Once upon a time, men of the world were seen as the sole bread earners within a family. Well, things changed during the 21st century, and in a big way. After centuries of social, legal, and religious traditions that barred women from entering historically "masculine" gendered positions, women are increasingly conquering industrial fields such as construction, manufacturing, welding, and more.
Women were instrumental to the success of World War 2.
One could claim that the 19th Amendment, signed into law on August 18, 1920, was the milestone event that swung the pendulum in women's favor by guaranteeing women the right to vote. However, another defining moment in history occurred when the U.S. entered World War 2 in 1941. Female workers played a vital role in helping end the war by working jobs previously held only by men. Within manufacturing, women were crucial to the war effort by manufacturing the war materials men depended on in the front lines. Women also cut lumber, worked in construction, and maintained farms. From a military perspective, 350,000 women served as nurses, airplane mechanics, and technicians.
Unfortunately, after World War 2, the need for wartime products diminished, and men returned home from fighting overseas to reclaim their jobs, sending women home. However, this period signaled that women could perform the duties once believed that only men could handle. It is a moment that impacts us to this very day, as women have steadily reclaimed industrial jobs and stepped into new jobs created by the rising economy.
As women have reclaimed more and more jobs in a variety of industries once reserved for men, it has meant that PPE manufacturers have had to adapt to a new set of needs. Below, we will highlight the changing workforce, top industries women occupy, and the PPE they need to stay safe. Why? Well, because as we have all known, especially since the mid-1940's, "Behind every great man is a great woman." And at MCR Safety, we are known for protecting people, regardless of age, gender, nationality, or race. Simply put, we protect people!
LVCL2ML, a women's fitted safety vest, shows how MCR Safety is tweaking it's product for the new workforce.
As you read through this blog, please consider providing us feedback on the PPE women need. We have made numerous modifications to products over the years based on customer feedback. However, we know much more is required.
Now, let us make sure we have got women protected!
The PPE Problem
Most industrial workplaces are not managed, supplied, or designed with women in mind, leading to a host of gender-specific safety hazards. OSHA reports that ill-fitting or improperly functioning PPE that doesn't fulfill its design purpose can cause dangerous health and safety risks for women in the workplace.
IImproper PPE drastically increases the risk of workplace injury or exposure. For example, safety glasses that are too large can easily fall off a worker's head, exposing them to flying projectiles. Another example is that women who were provided safety boots in a large size can develop blisters and burning soles and can also trip on stairs and ladders more frequently.
Women who are required to wear PPE in the workplace almost unanimously cite better gear as their number one need. Despite this, employers and supervisors often fail to stock women's equipment, and many are unaware the women's PPE even exists. Instead, female workers are often forced to make do with men's gear. Unfortunately, these baggy and incorrectly fitting products expose workers to increased workplace hazards that interfere with the operation of tools and equipment.
Why Downsizing Doesn't Work in Any Industry
Women are commonly instructed to order men's PPE in "one size down"—but this option is proven unsafe for several reasons:
- Women statistically have slender hands, feet, and smaller faces.
- A women's medium is two inches narrower in the shoulders than a men's small garment.
- Women's clothing often includes waist adjustments.
- Women often find men's clothing too tight in the chest.
Plus, eye, hand, and footwear cannot be easily upsized or downsized by gender.
We will highlight in our next section some custom PPE made for women.
MCR Safety's Solutions for Women's PPE
So far, we've been highlighting many of the problems women face with PPE in the workplace. It seems about time to start showing you some solutions we've come up with to address these issues. Let's break it down by different product categories.
Women's Fitted Safety Vest
Women's PPE requires waist adjustments and different sizing than men's PPE. MCR Safety's LVCL2ML class 2 safety vests are specially designed just for ladies. They are ideal for those who need a lightweight and comfortable high-visibility option.
And, it is a safety vest with pockets—4 in total!
