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Women in Field Services

Trends, challenges and advice for women in field service industries

As recently as last year, women only made up around 31% of all employed persons across several sectors of the field service industry – janitorial and cleaning, physical security, pest control, landscaping and groundskeeping, electricians, pipelayers, plumbers and steamfitters, and HVAC mechanics and installers. 

In some sectors, women make up a scant 2% of total employed individuals in field service.

 

Percent of total employed, 2023
Total Employed Women
Janitors and building cleaners 2.2 million 38.7%
Maids and housekeeping cleaners 1.38 million 88.4%
Security guards 925,000 24.9%
Pest control workers 90,000 5.1%
Landscaping and groundskeeping workers (incl. tree trimmers, pruners, and other grounds maintenance workers) 1.25 million 10.3%
Electricians 959,000 2.9%
Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters 689,000 3.6%
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers 546,000 2.3%
Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics

What’s more, the margins of gender diversity grow even slimmer when looking at women in leadership roles in these same sectors. Even in sectors where female representation is historically stronger – particularly the janitorial and cleaning industries – percentages of women in leadership are lower than those of frontline workers.

 

Percent of total employed, 2023

Total Employed Women
First-line supervisors of housekeeping and janitorial workers 321,000 44.1%
First-line supervisors of landscaping, lawn service and groundskeeping workers 283,000 8%
First-line supervisors of security workers 71,000 22.5%
First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers and repairers 239,000 7.1%
Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics

This data paints a two-fold picture of challenges for field service companies hoping to diversify their workforce. First, there are known challenges in attracting and retaining women in field-based work – technicians, security officers, cleaners, etc. And, once there, women experience difficulties moving up the ladder – putting the pipeline potential of women entering certain industries at risk.

But what are the reasons behind these numbers? 

The truth is, that there could be many contributing factors that are creating barriers for women in field service – both external and internal. While no two field service companies operate in quite the same way, WorkWave’s Chief Customer Experience Officer, Jill Davie, spoke with several leaders across the field service industry to discuss the challenges women face in each of their verticals, respectively. Then, they offered advice on how women can forge a successful path in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

The Challenge: Gender bias, stereotypes and respect 

Gaining respect – particularly from male colleagues – is a critical factor for women across field service industries. Historically, women have reported facing skepticism about their abilities, ideas, or experiences both in the field and in leadership roles. It’s important for women to be assertive, express opinions, and push back if needed. 

Building an environment of respect requires the support of allies across the organization to help foster a culture where women’s opinions, skills, and accomplishments are valued and recognized. The businesses that are able to achieve this will be able to reap the benefits of having access to different perspectives, strategies, and process improvements.

“One of the biggest benefits of having women in leadership roles is that it creates a space for more overall diversity within your business. When your organization becomes an advocate for different perspectives, mindsets and collaboration, the sky’s the limit.”

– Sharon Roebuck-McBride, Senior Executive Vice President, Triangle Home Services

The Challenge: The confidence gap

The female workforce is often plagued by something called “the confidence gap” – a psychological phenomenon where women generally feel less confident in their qualifications, skills, and potential than men. In typically male-dominated industries, this phenomenon can even be chalked up to the perception of the type of labor involved in a job and whether or not women can physically achieve the same outcomes as men on service routes or security patrols.

The first step in overcoming this is getting out of your own way. And while that may be easier said than done, it is a process that begins with continuous learning, the celebration of achievement, and the cultivation of a self-assured mindset. 

“Sometimes, we are our own biggest barrier. Once we get out of our own way, recognize that our skill sets matter — our opinions matter — that’s how we’ll begin to break these perceptions down.”

– Sharon Roebuck-McBride, Senior Executive Vice President, Triangle Home Services

The Challenge: Balancing a career – and personal life

Arguably one of the largest barriers for women in any workforce is the perception – imagined or not – that it is difficult to balance career and family or personal life. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this issue even further, where women in the workforce faced steeper job losses and slower recovery than men. Separate from job loss, some reports estimate that eight million working mothers scaled back or left jobs to accommodate family needs driven by the pandemic. 

To attract and retain a female workforce, it’s important to promote a business model that supports and accommodates the needs of personal lives.

“Women have a tendency to wear several hats, whether it’s at home or in business. It’s incredibly important to instill a culture of balance within your business structure, so they can continue to wear these hats if they choose. Your people will appreciate it, and it will pay off for you, too, because those employees will give back ten times more than you would ever imagine.”

– Sandi Mitchell, Branch Manager, Lawn Pride

Women in Field Service: Expert advice

These challenges are not insurmountable. Our panelists outlined some of the top tips they have for finding success as a woman in the field service industry – and for becoming a leader in your field. 

