Women Working

The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

It’s been nearly 30 years since “Men Working” signs have been prohibited as per the 1988 edition of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices — the manual that governs federally funded "road things." This was done in hopes of making more easily understandable messages using pictograms, not words, as the basis of road signs. In fact, the feds had originally started to phase out the signs 10 years prior in 1978, when they began to be replaced with an image of a little person working on the same orange, diamond-shaped sign.

So, I found it very interesting to come across a “Men Working” sign just last week in Washington, D.C. It was rather amusing to see there was, in fact, no work being done. I took a photo and posted it to one of my social media accounts with the caption, “I’m willing to bet that if women were working, it wouldn’t look like this!”

The tongue-and-cheek post of course drew some fun commentary from friends, but it also made me think, “Why are we still seeing these signs around?”

This isn’t meant to be a rant about sexism, but an honest question about marketing? In a climate where the industry is facing a work shortage, messaging is key to get a new generation excited about joining the workforce – in all sectors.

According to the 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, less than 10 percent of women account for the 9,813,000 people working in the construction industry. We can do better than that if we continue to encourage, inspire and applaud the women who chose to work in the industry.

In this month’s newsletter we share 100-year-old letters that demonstrate how far the female engineer has come. We learn about the Carhartt campaign aimed at applauding the hard-working women in the industry. And we invite women to apply for the Women of ASPE 2017 Technical Symposium Scholarship.

I am inspired by the women I meet at industry events who have worked in what’s been a male-dominated industry for 20+ years. They’ve not only stepped into an industry that wasn’t very welcoming at times, but they played their part in making it better for everyone involved. These women have worked, are working, and will continue to work because it’s what they want to do.

This month, I spoke to Mary Phelps, strategic accounts manager, health care leader, Sloan. She’s worked in the plumbing industry since 1984 and hasn’t let anything deter her success. You can read more about her journey here.

As always, my goal is to talk to leading women in the industry each month and share their stories, thoughts and insights. If you know a woman, or are a woman who should be featured, let me know.

If you know any other women in the industry who would benefit from receiving this newsletter, please forward this link to them. 

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