15. Garbage and recycling collectors

Two garbage men working together on emptying dustbins for trash removal with truck loading waste and trash bin.
M2020 / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 7.6%
  • Median annual salary: $37,260

The U.S. produces around 12% of the planet’s waste each year — some 239 million metric tons — and employs some 99,000 people to pick it up from your curb.

Only about 7,500 of these workers are women, however.

The lack of women may be a holdover from the days before automated trucks, when all trash cans had to be lifted by hand, the trade publication MSW Management speculates. Since brawn is much less important today, the discrepancy may also be a result of poor recruitment efforts and a historical aversion to “dirty” jobs.

But dirt isn’t the only reason to avoid this line of work. Garbage collectors work year-round, regardless of weather conditions, and the profession is considered one of the most dangerous in the U.S., with around 35 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers in 2019.

14. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers

Italy, female pilot in an airplane's cockpit
Angelo Giampiccolo / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 7.5%
  • Median annual salary: $147,220

Women make up a tiny fraction of the aviation industry — besides flight attendants — and one factor impeding their careers from taking off is a lack of accommodation for pregnant and nursing employees.

Most major airlines force pregnant pilots to take unpaid leave months before their due date, The New York Times reports. Pilots are excluded from provisions in the Affordable Care Act that ensure employers accommodate new mothers, the paper adds, and airlines typically don’t offer paid maternity leave or alternative “ground” assignments for breast-feeding moms.

Workers have filed complaints against companies like Frontier and Delta, alleging discrimination against pregnant staff and a lack of adequate facilities for lactating women. Delta has made more accommodations and settled some complaints, while Frontier has denied claims of discrimination and argued that pumping breaks away from the cockpit raise safety issues.

13. Surveying and mapping technicians

Male worker survey camera inspection visual pipeline oil and gas steam pipeline industry
noomcpk / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 6.8%
  • Median annual salary: $45,010

Women make up less than 7% of surveying and mapping technicians in the U.S. — a slow-growth field that doesn’t require much education.

While most surveying technicians need to work outdoors in sometimes rugged terrain, mapping technicians typically use information from databases to produce maps. Surveying technicians only require a high school diploma, while mapping technicians may need additional training in some technology applications.

Women account for at least 57% of college students, if not more, so they may be more likely to pursue careers that put those degrees to use (or pay well enough to get rid of those brutal student loans).

12. Delivery workers and truck drivers

African American female courier driving delivery van in the city.
Drazen Zigic / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 6.7%
  • Median annual salary: $32,020

More than 3.5 million people work as truckers and delivery drivers to satisfy America’s voracious appetite for stuff, whether that’s a shipment of new iPhones or a pizza off DoorDash.

A fair number of women are making money in the gig economy as delivery drivers, but the trucking trade is dominated by middle-aged men.

That industry is experiencing a labor shortage, partially because the trucker lifestyle is associated with poor health and a challenging work-life balance. Long-haul drivers tend to get little sleep, exercise and fresh food.

The road can also be a dangerous workplace. Around 1 in 5 workers fatally injured in 2019 were employed as a driver/sales worker or truck driver, the BLS reports. And although some data suggests female truck drivers are less likely to get into accidents, few companies target women in their recruitment efforts.

11. Pest control workers

Pest Control Worker Hand Holding Sprayer For Spraying Pesticides in production or manufacturing factory
DuxX / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 6.7%
  • Median annual salary: $37,330

More women are being drawn to the bug extermination business due to the stability and flexible hours, The Guardian reports. However, women still make up less than 7% of the workforce.

Women working in the field say they do face sexism and stereotyping. However, one entomologist told the newspaper that most women simply aren’t aware that a career in pest control or entomology is even an option. (Some modern jobs boards use artificial intelligence to match your skills to jobs you’ve never considered.)

While pest control is a growing field, workers earn less than $18 an hour. Exterminators are also at risk of exposure to the pesticides they use and sometimes have to move furniture and carry heavy loads.

10. Mechanical engineers

At the Factory: Female Mechanical Engineer Designs 3D Engine on Her Personal Computer. In the Background Male Automation Engineer who Uses Laptop for Programming Robotic Arm.
Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 6.6%
  • Median annual salary: $88,430

The Harvard Business Review calls engineering “the most male-dominated field in STEM” — and this field of engineering fares the worst when it comes to equal representation between the sexes.

Overall, women represent less than 16% of architecture and engineering occupations, with slightly higher numbers for non-naval architects and industrial engineers, drafters and computer hardware engineers.

Although women make up a fifth of engineering graduates, almost 40% either quit or never actually enter the profession. Some female students say the “hegemonic masculine culture” of engineering deterred them from pursuing a career in the field.

9. Groundskeepers

Male Groundskeeper Maintaining And Cleaning Outdoors Area Of Residential Garden After Raking Pruning And Trimming Plants.
Virrage Images / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 6.3%
  • Median annual salary: $30,890

Not all maintenance and cleaning jobs are dominated by men — the industry is 42% female, overall. However, the different occupations that make up the field are heavily split between the sexes.

While women comprise close to 90% of maids and housekeeping cleaners, almost 94% of grounds maintenance workers are men.

That has financial repercussions for the people who keep our homes, businesses and parks looking neat and tidy. The median salary for a groundskeeper is over $30,000, but a maid would only expect to earn $24,850. That makes it even tougher to save and invest for the future, although it's possible to start investing for free these days.

