A couple of decades ago, most women wouldn’t dream of taking on blue-collar jobs. However, according to a new article from The Wall Street Journal, that’s starting to change.

Companies that employ a lot of blue collar workers need to reflect on what these trends mean for their business. Consider the following figures from The Wall Street Journal shared from the Labor Department:

  • 43% more women now work in transportation and material-moving than in 2000 – including roles such as truck drivers, delivery people and warehouse workers
  • Over 40% more women work as “security guards, police officers, and other protective service jobs”
  • 23% more women work in construction jobs
  • The amount of women working as truck drivers, delivery drivers, electricians, plumbers, and mechanics is greater than it has been in 25 years

The article also discusses why more women are choosing to enter these careers. They pay more than so-called “pink-collar” careers, and in many cases, offer more appealing work. Furthermore, as men become less willing to work these jobs (another well-documented trend), more opportunities open up for women.

Let’s dive a little further into the implications of this trend, and how businesses in blue-collar industries take advantage of it.

In a Competitive Labor Market, Blue-Collar Businesses Need to Broaden Their Recruiting Efforts

Like every other sector, blue-collar industries are feeling the squeeze of low unemployment rates. Hiring is longer, costlier, and more difficult today than ever before. In such conditions, expanding recruiting efforts to include broader demographics is a smart strategy. Given that women make up slightly more than half of the United States population, there’s an enormous amount of untapped talent here for blue-collar companies.

However, it’s safe to say female candidates are still not at the forefront of blue-collar recruiting efforts. Even though recruiters are well-aware that women are more than capable of performing these roles, there’s undoubtedly an unconscious bias that they either don’t want or aren’t looking for these roles.

Businesses have a lot to gain by pushing past these biases. Beyond diversity initiatives and political correctness, recruiting more women is just common sense. By expanding the talent pool you draw from, you can make better hires and fill positions faster.

Rethinking Our Perspective on Blue-Collar jobs – and Eliminating Bias

For decades now, most people have assumed that women do not want blue-collar jobs. However, the data shows that’s simply not true. More and more women are entering blue-collar positions, and we’d bet money this trend will only continue. As such, we have to take these assumptions and throw them out the window.

We’ve talked before about how companies need to keep an open mind about college degrees. In the same manner, we must keep an open mind regarding someone’s gender – we can’t assume someone does or does not want a job based on their identity.

It’s not about political correctness, but being better recruiters.

We simply can’t afford to disqualify any more candidates than we have to.

Companies can (and should) get creative to overcome these biases. For example, they can experiment with “blind hiring,” where resumes and candidates are detailed without listing the person’s name or any details regarding their gender.

Other strategies include scientifically-validated assessments, group interviews, and using a structured interview process with the same questions for every candidate (see our article on interviewer bias here).

Tailor Your Employment Brand to Your Target Audience

Your employment brand is a key component of your recruiting strategy. It’s what sets the tone for your business and makes an impression on candidates before anyone gets on the phone with a recruiter. If you want to successfully recruit from a broad pool of candidates, your employment brand needs to reflect that.

In other words, you might want to make sure your business is portrayed as a positive place for women to work. This might be as simple as making the women at your company visible in marketing materials and on your website’s career page. It also might be a good idea to see what people are saying online about your business – if women find the culture intolerant, it is likely someone will have noted that online. A proactive approach to a bad reputation is your best bet.

A big barrier for women wanting to work in blue-collar jobs is fearing they will be the only (or one of the only) women at the company. Addressing this through your employment brand can alleviate these fears and make your workplace more inviting.

Recruiting Rosie the Riveter

The message is simple: blue-collar companies that make an effort to attract and retain women have a critical edge in the talent war. When unemployment is at a 50-year low, the opportunity to tap into this large talent pool is huge.

The question is…will you be taking advantage of it?

Do you think this trend will continue, or is it just a blip?