Electrician labor shortage exacerbated by lack of women in trades
The United States is facing a crucial labor shortage in the trades, and in particular in the field of electric work. The country needs to transition away from fossil fuels and towards electrifying cars and buildings to meet its climate goals, which will require the installation of solar panels, heat pumps, and electric vehicle charging stations. According to Rewiring America, an electrification non-profit, the US will need 1 million more electricians to meet these needs. However, the trades in general and electric work specifically are overwhelmingly male, with only 2% of electricians being women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Getting more women working as electricians would help resolve the labor shortage and close the gender wage gap.
The gender wage gap in the United States is a persistent issue. In 2021, the median annual pay for an electrician was just over $60,000, compared with about $45,000 for all occupations, according to the BLS. But some master electricians earn six-figure salaries. Closing the gender wage gap would provide more women with access to high-paying careers and help reduce income inequality.
There are several reasons why there aren’t enough electricians to meet demand, including a lack of investment in technical schools, a culture that emphasizes four-year college degrees as the main path to a successful career, and a lack of marketing to women. According to Allie Perez, a plumber and founder of Texas Women in the Trades, “We don’t do a good job marketing ourselves as an industry in general, but particularly with women.”
Barriers to more women in the industry include widespread harassment and abuse, lack of visibility, exclusionary unions, childcare, and a lack of support for caregivers. The culture at most construction companies is dominated by white male networks, which can make it difficult for women to find jobs or hear about available positions.
To address these challenges, several organizations are working to promote the trades as a viable career path for women. Texas Women in the Trades was founded in 2013 to help connect more young women with well-paid jobs that they might not have envisioned for themselves. The National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues is working to diversify the construction workforce by advocating for pre-apprenticeship programs, supportive services like childcare, and accessible human resources contacts. In 2009, the group successfully convinced state officials to invest $2 million in diversifying its highway construction workforce, which significantly improved retention rates.
There is still much work to be done to recruit more women into the trades, and electric work in particular. One strategy is to create apprenticeship programs specifically for women, which provide training and support to help them succeed in the industry. These programs can help address some of the barriers that women face in the trades, such as harassment and exclusionary unions. They can also provide a pathway for women to enter high-paying careers and help close the gender wage gap.
Another strategy is to increase investment in technical schools and promote the trades as a viable career path. This can help address the shortage of skilled workers in the trades and provide more opportunities for women to enter high-paying careers. The Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is expected to increase demand for electricians by creating incentives for Americans to electrify their homes and buy electric vehicles. This provides an opportunity to recruit more women into the industry and help the United States meet its climate goals.
The United States need 1 million more electricians to meet its climate goals, but the trades are overwhelmingly male, with only 2% of electricians being women. Recruiting more women into the industry would help resolve the labor shortage and close the gender wage gap. However, there are several barriers that prevent women from entering the trades, including harassment, exclusionary unions, and alack of support for caregivers. To address these challenges, organizations are working to promote the trades as a viable career path for women by creating apprenticeship programs specifically for women, increasing investment in technical schools, and advocating for supportive services like childcare and accessible human resources contacts.
It is essential to address the systemic barriers that prevent women from pursuing careers in the trades, including electric work. By doing so, the industry can attract more talent and meet the growing demand for skilled workers. Additionally, creating a more diverse workforce in the trades can help close the gender wage gap and promote economic equality.
To achieve these goals, it is necessary to shift cultural attitudes and promote the trades as a viable and rewarding career path for women. This includes changing the perception that four-year college degrees are the only path to success, and promoting apprenticeship programs as an alternative to traditional education. It also involves creating inclusive and supportive workplaces that prioritize safety, equality, and respect for all workers.
In conclusion, recruiting more women into the electric work industry is crucial for meeting the United States' climate goals, resolving the labor shortage, and promoting economic equality. Organizations and policymakers must work together to address the systemic barriers preventing women from entering the trades and create a more diverse and inclusive workforce in the electric work industry. By doing so, we can build a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future for all.
More information: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/apr/20/us-electricians-shortage-recruit-women