8. Various manufacturing and production roles

A young  man welder in brown uniform, welding mask and welders leathers, weld  metal  with a arc welding machine at the construction site, blue sparks fly to the sides
Everyonephoto Studio / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 3.7% to 7.5%
  • Median annual salary: $38,310 to $56,450

Women make up almost a third of the manufacturing workforce in the U.S., but their representation varies a lot depending on the job.

Some manufacturing and production roles that employ the smallest proportion of women include millwrights, machinists and welders. And men make up more than 96% of computer control programmers and operators — workers who set up machines to automatically cut and shape precision products, like automobile parts.

By comparison, about half the workforce in electrical, electronics and electromechanical assembly is made up of women. These skilled workers put together computers, electric motors, batteries, brakes, gyros and more.

7. Firefighters

Portrait of young woman firefighter standing near fire truck.
VAKS-Stock Agency / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 3.3%
  • Median annual salary: $50,850

The United States employs about 318,000 firefighters ready to leap into action at the sound of a bell, but they come from a narrow cross section of the population. Some 300,000 firefighters are men, and 276,000 are white.

Several fire departments told Harvard Business Review in 2018 that they’re trying to diversify, but women and people of color in the field said they face more barriers. Women in particular face skepticism from superiors and crewmates that they can handle the physical rigors of the job, even though the majority of calls are actually medical emergencies, not fires.

The problem extends to other protective services as well. Only one in 10 frontline police officers and detective supervisors are women.

6. Railroad conductors and yardmasters

The train conductor watching at the platform.
Apple Express Japan / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 2.4%
  • Median annual salary: $65,990

The transportation industry as a whole is grossly overpopulated by men — again, with the exception of flight attendants — with women making up little more than 18% of the total workforce.

Female railroad conductors and yardmasters are even more rare than pilots and truck drivers, at only 2.4%.

You’ll see fewer and fewer of them in the future, as railroads have been slashing their staff — the industry suffered more than 20,000 layoffs in 2019, and that was before the coronavirus reduced the demand for freight.

Mass layoffs have forced many Americans to rely on credit cards to get through the pandemic, which is only making their situation worse due to high interest rates. A debt consolidation loan can replace those high rates with a much better one, helping people free themselves years sooner.

5. Some system and machine operators

Young Caucasian worker in protective suit tightening the valve and using tablet while standing in heating plant.
Dusan Petkovic / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 2.0% to 4.9%
  • Median annual salary: $51,490 to $62,150

Men make up more than 95% of these workers who help keep industrial operations running smoothly. These jobs typically only require a high school diploma, with some additional certification and on-the-job training.

Professions in this field that employ the fewest women include stationary engineers, boiler operators and mining machine operators.

By contrast, close to 55% of packaging and filling machine operators and tenders are women. They work with equipment that readies products for storage or shipment, including canned foods.

4. Logging workers

Young forest worker at the forwarder while loading and transporting long wood
Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 1.8%
  • Median annual salary: $41,230

Logging companies are facing a labor shortage. Only 66,000 people are currently working in the field, and less than 2% of them are women.

Like long-haul trucking, the logging industry is mostly made up of middle-aged men and is failing to attract women or young people due to the rough, dangerous work.

The BLS reports that logging workers died on the job at a greater rate than almost any other occupation in 2019, at around 69 deaths per 100,000 workers. Only hunting and fishing were more deadly.

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If you've got loved ones relying on your income, you should also look into life insurance to ensure they'll be OK, no matter what happens.

3. Installers and repairers

Technician installing CCTV camera for security
APChanel / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 1.5% to 7.6%
  • Median annual salary: $39,080 to $72,520

This one shouldn’t surprise you too much. How often has a woman answered the call to fix the air conditioning in your home?

Women make up just 1.5% of the population of heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers.

Other jobs with a dearth of women include telecommunications installers and repairers, maintenance workers, security and fire alarm installers and power-line installers.

Electrical power-line installers and repairers earn the highest median salary at $72,520, but only 1.6% of them are women. It’s more common to see women as general maintenance and repair workers, but they only earn $39,080 annually.

2. Vehicle mechanics

Female mechanic working on car
Lonely Guineapig / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 1.3% to 4.8%
  • Median annual salary: $42,090 to $67,110

Whether they’re fixing up airplanes or trucks, female mechanics are incredibly scarce — even though modern technology takes care of much of the heavy lifting.

A meager 1.5% of bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists are women, and the same is true for service technicians and mechanics who work on heavy vehicles and mobile equipment.

Kimberly McWaters, former CEO of the Universal Technical Institute, told Motor 1 that it’s intimidating to crack into such a male-dominated field. Not many women are showing an interest in trying; in 2017, less than 0.03% of the students enrolled at UTI were female.

1. Construction workers and tradespeople

Professional Mechanical Engineer team Working on Personal Computer at Metal lathe industrial manufacturing factory. Engineer Operating  lathe Machinery. Product quality Inspection
BigPixel Photo / Shutterstock
  • Total women employed: 0.7% to 6.8%
  • Median annual salary: $36,000 to $65,230

The construction industry hires a wide variety of highly skilled and specialized workers — and almost none of them are female. This category includes 17 occupations with less than 7% women in their ranks.

It’s especially rare to see them out in the field. Women make up less than 1% of masonry workers, drywall and tile installers and iron and steel workers. There’s very limited representation among electricians, carpenters and roofers, as well.

Instead, most women in the construction industry work behind a desk in design, management or secretarial roles, The Guardian says.

About the Author

Serah Louis

Serah Louis

Staff Writer

Serah Louis is a staff writer with MoneyWise. She loves storytelling and research and was published in Ricepaper Magazine's 2019 anthology, Immersion: An Asian Anthology of Love, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction.

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