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Are nurses from Venus and engineers from Mars?

August 1, 2012

By Jeff Pinkerton


Let’s start with a quick mind game. I’ll list some occupations and you picture what the person in that occupation looks like.




Construction worker

Computer Programmer

Did you picture women for the first two occupations and men in the last three? You probably should have. Teaching and nursing occupations are dominated by women (77 percent and 93 percent respectively), while men tend to dominate engineering (86 percent), construction (98 percent) and IT (76 percent) occupations.

A chart with the gender breakdown for all general occupation categories is available below.

In today’s economy, there is no real reason why these occupations should be so dominated by one gender over the other. It is probably tradition that brought us to this point. But there are some real-world employment ramifications of these gender-dominance tendencies. Imagine being a human resources manager for a hospital who is looking for nurses, or a human resources manager for an engineering firm. Your potential labor force pool is essentially cut in half. If you are looking for nurses, the vast majority of your potential employees will be women. Conversely, most engineering candidates will be men. This essentially makes it more difficult for employers to find qualified employees.

We can actually see evidence of this when looking at the supply/demand ratio by occupation. Wanted Analytics compiles data on the number of local job postings in the region and can determine a supply demand (S/D) ratio for each occupation. An S/D ratio greater than 100 indicates that there are relatively fewer applicants for available positions and businesses may have a harder time finding candidates. An S/D ratio lower than 100 indicates there are more applicants for open positions and businesses will have an easier time finding qualified employees.

Here are the current Supply Demand Ratios for the occupations we discussed above.

Occupation S/D Ratio
Civil Engineer 132.46
Electrical Engineer 134.56
Industrial Engineer 135.87
Registered Nurses 128.35
Elementary School Teacher 102.1
Construction Laborers 88.71
Computer Programmer 117.45
Computer Systems Analyst 121.78
Source: Wanted Analytics


Despite being more female dominated, the S/D ratio for elementary school teacher is fairly well in balance.  Construction has a low S/D ratio, but that is most likely due to the entire construction industry struggling right now while housing is down.

Most engineering, IT and nursing occupations, however, have very high S/D ratios, indicating employers are finding it more challenging to find qualified workers. While there may be a whole host of reasons for this, the fact that these occupations are dominated by one gender certainly contributes to the challenge. If these occupations were seen as viable career options by both genders, more men would study nursing and teaching, and more women would learn to be engineers, computer programmers or construction workers — leading more potential candidates to fill the positions in demand.

More programs to expose young people to additional career options, such as the Girl Scouts’ efforts to expose girls to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers, should be encouraged.

Meanwhile, engineering, IT and nursing occupations will likely stay in high demand.

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