Trades Myths Debunked: Women & Soft Skills

We’re back! Welcome to the latest episode of Trades Myths Debunked, where we pull back the curtain on prominent misconceptions about careers in skilled trades and manufacturing. While Gen Z is subject to the pervasive undercurrent of college-readiness in high school, we know that rewarding and high-paying opportunities abound in the trades. So, let’s buck some more stigmas! This time, we’ll look at women in trades and manufacturing.

There’s no room for women in the skilled trades.

When it comes to women in the trades, fallacies run rampant. From common vernacular such as “brotherhoods” to false stereotypes about the physical strength and skills (or lack thereof) women bring to the worksite, it’s no mystery how the perception that women can’t pursue trades careers came about. But let’s talk about the next generation. The women of Gen Z are already proving a force to be reckoned with. As we saw in our BridgeWorks 3G Report, 90% of Gen Z want to see more female leaders in the workforce. From the workplace to the marketplace, they’re showing up, values in tow, expecting opportunities and treatment equal to that of their male counterparts. So, when it comes to the male-dominated skilled trades, is there room at the table?

The fact of the matter is: there’s plenty of room. Acres, really. And in the face of a massive labor shortage, it’s not a matter of “We desperately need people, so we might as well hire some women!” Rather, there’s a gap in labor that women alone can fill. A McKinsey Global Survey found that 72% of executives believe there is a direct connection between gender diversity and financial success in organizations. But why? What exactly is the value add that these executives are tapping into?

Soft skills are in.

There are many answers to that question, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll address one of the biggest: soft skills. As trades and manufacturing industries struggle with retention, there’s been an industry-spanning shift as organizations realize the power of emphasizing soft skills in all levels of their organizations—especially at the top. What are soft skills? It’s really a catch-all term for the social sensitivity and relational intelligence that encompass traits like empathy, intuition, and emotional intelligence. While certainly there are men with these skills out there, they tend to be more commonly developed and practiced by women. This is just one of the gaps in labor that women can uniquely fill, so look no further for your value add: hiring women to the trades and leveraging their skillset will boost your collective efficacy and organizational success.

Further, don’t be fooled into thinking Gen Z women will be the first to break into the trades. The history of women in the skilled trades is long. Rosie the Riveter was an iconic image for Traditionalists during their formative years, as her “We Can Do It!” message to get women into the workforce pervaded World War II America. It worked, and by 1945 one out of four married women had jobs. Assembly lines, welding, and aviation are just a few of the industries that were kept alive purely because women rolled up their sleeves, shook off the cultural stigmas, and took a seat at the skilled trades table.

Consider this myth debunked; there is indeed room for women in trades and manufacturing. Not only that, but there’s a need for female employees and leaders. And Gen Z approaches the workplace with the expectation that you already know and embrace this. Take it upon yourself to spread the word and empower the women you know to pursue the careers they’re genuinely interested in, even if those careers are in spaces that are primarily male-dominated. Hand-in-hand, gender and generational diversity have the power to impact your organization and the industry for the better.