In much of the labor force women are the minority. In the pest control industry, finding a female technician or sales representative is no easy task. According to the United States Department of Labor, in 2011 only 3.7 percent of the employees working in pest control were women, easily categorizing this as a non-traditional occupation for women. Donna Milgram, executive director of the National Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science has spoken about the issue and offers valuable insight in regards to the situation.
Recruiting women in the pest control industry should be a key focus. It is also important for companies to encourage female referrals and promote current employees to refer their mothers, sisters, daughters, and female acquaintances. This is a benefit for all parties involved. The person that submits the referral is most likely awarded a sort of bonus for referring a qualified employee. The applicant is introduced into the job having an ally or mentor to help her be successful. Lastly, the company earns a well-equipped employee for the job. Some other techniques that Milgram encourages to attract female employees include:
- Online advertising, posters, and flyers – having women testimonials, photos, and examples, along with key words and phrases.
- Company web page specifically geared towards women – including content on why and how pest management is a good market for female employees, message from the CEO, and highlights on some of the top female professionals in the company.
- FAQ sheet – that answers female friendly questions such as: What happens if I become pregnant? Is it safe to work with pesticides? Will I require training?
- Press Release – describing the woman’s role in the company. Include photos and testimonials from female techs and sales reps.
- Educational programs – meeting with advocates for high schools, colleges, and vocational programs can also help recruit.
A general technique that could be used to entice women is to focus on “the people.” “What appeals to a lot of females is helping someone,” explains Milgram. Anything that promotes care, building the home, and interacting with others pulls at a woman’s intuition.
On this note, promoting the technicians flexible work schedule would be a great incentive for women. Most companies allow techs to build their own routes as long as they service a certain amount of clients per week. This is a very appealing quality for a working mom and provider.
Some of the obstacles that pest control employers may face when hiring women are the “ick” factor and safety concerns. Tackling the “ick” problem is difficult, but having female testimonials is a great way to diminish it. Women also worry about their health and safety, especially when they are in their child-bearing years. The company should focus on using environmentally friendly IPM techniques and properly communicating their safety procedures and policies.
Another obstacle companies face is attracting younger females. Companies should promote pregnancy related policies that younger women are likely to be drawn to. Milgram says, “By law, you are required to treat pregnancy as a disability.” Companies may look to change the woman’s task to something more light duty or give her time off.
Countering the idea that a female cannot keep up with the physical demands of the job is also a struggle in the industry. Carts can be provided for moving the 30-pound backpack sprayers. They can also only be partially filled and just reloaded more often.
“Whenever a woman is in a male-dominated industry, it’s not unusual for male workers to initially be reticent,” states Milgram. Companies should take initiative in the following ways to retain female employees:
- Openly supporting female technicians
- Relaying to current workers that new employees must be welcomed
- Having a zero-tolerance policy on any type of harassment; no matter how minimal
- Communicating company policy through staff meetings and internal newsletters
These things are essential in helping a woman feel comfortable in a male-dominated work environment. Actively promoting the employment of women in the industry can be difficult, but important. Milgram states, “I think that if pest management companies market the job so that it appeals to women’s interests, there will be a lot of women interested in the job.”