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Women and Skilled Careers in Transportation

Women in transportation jobs

About this Effort

Final Report: National Dialogue on Women in Blue Collar Transportation Careers

Women and men across the country and from all modes of transportation joined the conversation during the first National Dialogue focused Women in Blue Collar Transportation Careers held in 2011. Four themes emerged during this interactive and engaging discussion that focused on the image, recruitment, and retention of women in blue collar transportation careers:

  • Theme One:  Conduct outreach and awareness targeted for young women and girls about blue-collar transportation careers
  • Theme Two:  Introduce skills training for women in blue collar transportation careers.
  • Theme Three:  Create a healthy and respectful work environment that recognizes women in transportation industry.
  • Theme Four: Coordinate efforts across the transportation industry

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On June 3rd, representatives from over 25 national transportation organizations participated in the inaugural roundtable for women from a broad array of transportation fields, including women who drive trucks and buses, operate ships, trains and pipelines, build roads and bridges, and fix airplanes. Participants in the roundtable identified three key areas of focus for a national conversation: IMAGE, RECRUITMENT, and RETENTION of women in skilled trade related transportation careers.

During the meeting, Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood highlighted that women are an important part of our nation's transportation workforce and encouraged participants to work together to address the unique challenges that exist for women across the industry. In addition, Sara Manzano-Diaz, Director of the Women's Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor, provided an overarching picture of women working in America and the particular challenges faced by women in blue collar types of careers. These include a lack of information about opportunities for women, feelings of isolation for women working in male-dominated trades, and the limited availability of equipment sized for women.

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Challenges for Women in Blue-Collar Transportation Careers

The United States Department of Labor has identified five major barriers women face in apprenticeships and non-traditional occupations:

  • Lack of information: Many women simply do not know about the opportunities available in non-traditional occupations, nor the prerequisites, benefits and working conditions associated with them.
  • Difficult work culture: Women who do decide to pursue a career in a skilled trade often find the male-dominated work culture difficult to deal with. Women working in traditionally-male occupations may face issues like sexual harassment, gender discrimination and isolation at the job-site.
  • Lack a family support system: Many women simply do not have the family support system necessary when undertaking a difficult and physical job.
  • Lack basic skills: Many women and young girls have not been exposed to personal or educational experiences that give them the necessary prerequisite skills for an apprenticeship or non-traditional occupation.
  • Lack of reliable transportation and tools: Transportation and construction jobs often require workers to travel varied distances to get to job sites, and many lower-income women may lack access to a reliable car or other type of transportation.

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Opportunities for Women in Blue-Collar Transportation Careers

Though women currently only make up 15% of the transportation and material moving occupations, skilled transportation careers offer many opportunities for women to succeed:

  • There are over 13 million Americans currently employed in transportation-related jobs – and nearly half of that workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next ten years.
  • The development of new technologies and innovations in freight shipment tracking; air traffic management; highway, bridge, and pavement design; transportation planning; and transportation systems management will present opportunities to learn and apply new technical and management skills.
  • As the population continues to grow, concerns relating to highway capacity, congestion, land use and freight traffic will offer new opportunities for employment.

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Myth: Women won’t work in transportation because they are afraid of physically demanding or hands-on jobs where they might get dirty.
Fact:  Many women are capable of and enjoy physically demanding work and don’t mind getting dirty. Transportation careers give women the opportunity to derive satisfaction from a job well done while also being well paid.
Myth: Women can’t work in transportation because they have to be big and tall, muscular or mechanically-minded to succeed in the industry.
Fact: Employers in the transportation field often specifically look to hire women because they offer new perspectives and different leadership styles in the workplace. When given the opportunity to learn about how mechanical things work, and when women are given the appropriate sized tools and equipment, many women are able to achieve just as much success with them as men.
Myth: Women don’t want to work in transportation because they think those jobs are only for men.
Fact: As of May 2011, there were over 1.3 million women working in the transportation and warehouse industries across the United States, with another 886,000 women working in construction. Those women have already realized the benefits and job satisfaction that come from working in skilled, fast-paced, well-paying and fulfilling careers within the wide and varied field of transportation.
Myth: Women don’t want to work in transportation because they believe the only available jobs are low-paying, unskilled and offer no opportunities for career advancement.
Fact: Women working in these types of jobs generally earn more than women working in other more traditional types of careers, and they also have greater opportunities for advancement.
Myth: The only way to have a successful career in any field, including transportation, is to earn a college degree.
Fact: Transportation offers both women and men a wide variety of skilled professions that do not require a college education.

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Last updated: Wednesday, February 18, 2015