Careers for Women in the Trades

Since 1996, “Equal Pay Day” has been a call to attention that women must work several months into the next calendar year (until March 24 in 2021) to make the same amount that men made in the previous calendar year.

One approach to addressing the pay inequities that span the length of women’s careers is to increase pay in fields with predominantly female workers, e.g.  pre-school teachers, home health aides, and other jobs in the care economy.  Another approach is to ask, “How can we get more women into higher-paying fields with predominantly male workers?”  STEM programs take us part of the way by encouraging all kids to explore STEM-related careers.  A related movement is one that provides opportunities for females to learn about and enter careers in the trades. Compared to traditionally female occupations, jobs in the trades typically have much higher salaries, structured apprentice programs, structured pay rates based on training and experience, and defined career ladders.     

What challenges are keeping women from entering the trades?  According to Lisa Schvach, Executive Director of WorkNet DuPage, “In addition to a lack of interest and few role models, women have perceptions that they are not strong enough or that these are men’s jobs.  They may feel intimidated or out of their comfort zone and fear the aptitude test required for many apprenticeship programs, in addition to dealing with issues of childcare and transportation.”

Several organizations are working to provide opportunities for girls and young women to learn about careers in the trades.  Their efforts include summer camps to promote trade careers to girls; career information publications; and advocating within the trade industry to build the capacity of apprenticeship programs, employers, training providers and the workforce system to achieve gender equality goals. 


What can you do?

  • Encourage girls and young women to explore trades careers as a viable option to college or traditional “pink collar” jobs.
  • When hiring a tradesperson, look for women-owned businesses, or those that employ female workers.
  • Vote in the upcoming AAUW national election to expand AAUW membership by eliminating the college degree requirement and welcoming any individual who supports AAUW’s mission of equity for women and girls.  Voting period is April 7 – May 17.  Check your email for your voting link.