Women are Making the Move Into Male-Dominated Jobs

Traditionally male-dominated industries have been growing fastest since December 2016: mining, construction, and transportation and utilities. Comparing two 12-month periods from 2016 and December 2017 to November 2018, it was found that employment in these male-dominated sectors, including agriculture and manufacturing, grew more than other mixed and female-dominated sectors (3.4% vs. 2.5%).

Source: The New York Times

As the labor market tightens, women have been moving into these male-dominated fields, as well as into a few others. What is surprising is that out of the 2.9% increase employed women economy-wide, new employment opportunities for women were concentrated in sectors that are majority male. In these sectors, women’s employment rose 5.0%, compared to 3.0% for men. In construction, mining, and utilities, women’s employment grew more than 10%. The story isn’t just that women are being employed in desk jobs, either. In fact, the fastest increase in employment for women has been at the building site and on the factory floor.

Of course, even with increased female employment in these male-dominated sectors, it would take many more years of increases in women’s employment in these sectors to equalize the share of women and men hired. As of now, only 11% of women work in male-dominated sectors. However, Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard, says that “In a tight labor market, firms give workers a chance they would not otherwise consider...”.

The question, though, is whether this is a boon for these new female employees.

In the long run, while some male-dominated fields have a promising growth outlook, that is not true for all of them. In fact, female-dominated sectors like health care and personal services are predicted to grow fastest in the long term. Women in male-dominated workplaces also typically face more discrimination and harassment, including when they’re pregnant. And when they start working in a field in greater numbers, average pay tends to decline.

The real test of whether this phenomenon of women moving into male-dominated jobs reflects a temporary stopgap measure for employees or a more lasting shift in gender hiring norms will be what happens when unemployment starts rising again. For now, Nolee Anderson, 24, who is a carpenter in Nashville shares that being female has “given [her] a leg up” for employers who want to hire diverse, qualified people.

Further reading:
Eunice Yau

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