Guest opinion: Encourage girls to explore the trades

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Girl in Earth Mover
Girl in Earth Mover

By SAMANTHA DYCK

I was visiting my friend a few days ago when her young daughter approached me to play with her. Excited about the prospect of a playmate, she grabbed some toys, and shoved a child-sized pink broom into my hands. I was shocked as she barked out orders on how to properly clean the floor, as she used a foam squirt bottle-shaped cleaner on the windows. She’s a bossy 2 year old, so I didn’t put up a fight, but it really got me thinking.

NOT A WOMAN’S PLACE

It’s no wonder we hardly have any women in the trades. From a young age, girls are encouraged to engage in passive play. Before we have begun to use complete sentences, we are molded to be helpers, caretakers, housekeepers, and stereotypically “girly.” Think about popular girl toys: dolls to take care of, kitchen sets to play house and dress up clothes.

Comparatively, boys are encouraged to design, to construct, to demolish and to rebuild. Peruse the aisles of the “boy section” at your local toy store. The shelves will be lined with trucks, tractors, race cars, tools and work benches.

These small encouragements to conform to gender stereotypes are slowly pushed upon us. They influence our character, our decisions, and our career choices.

The following chart outlines the top 5 U.S. occupations based on gender:

Top-5-Occupations

Popular career choices for women really shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise. The roles that we are fed as children, through social norms and popular culture shape us as adults. Women are more likely to take on a career as a helper or caregiver, where men are more likely to engage in more tactile work.

IT’S TIME TO CHANGE

Skilled trades are the most in-demand jobs in the United States, and it’s forecasted that it will only get harder to fill these positions. Currently, women represent about 3 percent of the trades population. If we want to combat the skills shortage, it’s time to consider changing our approach right from the get-go.

Let’s encourage our daughters to help build the future. Instead of handing them mops and buckets, let’s offer them Lego or building sets. Let’s teach them how to make a birdhouse, how to change a tire and how to hang a door. Let’s empower the girls of today to become the tradeswomen of tomorrow.

(Samantha Dyck is a contributor to hardhathunter.com, a website geared to those who work within the trades and construction industry.)

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