The Journal Gazette
Thursday, December 12, 2019 1:00 am

Women making inroads in trades

21% rise in manufacturing, construction jobs over past decade, region report says

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

You might find more northeast Indiana women wearing safety goggles and hard hats on the job with increasing gender diversity in the traditionally male-dominated fields of manufacturing and construction.

Northeast Indiana Works released figures Wednesday showing the number of women in manufacturing in northeast Indiana rose from 20,690 in 2011 to 25,055 in 2018 – up 21.1%. Women's share of the total region manufacturing workforce increased from 28.7% to 29.7%, the workforce development organization for an 11-county region reported.

The number of women in construction in northeast Indiana grew from 1,714 in 2011 to 2,205 in 2018 – a 28.6% increase. Women's share of the total region construction workforce increased from 12.6% to 13.6%.

The figures are based on data from the Quarterly Workforce Indicators from the U.S. Census Bureau, 3rd Quarter Comparisons. The year 2011 was chosen as the starting point because that's when the recession's impact on employment began easing, a news release said.

Edmond O'Neal, Northeast Indiana Works president, said several factors may have contributed to the increase, including the potential for higher pay than some other jobs and employers reaching out to diversify workforces. Also, technology advances have made some manufacturing and construction jobs less labor intensive.

Mike Avila, director of the Northeast Indiana Construction Alliance, said the increasing numbers are a tribute to “getting the word out that those careers are available and they're open to everyone. ...”

“There is a lot more opportunity and demand for people to enter the workforce,” Avila said in a brief telephone interview. “If workers can come in and get trained, there's definitely opportunities for them.”

Megan L. Crites is founder of the local Nontraditional Employment for Women Workshop, a networking initiative for high school students. She called the increase in numbers a step in the right direction, but not necessarily at an impressive rate.

“One percent growth in the total region workforce share for women in seven years looks like a rain drop in an ocean,” Crites, a senior associate with MKM architecture + design in Fort Wayne, said through email. 

Giving consideration to various career options will help women with earning potential and career fulfillment.

“Intentional resourcing and workplace adaptation for all genders is and will need to continue to be at the forefront of all employers,” she said. 

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