This reliance on the power of electricity means that electricians are always wanted and in high demand too. After all, people will always call upon skilled workers with the right knowledge and experience to ensure that something so important continues to run smoothly and without any hiccups. Being an electrician is one of the foremost trades in that sense and a lucrative occupation, all things considered.
However, not many women tend to pursue a career in this area. According to a NY Times piece which you can read here, only 2.4 percent of all electricians are female, and as the same article alludes to, this is because of perceptions, stereotypes, and challenges that all stand in the way. However, this trend is slowly changing, as the following video explains –
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Stereotypes that Prevent Women from Becoming Electricians
While it is great to see students like Nicole (video above) looking to pursue an education program after passing out of high school that will enable her to become a professional in her chosen career, not everyone perceives the job of an electrician as a girl or female-oriented one. Here are some of the reasons why:
- A Man’s World: This field is seen as a one that’s suited for a man, and therefore dominated by men. But something has got to give. You can’t expect to see more women in the area until you, as a woman, decide to make a career as an electrician.
- A Physically Taxing Job: Yes, the electrical field is one that requires a hands-on approach, it isn’t too much for the average woman to handle in terms of the physical aspect. Anyone, regardless of their gender, can do what’s required day in and day out as part of this particular trade. And the more you work, the fitter and more adept you will get at your jobs as an electrician.
- More Practical, Less Analytical: Another misconception that deters potential women electricians is the idea that this vocation is all about physical work and doesn’t challenge you intellectually. However, this trade is a highly technical one and requires an analytical bent of mind.
- Physical Shortcomings: Some women tend to think that the typically larger male physique is more suited to this kind of job. However, while this may hold true in a more physical field like construction, it doesn’t really apply to electricians. In fact, the latter have to work in tight and enclosed spaces sometimes, and men might find it difficult to fit into these tight spots so women would be able to do a better job of it and help finish a task that would otherwise prove challenging.
- While all the points mentioned above are just stereotypes, there are certain issues that female electricians do experience out on the field. These may not be common experiences but are still worth mentioning as you should take everything into consideration when judging whether or not a certain vocation is right for you.
Issues Faced by Women Electricians
- Excessive Attention: Because there aren’t a lot of ladies out there in this space, you will stand out and attract more attention than the men working in your crew. You just have to make sure that you don’t get distracted by this attention and focus on your task.
- Skepticism: People outside of your crew may appear skeptical about your skills based on your gender, sometimes this may happen even if you are a part of a team of professionals who work on a site together, and you have put the time in, have the experience you need to do your work, and know the industry inside out. You cannot back down in this situation and with the support of your crew, you need to assert your expertise and take charge of the situation.
- Romantic Advances: Just like any other field where men and women work together you will hear stories of men trying to woo their colleagues at work. This is something that you have to deal with the way you see fit. Many women find love at the workplace while others may ignore their male colleague’s advances and keep every part of their focus trained on the work at hand. As long as you don’t really let it affect your work and follow all the company policies and directives set out by HR this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Still, if you face excessive unwanted attention, you can take the help of your HR and even the union if you need it.
- Favoritism: From time to time, men may feel the need to help you, or your supervisor at the site may want to treat you differently from the rest of your crew. This may ruffle a few feathers and get your team riled up. So, make sure that you discourage any signs of favoritism right at the start, and tell said supervisor that you don’t wish to be treated any differently than your male counterparts.
How to Become an Apprentice
The primary step in the path to becoming an electrician is to get your education. You can either enroll in an Associate Degree in Electrical Technology program, which can be completed in a one-and-a-half-year time period or a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Technology, which takes twice the amount of time to complete. Both degrees require a high school diploma to qualify and provide you with the grounding and knowledge to take the next step.
Alternatively, you could also seek out an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship is a four-year or five-year on-the-job training program that puts you straight in the industry as an electrician’s assistant. As an apprentice, the learning is less holistic but more field-oriented, with only a small portion of your education taking place in a school or classroom setting. That said, the time frame required to complete an apprenticeship program is longer than a degree course. The requirements for new female electrician apprenticeships are as follows –
- The minimum age of 18 years
- A high school diploma or GED equivalent
- Have the physical capabilities to carry out your tasks?
- Pass a test for color blindness to ensure you don’t get your wires crossed
- Clear a drug test
- Share your driver’s record
- Pass a math assessment
- Sit for an interview
You may find that the requirements for an apprentice mentioned here may change from state to state. Whether you are going for formal education from a school or for an apprenticeship program instead, you will still have to put many hours of work in and get started at the bottom of the ladder.
Responsibilities of a Female Electrician
Female electricians’ jobs, much like those of their male counterparts, are interesting, fun, and very practical in nature. The tasks performed by specific workers will differ based on the specializations they serve, the things that the clients need, the nature of the tasks they have to perform, and the like. Here’s a quick rundown of what duties they perform –
- Interpret blueprints, circuit diagrams, and other documents
- Plan electrical wiring layouts and installations
- Install and maintain motors and switchboards
- Connect and test equipment and appliances
- Inspect and troubleshoot circuit breakers, transformers, and other components
- Understand local codes and ensure that every task follows these regulations
- Give simple explanations for tasks and work involved to the clients and answer any questions that are asked by them. This even includes explaining electrical work and requirements to clients in layman’s terms
Female Electrician Jobs and Career Progress
It isn’t difficult to find good work for women in this field. As we said earlier, the demand is there, so you should really be able to get work that you want and like without too much effort. If you enroll in a degree program, there are placement options available, and many other means by which institutes offer help to ensure something good comes your way in terms of employment opportunities. Take a look at the positions you would be eligible for as part of your career –
- On-site Electrician
- Inside Wireman
- Outside Lineman
- Project manager
- Residential Wireman
- Installation Technician
- Facilities Technician
- Maintenance Electrician
Edith Clarke – America’s First and Most Famous Female Electrician
Edith Clarke is one of the most popular women in this field from the past, and still one of the most well-known people and the inspiration for many women aspiring to enter this industry even today. In a time where women were seen as family-oriented and dedicated to their kids as their primary duty, Clarke made a name for herself as the first female electrician in US history.
She also managed to get the distinction as the first woman to graduate MIT for this field. She later made and patented an early version of the graphing calculator, a brand-new innovation that could and did make life much easier for engineers of the era and is still in use today. She also won numerous awards, authored books, and papers on the field, and won one or two major awards in her time. Clarke paved the way and was able to blaze a trail that would make things better for women who wanted to enter this space and she was also able to share her knowledge and experience as an educator in her later life.
When asked about her vocation, Edith Clarke had this to say, “There is no demand for women engineers, as such, as there are for women doctors; but there’s always a demand for anyone who can do a good piece of work.” We need to share the same attitude when the question of ‘can women be electricians?’ arises even today. If you truly love what you do, perceived gender roles shouldn’t stand in your way. Find out more about our admissions overview to enroll in a new program today.
Here are some answers to the frequently asked questions regarding this vocation –
What are the highest paid electricians?
According to a previous report, the electrical power line installers and repairers were the highest paid electricians with an average salary of $63,090 in 2015. In the coming years, electricians who can perform tasks like electronic systems repair, industrial component wiring, and solar photovoltaic installation are likely to have the best job opportunities. According to BLS, in 2019, the median electrician salary was $56,180 annually – well above the national median of $39,810. Also, electricians employed in the government sector earned more than any other industrial sector that employed electricians.
What does it mean to be an electrician?
You can read all about this in our detailed piece on the roles and responsibilities of this vocation