We’re living in the year 2020. Field service technicians are no longer just guys who fix things. Yes, they still fix things, but they aren’t just guys, or at least, they shouldn’t be. Nevertheless, the next time a tech greets you, odds are extremely high it will be a man.
Women now comprise slightly less than half of all working adults, yet they make up less than 4 percent of all service technicians. Even nursing is more diverse! Look around the car dealer service area, and the ratio is worse: about 1:50. For HVAC, forget about it! Fewer than 1 percent of those techs are women.
Reasons for male domination in the field service industry vary. Field service jobs are still regarded by many as manual, blue-collar jobs. For the most part, that’s not true, but the stigma remains. Most field service jobs require modern-day skills, such as critical thinking, and varying levels of computer science and/or IT proficiency.
But despite 56 percent of U.S. women holding college degrees, only 18 percent earn computer science degrees, only 28% of them work in science and engineering, and only 1 in 4 work in IT. Even when management “gets it,” and your company prioritizes diversity and the inclusion of women, it’s slim pickings out there.
Making matters worse: Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce, unemployment is at historic lows, and the competition for skilled workers is escalating. Finding a solution isn’t easy, and many companies insist on taking a naive, cursory approach: “We’re an Equal Opportunity Employer” displayed on a job listing doesn’t fool anyone. Diversity and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords.
Establishing an inclusive culture requires a certain progressive mindset—and field service as an industry often seems stuck in the past. It’s still seen as a “boy’s club” because it is. You don’t get 96 percent male participation without some sort of inherent bias, even if it is unintentional.
So what can your company do to change things? The first step is easy:
Commit to Welcoming Women Into Your Workplace
That takes more than rewriting your mission statement and displaying a smiling female worker torquing a wrench on the header of your website. Attempts to attract more female workers won’t succeed as long as any type of sexist behavior is still tolerated on the job. Policies and codes of conduct should be changed to reflect as much.
Field service is already at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting female workers. By not drawing more women into your hiring process, you eliminate more than half the labor pool. And since women hold more college degrees than men, turning away female candidates is not a very effective recruitment strategy. Once you understand that hiring more female technicians is essential for business survival, you can take the following steps to attract and hire more qualified field service technicians.
Build Your Employment Brand
Launching a new marketing message, purchasing a new applicant tracking system, or redesigning your career page is not enough to comprise an effective strategy. They are merely tools to help HR execute on management’s plans.
Top talent has choices. So do students in STEM fields that may be considering the service industry. Skilled field service technicians already have jobs, and students are being courted by other industries needing STEM workers. Both current and future workers seek better opportunities, not just a job with a paycheck. This is doubly true for female workers who don’t want to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Field service jobs offer many desirable perks, like flexible work schedules. But modern candidates want more than perks. They want fairness. Ask: Is your culture gender-friendly? What do other female candidates and employees say about the experience? Do you even have any women who review the workplace environment or hiring process?
Focus on Competencies
Experience, degrees, and certifications are important, but often, job requirements that limit hiring to workers with X years of experience or an X-year degree lead to “up-credentialing.” This eliminates a number of qualified workers from consideration.
Besides, minimum requirements like these are impossible for young, high-potential workers to meet, which depletes an already-scarce pool of talent. Instead of focusing on years of experience alone, seek candidates with highly desirable competencies. These should include critical thinking, collaboration, customer focus, and communication, as well as non-traditional traits like having a growth mindset and empathy.
Eliminate Gender Bias From Hiring Procedures
It’s not just your employment brand and culture that might need a makeover. Hiring bias is subtle. If you want to recruit more female candidates, a good place to start is your job description and job application. Research has found that 70% of job description gender bias can be removed by replacing just seven “masculine-coded” words: strong, drive, lead, analysis, individuals, decisions, and competitive. (You can find replacements here.)
Now let’s say you’re successful, and applications start flowing. The very first piece of information required from a candidate is… drum roll, please… a name. What does that do? It immediately injects unconscious bias into screening. Names don’t help qualify or disqualify candidates, so why ask for them first? No company wants to admit its people hold prejudiced views, but we all do. That’s why they call it unconscious bias.
This year, make it a resolution to transform the way you hire and aim to be more inclusive—it’ll only make your business stronger.