- Occupations like carpentry, construction, truck driving and automotive services remain some of the most male-dominated.
- Some industries are so overwhelmingly male, it's hard for researchers to calculate wages women in these fields make.
- Mentorship, networking and other changes can bring more women into these industries.
Asia and Mahogany Scroggins make a good team.
They’re 23-year-old twin sisters who work as truck drivers for Tyson Foods, sharing a truck on cross-country hauls. Asia drives at night while Mahogany takes the day shift. Their father, a driver himself, inspired their career path.
“At first, our mom was very nervous about us becoming drivers,” Mahogany says. “You have to be emotionally strong, because you’re away from your family and friends. You basically have to accept in your mind: ‘I’m a professional driver. I’m going to be here.’”
Trucking, after all, is grueling work: long shifts, night hours and lots of solitary work. It’s also a traditionally male-dominated industry — according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, less than 5% of truck drivers are female.
Occupations like carpentry, construction and automotive services are also among some of the most male-dominated jobs. In these roles, there are sometimes so few women workers, researchers are unable to estimate women’s median weekly earnings, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
The power of images
Because of socialized ideas about “men’s work” and “women’s work,” some women will never be exposed to traditionally masculine careers.
Even something as seemingly small as the images a company uses in its promotional materials can shape ideas about what work men and women are best suited to do.
For more women to get into these fields, they need to see more women doing the work, says Elizabeth Skidmore, organizer at the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.
“I think most girls growing up are not told ‘You could drive the big crane, you could drive a backhoe, you could be the ironworker hanging up in the sky putting skyscrapers together,’” Skidmore says. “Then in high school, the older girls get, the less someone is talking to them about this stuff, and so part of what we’re trying to do is get these images out there.”
Many women justifiably fear joining occupations that involve solo work or night hours, both of which make them vulnerable toward sexual harassment or predation, says Ariane Hegewisch, program director on employment and earnings at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
“You kind of have to go out on to the job to learn, which means you depend on the professionalism and respect of your mostly male coworkers,” Hegewisch says. “And unfortunately that is not always a given.”
The power of role models
When women join together to organize in unions and give their fellow female employees a voice, they can help to correct the unfair advantage men have when getting into the industry.
“They overcome the information deficit,” Hegewisch says. “In terms of construction or apprenticeship, often knowing how to get in and how to apply and when to apply, what type of questions you might get — it is a mystery in and of itself. Then, when women get into those programs, they network to help [other] women make it.”
Asia Scroggins apprenticed under a female truck driver who had been on the job for 40 years. She says this mentorship was critical in preparing her for the job.
“We talk almost every day,” Asia says. “I call her my Mama Bear, because she’s so feisty. The first thing she said when she met me was, ‘We may cry, we may laugh, but we’re going to make it through this.’”
And because Asia travels with her sister, the two work as a team to ensure each other’s safety and boost morale.
“Driving with my sister as a team member has brought us a lot closer,” Mahogany says. “When she goes into the truck stop, I’ll call her on FaceTime from the bed, to make sure she’s fine. When she stops, it’s midnight, 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. The first thing is, I want to make sure she’s safe — and the second thing is, I want to make sure she gets my Doritos. I need them in the morning.”
Working together, Asia and Mahogany say they’re excited to model what this occupation can look like for other women.
“More women will join this male-dominated industry if they just knew there’s people out here that care about them,” Mahogany says. “Every day, I meet at least one lady who is interested or she’s a driver and she’s saying ‘I’m glad to see you guys out here.’”