1. Build your own replacement

Most people are automatically wary of training someone to be able to step into their shoes, thinking that this may make them seem less valuable. Leaders in the industry disagree, arguing instead that this demonstrates leadership.


“If you’re interested in taking on an executive or management role, I really encourage you to build your own replacement. This makes you so much more attractive to executive teams potentially moving you up because you’ve created a strategic opening for yourself while also creating an opening for someone else – while ensuring you’ve taken proactive steps to make sure the needs of the company are covered.”

– Sharon Roebuck-McBride, Senior Executive Vice President, Triangle Home Services

2. Be vocal

The first step of moving up in your field is making it known that is your goal. As you’re interacting with your manager, tell them your motivations and how you can bring more value to the business. This also shows your willingness to continuously learn, improve processes, and move the needle. 

“Tell [your manager] your goals. Tell them you want to do more. I love hearing that from people who work with me – especially when they’re vocal about taking on a challenge. Your manager wants to hear that.”

– Jill Davie, Chief Customer Experience Officer, WorkWave

3. Find a mentor

Find a mentor with whom you can learn soft skills alongside your daily to-dos. Look for mentors everywhere. And remember, mentorships can turn into professional opportunities down the road. 

“We tend to look for mentors who are older than you, but I have found so many characteristics of leadership in younger demographics. Every person can give you a different perspective, and different insights. Inspiration and learning can come from anywhere.”

– Sandi Mitchell, Branch Manager, Lawn Pride

4. Develop your skills

It’s critical to practice what you’ve learned. Seek out feedback from your managers and your peers. Then, model what you’ve learned – skills and behavior – for the rest of your team. 

“Remember, this kind of learning doesn’t only happen on the job. You can become a better leader by practicing these skills outside of work, too – being vocal, being respectful, and looking for ways to improve. We are constantly learning in the service industries. Work on things daily – yearly.”

– Sharon Roebuck-McBride, Senior Executive Vice President, Triangle Home Services

5. Push back

Our expert panel has experienced forms of gender stereotyping, even in executive roles. Don’t be afraid to push back on tasks or conversations that seem inappropriate — and stop apologizing. 

“Don’t change who you are just to fit an environment. You may find yourself in situations where male or female, there are disparaging comments being made, and you don’t have to participate. Be mindful of these situations and the people around you. Being a role model in these situations is leadership in and of itself.”

– Sandi Mitchell, Branch Manager, Lawn Pride

Bonus: Tips for businesses to draw in more female applicants

1. Be visible

Because the industry is historically male-dominated, it can be difficult for some women to envision themselves in some industry roles. But perceptions can change.

“It’s so important to make women in the industry more visible. Especially for young girls to see women in the field, women in leadership – it helps them understand that it is a possible path for them.”

– Jill Davie, Chief Customer Experience Officer, WorkWave

2. Change your marketing

Adjust your job postings and ads to attract different demographics. Simple adjustments to job descriptions, such as Have the freedom to run your own schedule, Do you like to work outside? or Do you like to work independently? can draw in more female applicants. Once hired, word of mouth is huge, so don’t be afraid to leverage your existing team to help build your future team. 

3. Consider overall employment retention

Male or female, people sometimes aren’t a great fit for the role they were hired for. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your investment in their hiring.

“I started as a security officer as an after-school job. When I decided it wasn’t a great fit, I was ready to bring in my uniforms when someone in the company saw that I had some clerical experience. Instead of leaving, I was offered a job in the office.”

– Jenny Schoenfeld, Chief Operating Officer, ACT Security Group

4. Balance your business

Where possible, provide flexible work arrangements. While remote work arrangements may be difficult for field-based roles, there are creative options for attracting female job candidates. Flexible scheduling, parental leave policies, and even vocalizing how your business accommodates last-minute illness or daycare closures may increase interest among applicants. 

“We need both men and women in the industry. Everyone is important, no matter what your gender is, and women bring a different perspective to the table.”

Jenny Schoenfeld, Chief Operating Officer, ACT Security Group

Women in Field Services: The Panelists

Jill Davie, Chief Customer Experience Officer, WorkWave

Jenny Schoenfeld, Chief Operating Officer, ACT Security Group

Sandi Mitchell, Branch Manager, Lawn Pride

Sharon Roebuck-McBride, Senior Executive Vice President, Triangle Home Services 

Learn more from our expert panel

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Shayla Spradley
Shayla Spradley

Shayla started at WorkWave in the marketing department in August 2022. As Senior Product Marketing Manager for RealGreen by WorkWave, Shayla spends her days researching the lawn and landscape industry, strategizing go-to-market efforts, and building relationships with customers to better serve and communicate.