I was visiting my friend a few days ago when her young daughter approached me to play with her. Excited about the prospect of a playmate, she grabbed some toys, and shoved a child-sized pink broom into my hands. I was shocked as she barked out orders on how to properly clean the floor, as she used a foam squirt bottle-shaped cleaner on the windows. She’s a bossy two two-year old, so I didn’t put up a fight, but it really got me thinking.
Not a Woman’s Place
It’s no wonder we hardly have any women in the trades. From a young age, girls are encouraged to engage in passive play. Before we have begun to use complete sentences, we are molded to be helpers, caretakers, housekeepers, and stereotypically “girly”. Think about popular girl toys: dolls to take care of, kitchen sets to play house, and dress up clothes.
Comparatively, boys are encouraged to design, to construct, to demolish, to rebuild. Peruse the aisles of the ‘boy section’ at your local toy store. The shelves will be lined with trucks, tractors, racecars, tools, and work benches.
These small encouragements to conform to gender stereotypes are slowly pushed upon us. They influence our character, our decisions, and our career choices.
The following chart outlines the top 5 US occupations based on gender:
Popular career choices for women really shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise. The roles that we are fed as children, through social norms and popular culture shape us as adults. Women are more likely to take on a career as a helper or care giver, where men are more likely to engage in more tactile work.
It’s Time to Change
Skilled trades are the most in demand jobs in the US, and its forecasted that it will only get harder to fill these positions. Currently, women represent about 3% of the trades population. If we want to combat the skills shortage, it’s time to consider changing our approach right from the get-go.
Let’s encourage our daughters to help build the future. Instead of handing them mops and buckets, let’s offer them Lego or building sets. Let’s teach them how to make a birdhouse, how to change a tire, how to hang a door. Let’s empower the girls of today to become the tradeswomen of tomorrow.