Women's Safety Glasses
We manufacture one of the industry's largest selection of PPE eyewear. However, not all safety glasses are preferred by or appropriate for women, since many are too large and heavy for smaller faces. The problem is that if safety glasses don't fit correctly, workers are vulnerable to a vast array of hazards. No worries, we have got you covered! MCR Safety's lineup of small-framed safety glasses fit women who require narrower fits.
The above image shows all our smaller-framed options. You can find our entire safety glasses catalog here. Once on our page, you can pull up any of the product numbers shown above.
Women's Work Gloves and Correct Sizing
We know how challenging it can be to find smaller size gloves. You search and search for the correct glove, and then it's not stocked in your size. This is why we've built sizing directly into our online glove catalog. However, we want to make it even easier for you. Just click the sizing image below to see all the smaller leather glove sizes we have to offer.
We continue adding styles regularly, often created with women's glove needs in mind. Our 9673XS and 9699XS are top-rated sellers due to their smaller size and the fact that nylon easily conforms to one's hand. We may not be able to specify gender-specific gloves, as we can with safety vests; however, we can highlight how smaller sizes made with nylon are excellent options for fitting to different sized hands. For those needing cut protection, our 92718PUXS is a featherweight PU option many utilize for all-day comfort and precise grip.
As mentioned above, please leave us feedback for a specific women's work glove you need. We only know what styles women require by listening to your feedback.
Womens Boots and Safety Shoes
OSHA 1910.36 ensures all workers who require protective footwear are protected from potential foot hazards. MCR Safety sells a variety of PVC boots and latex boots, with our latest model providing a lace-up design. A women's size 6 in our boots would be an XS size, and size 7 would be small, which are two of the most common boot sizes for women.
Let's get you into the right sized boot.
Women's FR Clothing
Since entering the FR market back in 2013, we've been adding a wide range of styles. Our latest Summit Breeze® technology, which provides triple-venting, ensures workers stay cool and comfortable. We have small sizing available in most styles. We welcome any feedback as to additional sizing or construction needs you might require.
Warmest Gloves for Women
The wonderful thing about MCR Safety's 983 winter glove is that the 200-gram Thinsulate™ lining ensures a tight fit. So, a medium in this style easily feels like an extra-small or small size.
The Changing Workforce
As we highlighted above, women's employment has been increasing over the years. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) points out, employment numbers have been changing in manufacturing, utilities, education, and health services.
Currently, approximately half of the American workforce is made up of women, with 75,978,000 women employed as of 2018.
Industries Employing Women
A closer look at the numbers presented above shows how trade, transportation, and utilities make up a significant part of female employment. Also, women comprise 9.1 percent of U.S. construction workers, 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce, and 2 percent of the welding workforce.
Women employed in the top 10 occupations may have dropped after World War 2, but the overall employment level of women has increased every year.
Top Female Occupations
Of all the industries we've highlighted above, there are some with a highly concentrated female workforce. The BLS graphic above shows how healthcare, education, and cleaning services are industries heavily weighted with females. However, as we will highlight below, many sectors across the nation employ female workers.
Other excellent statistical resources
Women's Bureau: Data and Statistics
Department of Labor Stats
Female Labor Supply
Status of Women
Women in Construction
While society has branded construction as a masculine trade, it is a designation that does not make a lot of sense. Seven percent of all construction managers are women, the #10 ranked occupation for women in management occupations.
Despite the increasingly diverse workforce, women still face numerous challenges. For example, even though women hold many management positions, they still comprise only one out of every hundred construction workers. This disparity is likely due to unconscious gender bias and the unavailability of adequate training for women (men are more likely to gain mentorships from other men). This disparity carries challenges over into other areas, such as the acquisition of properly fitting PPE. OSHA recommends that women test their employer-provided construction PPE and report any incorrectly fitted or male-sized PPE to their employer for replacement. We will highlight more about PPE below.
