Although women account for nearly half of the U.S. workforce, that, unfortunately, is the closest sense of parity they currently have compared to men.
While women across the board tend to be overlooked for senior-level positions and earn less than men, the statistics become even more bleak when you zero in on women working in male-dominated industries.
In 2018, only 7.2% of women worked full-time in a male-dominated occupation, which is defined as having fewer than 25% women. As for the pay gap, it doesn’t help that 26 out of 30 of the highest-paying jobs in the U.S. are male-dominated, while 23 out of 30 of the lowest-paying jobs are female-dominated.
While it’s necessary that there are laws and practices in place to improve the situation for women in male-dominated industries, it’s also important for women and young girls to be able to see themselves in jobs that society has deemed unfit for them.
Photographer Chris Crisman’s new book aims to help with that goal.
Women’s Work is a collection of portraits featuring women who work in male-dominated fields. From scientists and gold miners to C-suite executives and lobster fisherman (yes, they still use “fisherman”), Crisman captures a stunning array of pioneering women, accompanied by touching essays detailing their ambitions and struggles:
“I’ve always looked for a female mentor, someone to emulate, but I never had one growing up. I think girls more than boys tend to look for female role models—someone who proves, okay, I can do it, I can get it, and I wonder how I get there.” —Yoky Matsuoka, vice president at Google
“Initially, when I went to apply for a job with Ford, the human resources person looked at my résumé and asked if I was applying for an engineering job. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘is anything wrong with that?’ He remarked that they didn’t have any female engineers. I looked at him, smiled, and said, ‘Well, I am here. If you don’t give a chance, you will never have any.'” —Damyanti Gupta, the first female engineer employed by Ford Motor Company
“I think what really bothers me is that so many women have it in their heads that they can’t work in fields like mine. Working around almost solely men can be daunting, and I think women feel as though they might not have a place here.” —Jordan Ainsworth, gold miner
Women’s Work started as a one-off photo shoot after someone in a meeting that Crisman was attending mentioned that they had a friend who was a butcher in Philly. When Crisman found out that butcher was Heather Marold Thomason of Primal Supply Meats, he was instantly intrigued.
“When I heard about Heather, a light bulb went off in my head, because I had a mental archetype of a butcher as this fat guy in a bloody white T-shirt,” Crisman says.
That shoot—and the conversation he had with Thomason—plunged Crisman down the rabbit hole that eventually led to Women’s Work.
That said, Crisman is also aware of the irony that he’s a male photographer working in an industry that is also dominated by men that’s putting out a book like this.
“I think there’s going to be a baseline number of people that will find that fault,” Crisman admits. “Could this project had been done by someone else? I think so. But I feel I have my perspective with the way I make portraits, and the way I want to tell a story. And from day one, as a photographer, I shoot people as people.”