Men shortage sparks role reversal: Ukrainian women step in across industries

Ukrainian women take up male-dominated professions amid Russian invasion
Ukrainian women take up male-dominated professions amid Russian invasion

A surge of Ukrainian women is breaking into fields once dominated by men, stepping into roles like truck driving, security, locksmithing, and machine operation.

Driven by the war and conscription, there’s a notable shift toward more women in traditionally male-centric professions, noted labor market expert Tetiana Pashkina in 2023.

This trend takes center stage in the article Country of Women featured in NV magazine No. 2.

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At the metallurgical powerhouse ArcelorMittal, the ranks of female electricians, locksmiths, coke sorters, and transporters have swelled since the Russian invasion began, said Kateryna Zaloznykh, HR Director at ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih and Steel Service.

“More women are training for ‘male’ jobs, blurring the gender lines,” she said.

Among them is Olha Vakulenko, 32, from Kryvyi Rih, who made a radical career shift from retail to becoming a machine operator at a foundry-mechanical plant. ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih, with licenses for over 350 professions, actively upskills and retrains female workers.

Nearly 5,000 women underwent training at the company last year — twice the number from 2022, Zaloznykh said. Of these, 270 women ventured into entirely new roles, including crusher, foundry, wagon tipper and crane operators, metal cutters, and repair locksmiths.

At the Ukrainian retail giant ATB-Market, a shortage of men in physically demanding roles is apparent.

“Currently, 30% of our male staff has been conscripted,” they said.

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The most acute need is for truck drivers and loaders handling items weighing 25-35 kg. ATB-Market is turning to women to fill these gaps, hiring them as store security guards and forklift operators.

Ukraine’s trade industrial group Fozzy Group has also begun hiring female truck drivers, with Lilya Shulha from Boryspil and Natalia Tymoshenko from Kyiv delivering goods for Silpo stores on 10-tonne Scania trucks.

At DTEK Energo, about 15% of the workforce (nearly 4,400 people) is in the Ukrainian army, predominantly men.

“Of these, 4,000 work in coal mining,” said the company’s press service, adding that about 1,300 workers typically work at one mine. This has significantly affected coal production.

However, women are now being recruited for auxiliary roles or where significant physical labor isn’t required. The company is seeing a rise in female candidates willing to work underground.

Women are now operating underground equipment and coordinating mining elevator operations. They are also excelling as electrical fitters, signaling ongoing diversification.

Ukraine’s group of companies Metinvest, which includes mining, steel enterprises, and sales network, is also expanding its female workforce, with a 9% increase in hires.

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“This is significant for us,” said Artem Lohachov, Director of Personnel Management and Rewards at Metinvest.

But Lohachov acknowledges that female demand isn’t enough to offset male shortages in all areas. The company aims to boost female presence in repair roles, freeing up men for jobs like quarry excavator operators. Out of over 60,000 active employees, about 8,000 are currently serving in the Ukrainian army.

The article originally appeared in print in NV magazine No. 2 in April 2024, available for purchase via the provided link.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine