Change seems to be slow in coming for women in the utilities industry. The stats show that the gender gap is alive and well in this male-dominated field. Seems many men have forgotten just how indispensable women can be in blue collar roles. One only has to read about the thousands of women who took over building the nation’s arms in factories from New York to California during WWII.
Yes, there are hopeful signs as increasing ranks of women are becoming linemen, power generation engineers and breaking into management posts at many of today’s nuclear, wind and solar firms. But the change is slow and fraught with company politics.
According to 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, women in the utilities industry accounted for less than 22 percent of the workforce. Equally disappointing were the results compiled by a 2010 Catalyst Census, which revealed that only 22.6 percent of women occupied senior financial officer posts; just 11.8 percent held executive officer positions; and only 16.8 percent filled utilities board seats.
The shifting tide in the US labor force saw some gains for women in general occupations over the last few decades. But women continue to be overpopulate clerical, service, and health occupations, while men maintain their dominance in craft, operator, and laborer jobs, including the utilities industry.
The male-dominated utilities industry continues to pose challenges for women’s advancement. Recent research has revealed that this industry can be driven by male biases when it comes to promotion, assignments and career advancement. Senior supervisors and managers can often influence who gets hired and where they are placed. These stereotypes can affect the productivity and morale of a team that has growing numbers of women workers. It denies advancement to those who may demonstrate superior skills and knowledge. And it prevents truly qualified women workers from entering the field because of the perception of gender inequality.
The multi-prong approach to helping more women enter the utilities industry has been echoed by professional women’s groups nationwide. This approach includes:
- Providing women with the leadership and technical skill sets they need to succeed in this growing industry.
- Growing future female leaders from within the energy industry. The includes creating a climate for in-person networking.
- Garnering the support of utility corporations, organizations, foundations, and individuals eager to see more women enter the field.
- Expanding women’s leadership roles in renewable energy sectors like wind and solar.
- Offering job training and development opportunities for women by increasing access to state-sponsored jobs programs and those sponsored by equipment manufacturers.
- Encouraging more women to join groups like Women in Nuclear Global, which support the careers of women in the nuclear utilities industry
For women considering a career in the utilities industry, networking with those already inside and acquiring technical skill sets will go a long way to ensure success.