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  • Writer's pictureDonna Milgram

Empower Your Female Students to Tackle Heavy Work with Confidence!

Female and male STEM Students

Many CTE career pathways require heavy lifting: for example, automotive, diesel, construction, manufacturing, agricultural work, and law enforcement.

How do you prepare your female students for the physical demands of these jobs?

In the past I worked extensively with law enforcement agencies and one of the challenges was ensuring women could pass the physical agility test - which often included climbing over a 6-foot wall.

A Major City’s Police Training Academy Director says …

Here’s the good news: It’s not mostly about strength. It’s more about technique. We learned this from the director of a major city’s Police Training Academy. He had solutions of technique for every physical challenge an applicant could face.

A Petite Female Diesel Mechanic says …

Last year, a female diesel mechanic described to me what it’s like for her to change the massive tires on the trucks.

This is what she said:

“My biggest fear was the tires. “I’m 5 '6'' and 120 pounds. I'm very small, and the tires weigh much more than me. And that scared me in the beginning. I didn't know if I could handle it. I told my coworkers, I'll do anything, just don't give me the tires. And because I kept saying that, they kept giving me tires.

“And then I decided I was going to find a technique to lift the tires. It's all about your brain and how to maneuver things, how to lift things. You do not have to be a beast to do it. And now it's not a problem. But before, when I started, I would be going through two bottles of water. I was sweating. I would walk away. I would go hide in the bathroom for 30 minutes. I hated it. But now it's nothing. Nothing. It’s easy.”

The Four Most Important Ways to Prepare Female Students for Physically Demanding Careers

  1. Talk to women in the field who are petite. Find out what techniques they use. Teach the techniques to your students so they don’t have to figure it out themselves. Because some won’t figure it out on their own – they’ll drop out instead.

  2. Make sure your equipment fits women who are smaller in size than the average male. In the United States the average woman is 5’4” and the average male is 5’9”. In the Auto shop, that may mean recommending tools with longer handles or less power so they don’t create wear and tear on smaller wrists. It’s important to recommend tools that are ergonomic for the smaller size of women.

  3. Emphasize using the tools and equipment that help make doing these tasks safer and more manageable. This will help your male students too.

  4. Partner with a personal training program at your college - or a local gym - to craft a training regimen that targets strength in the areas needed by women for your career pathway. Make it a part of your curriculum, or offer it as an optional weekend workshop. It’s true that in general, women have less upper body strength than men. But according to studies conducted by the military, women can close the gap through physical conditioning. For example, when I helped the Albuquerque Fire Department go from 7 women to 14 women firefighters in one year, they partnered with local gyms to help prepare women for the 175-pound dummy drag in the Combat Challenge physical agility test. Targeted physical conditioning works.

Women Can Solve The Shortage of Skilled Technicians

There’s a shortage of skilled technicians in many industries in the United States. Women are in the single digits in these fields.

Women can solve this shortage. But they’ll do so only if the field becomes more welcoming to women. That includes taking into account their smaller average size.

Diversity and Inclusion does not just mean changing your mindset. It also means changing your classroom and the workplace to be more welcoming to smaller size women.

Not sure what else you should be doing?

The WomenTech Educators Training & Coaching System can help your school come up with a robust step-by-step recruitment and retention plan that will not only increase enrollment and retention of female students, it will improve male enrollment and retention as well.

My training schedule for 2024 is filling fast.

If you want more women in your classes in Fall 2024, make a time to talk with me now so I can help you reach your goals. I have only a few remaining calendar openings in November to discuss how your school can move the needle in 2024.

It’s not too late!



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