According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) most recent data book on women in the labor force, it is a good time to be a female professional in the U.S.
In 2019, 57.4% of women in the U.S. participated in the labor force. This was up from 57.1% in 2018, but 2.6 percentage points below the peak of 60% in 1999. Today women make up about 47% of the overall labor force.
The tire and trucking industries have long been considered male dominated since women make up less than 25% of their workforce totals. According to the BLS, in 2019 only 14% of the tire manufacturing workforce were women, a decline from 17% in 2015. Only 12.8% of the workforce in the trucking industry were women.
While there hasn't been an increase in the female workforce in the tire and trucking industries, I would venture to say there has been a significant improvement in the positions they hold. In the 1970s and 1980s, you could walk into the headquarters of any tire maker or large trucking company and see loads of women filling position as secretaries (a.k.a. administrative assistants), clerks and keypunch operators. Department directors and upper management were all men.
Today, almost no one, with the exception of C-level executives, has a secretary, and keypunch operators are a thing of the past. Instead you see more women in research and development, marketing, sales, finance and as plant managers thanks to the educational opportunities they took advantage of and a concerted effort on the part of these companies to hire women for these positions and diversify their workforces.
The number of female new recruits has been rising. Some tire makers have R&D development training programs that work recent engineering and science graduates through different areas of R&D, production and marketing. Several have established internal networks that provide professional development, mentoring and networking opportunities to their women associates to help them thrive and succeed both personally and professionally. Those initiatives are paying off as companies that have diversity in their leadership tend to be more profitable, according to recent reports.
Tire dealerships are a male-dominated business segment, too. When we look at BLS data for the automotive parts, accessories and tire store sector workforce, women make up just 16.4% of the workforce. Only 1.5% of the heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians are women.
In the trucking industry, women account for only 23% of management positions. You will find more women in sales, marketing, finance and operations, but you will rarely see them in vehicle maintenance. In fact women make up only 1.5% of bus and truck diesel engine mechanics, according to the BLS data.
The shop floor can be a hostile place for women. Managers, technicians, visiting salesmen and other men can give women a helluva time if they want — and they often do. They can make a woman supervisor's life hell unless she learns to become as tough as they are. They can be equally hard on a woman turning a wrench or doing some other traditional, male task.