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Why are there so few women in skilled trades? Sexual harassment.

On Behalf of | Sep 1, 2022 | Employment Law

Work in skilled trades, such as electrical work, plumbing and construction, usually pays well and offers good benefits without requiring a college degree. Nevertheless, relatively few women choose to enter these fields.

What causes women to choose or avoid a particular job? According to one Canadian research sociologist, women’s choice of jobs partly reflects cultural expectations such as stereotypical gender roles. Lack of representation in a particular industry may influence women’s choices if they can’t see themselves in the role or observe female role models. Women may develop a lack of confidence in certain skills during their school years. Some of the choices are simply related to interest and preference.

Still, it is surprising that such desirable jobs as those found in the skilled trades are so deficient in women. A large part of the reason may be sexual harassment, which includes things like unwanted sexual attention, explicit rumors, catcalling or even assault.

Some tradespeople recently talked to researchers about their experiences at work and revealed that they knew women experienced “unsafe” interactions all too frequently. The women interviewed said that, although they had had positive experiences in many ways, they were frequently targeted by male coworkers.

The men who were interviewed were aware of the problem. One man was asked how he would feel if he had a sister or a daughter working in the trades. He admitted it would be terrifying. Nevertheless, he expressed reluctance to speak up about sexual harassment because he feared retaliation. He thought he could end up in trouble or miss out on future job opportunities if he did.

Sexual harassment is illegal at work

It’s extremely disappointing that an entire labor sector seems to be off-limits to women due to rampant sexual harassment. Women who brave the skilled trades may find themselves targeted – and they have rights to protect.

Sexual harassment, assault, rumors and other misconduct can make working seem impossible. It can have a concrete, negative effect on your job reputation, which can mean less-desirable assignments and lower pay. When workers complain, they often face retaliation. It has to stop.

If you’re in the skilled trades, speak up. If you fear retaliation, talk to an attorney.

Leigh Law Group represents workers in sexual harassment and retaliation cases across California.

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