Women can also find resources from national organizations such as the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and Women in Operations. These organizations provide mentorship opportunities, along with marketing and networking resources.
Women in Manufacturing
As mentioned earlier, World War 2 provided a clear indication that women could perform manufacturing jobs without a doubt. While women are present in the manufacturing industry (three of every ten manufacturing workers are women), their presence hasn't been growing as fast as it has in other sectors. One reason for this may lie in education.
While women complete college education at rates similar to men, they are less likely to complete STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs or courses. This is likely due to a lack of role models (rarely do women in STEM appear in television or film, though this is beginning to change in recent years), limited mentorship opportunities, and lack of encouragement to enter the field due to societal pressures.
For women interested in STEM-related education and careers, several organizations are working to level the playing field. They include:
In addition to the organizations listed above, other valuable resources for women include Women in Manufacturing and the Society of Women Engineers. SWE is the largest supporter and advocate for women working in the engineering and technology sectors.
Women in Oil and Gas
Traditionally, women aren't encouraged to enter the oil and gas industry. Shell manufacturing supervisor Christina Smith—who went to school on a scholarship from Marathon and Shell before accepting her current position—noted she doesn't recall ever being told engineering was an option for her as a child.
The excellent news, though, is that the role of women in the oil and gas industry has increased over time. In the first quarter of 2013, 46 percent of all new jobs in the industry went to women. It's anticipated that women will fill nearly 185,000 jobs in the oil and gas industry by 2030, including managerial, engineering, and geoscientist positions.
Who sells women's FR clothing?
- Some of the most recognized distributors in the world sell MCR Safety products in the marketplace. We can get your information submitted to them, or you can check out our Buy & Try website for quick expediting of products. All your options are located here. To locate local distributors selling MCR Safety's FR Clothing, simply request a quote and we will have someone follow-up with you.
What should women wear under FR clothing?
- Non-FR clothing ignites, which means wearing any synthetic undergarments is off the table. Inherently fire-resistant base layers are more expensive but provide the protection workers who are concerned with flames require. A google search for Women's FR base layer will show you all companies selling FR undergarments.
Where to buy women's PPE?
- Yes, we know it can be a challenge finding ladies sizing in PPE. As the manufacturer, we stock whatever our customers need. However, many times there is a communication lag between our distributor network and user needs. For this reason, we set up our Buy & Try website to facilitate consumers' immediate needs for trialing products. After your purchase, we send your information to a local distributor in your area to stock ongoing and future inventory needs. To locate local distributors selling MCR Safety's women's PPE offering, simply request a quote and we will have someone follow-up with you.
How do glove sizes work for women?
- As we noted above, women's hands are shaped differently than men's hands. We've created a glove sizing chart article that helps all users know what size they should be wearing before selecting a glove. Everyone should follow the glove size measurements found on the sizing chart.
Our glove sizing chart will help you find the correct glove measurements.
What are the different types of safety shoes for women?
- We recommend reading OH&S's article on safety footwear for a comprehensive look at all the different types.
Additional helpful resources:
PPE for Women
Protecting Women at Work
For those women who may believe nobody is listening to their PPE concerns or needs, please know MCR Safety is not that company. We care about protecting people, all people, it is what we do. We hope the above has provided some useful information in keeping you safe and protected at work. As mentioned before, we strongly encourage you to let us know what products you're looking for but have been unable to find. We can then modify our PPE offering by knowing what PPE is needed for the ever-growing workforce of women.
Click the image above to request a quote, leave us a comment, ask a question, or share any concerns.
For over 45 years, MCR Safety has proven to be a world leader in gloves, glasses, and garments. Whether it's on the shop floor, an oil rig, or a construction site, we are there to provide solutions to workplace hazards. It's all part of our commitment to protect people.
No matter your industry, we have the personal protective equipment you need.
Learn more about MCR Safety by checking out our most recent video. For more information, browse our website, request a catalog, find a distributor, or give us a call at (800) 955-6887.