Hiring Women for Dirty Jobs
In the 1930’s, Delia Copley was the first woman to become a licensed pest control operator in North Carolina.
In 2017, service-based industries like pest control, lawn care, or HVAC are often perceived as a boys’ club, especially when it comes to technician positions. Women tend to be drawn to managerial or supportive office roles, working as customer service liaisons, sales staff, marketing specialists, or human resource representatives - but are often discouraged from pursuing roles in the field.
These “dirty jobs” are vulnerable to masculine stereotypes that make it even more difficult for women to excel. According to the US Department of Labor, of approximately 79,000 pest control workers in 2016, only 3.25% were women.
In our eBook “The Definitive Guide to Hiring and Retaining Pest Control Technicians,” we explored some of the reasons that pest control owners should diversify their teams to include female technicians. Women tend to outshine men when it comes to communication and building relationships, which can be a strong asset in customer-focused field work.
But simply deciding that you’d be open to hiring women isn’t enough. There are a number of factors that prevent or discourage women from pursuing jobs as service technicians, including gender stereotypes, hiring bias, and lack of opportunity.
How can business owners in the pest control or HVAC industries combat these stigmas and create opportunities for female technicians?
Focus On The Mission
People who work in pest control rarely do it because they have a specific passion for killing bugs. People in HVAC don’t go into the field for the exciting task of installing ventilation. Yet many business owners assume that women won’t be interested in the hands-on work technician jobs provide purely because of the subject matter.
At their core, these service industries revolve around the concept of problem solving and bringing relief to homeowners. A technician job is ideal for anyone who likes to interact with customers, share their expert knowledge, and help people feel comfortable in their homes.
Focus on the impact a pest control technician can have in the lives of their customers instead of focusing on the bugs!
Highlight Your Training Program
Studies have shown that on average, men will apply for a job as long as they meet 60% of the qualifications. Women, on the other hand, are less likely to apply for a job unless they meet 90-100% of the qualifications.
This can lead to a disconnect for technician positions that don’t always have a clear path to entry.
If you’re willing to provide on-the-job training and help an entry-level technician get the proper licensing and certification, make sure that is clear on your job posting. If there are soft skills that matter more to you than 3-5 years of experience, include that.
Being straightforward about which qualifications are absolutely necessary (a clean driving record, a clean drug test, strong problem-solving skills) and which ones are preferred (experience in a customer-facing role, ability to drive a manual transmission vehicle) can make it easier for applicants to see how they stack up.
Ironically, because there are so few women currently working in technician roles, it can be difficult for women to picture themselves working as pest control or HVAC technicians. (We couldn’t even find a stock photo of one!) This means that many of them miss out on great opportunities simply because they aren’t specifically searching for jobs within these industries.
Discriminating by gender is illegal - so you can’t just tag an opening “for women only.” How can you be sure you’re getting your job posting in front of an audience of women?
iRelaunch is a popular resource for women looking to return to the workforce after taking time off to raise children. Look for career fairs in your area that draw a large number of female job seekers, or post openings to job boards like Maybrooks and Women For Hire.
You might also consider building relationships with technical colleges, trade schools and high schools in the area. Attending career fairs regularly, participating in job shadow opportunities, and supporting school clubs focused on the professional advancement of women could be the way you meet your next top performer.
In an ideal world, a technician who is a woman would be shown the same respect as a man from the moment she shows up at a customer’s door to when she parks her truck at the end of the day.
In the real world, women in service-based industries often find they have to work harder to experience the same levels of respect as men doing the same job. In a 2015 survey by Insight Pest Solutions, several female industry experts noted experience with customers and coworkers questioning their understanding of the task at hand or their physical ability to do the job. They also experienced inappropriate comments or harassment while working in the field.
Your job is to make sure that all of your technicians feel safe at work. Make it a priority to check in with them regularly, and ask what you could be doing to better support them. Evaluate your team and consider if workplace diversity training would help. Above all, set a good example for your team by being inclusive and setting expectations for mutual respect.
Pave the Way
Paving the way for diverse talent on your team doesn’t have to be difficult. Look for problems you might encounter- but don’t stop there! Take the time to anticipate the challenges the first woman on your team might face, and then brainstorm solutions.
Worried that if you hire a woman as a pest technician, she won’t be able to carry a backpack sprayer? You may never have considered that your equipment and infrastructure is suited to men by default. Buy a smaller backpack or invest in a canister on wheels.
Concerned that a female hire won’t be able to lift a compressor? She’s probably stronger than you think - so don’t make assumptions. Invest in a motorized compressor lift or discuss her interest in a route with more inspection and repair work instead of back to back installation jobs.
Services like pest control, lawn care, and HVAC are in increasingly high demand. With many professionals retiring from the workforce in the next ten years, service-based industries need to attract a more diverse workforce in order to survive. By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to building your best team.
Looking for a people management system that can streamline your hiring process, onboarding, and team training - so you can spend more time creating opportunities for women on your team and paving the way for girls who will contribute to these industries in the future? Find out how Forgely can help.