instagram account empowers and connects women working in trades all over the world.

U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau
The U.S. DOL creates standards and policies to protect working women and provides information on pay, employment protections, and grants.

Women at Work podcast
This Harvard Business Review podcast reflects on women’s role in the workplace.