7 Ways to increase the number of women workers in the construction industry
When we think of construction workers, most of us imagine men in yellow hard hats and vests. No women. Construction has always been known as a male-dominated field, which is why private companies, educators, trade associations and public agencies should make an effort to redefine today’s construction worker.
Women in Construction Statistics
Women hold 11% of construction jobs in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s low considering that women account for 47% of the U.S. workforce.
Over the past ten years, the number of women employed in the construction industry has increased 54.7% from 802,000 in 2012 to 1.24 million women in 2021.
According to the BLS, 38.6% of the women employed in construction work in offices and/or sales; 37% occupy management or professional roles; 22% are employed in jobs related to natural resources, construction and maintenance; 1.2% work in production, transportation and material moving; and 1.2% do service jobs.
The construction industry is facing a significant labor shortage. According to the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), to meet increasing labor demands, the industry would need to hire 650,000 additional workers above 2022 hiring levels.
Right now, women are not being hired in the trades that desperately need more workers, such as onsite construction, trucking and auto mechanics, to name a few. Therefore, one way to tackle the labor shortage is to hire more women.
Diversity Drives Performance
Gender-diverse organizations are 25% more likely to financially outperform less diverse companies, according to a 2020 report by global consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
Companies with more than 30% women executives are more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranges from 10 to 30, and in turn these companies are more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives or none at all, McKinsey reported.
A substantial differential likelihood of outperformance—48 percent—separates the most from the least gender-diverse companies.
How to Attract More Women to Construction
1. Boost Recruitment Efforts
One way of encouraging women to consider careers in construction is to beef up recruiting efforts at trade schools and colleges, staffing and recruiting companies, job search websites, public job fairs and advocacy groups and associations.
Employers can be more proactive in recruiting women by, for example, choosing the words in their job descriptions deliberately to attract more female job applicants, including more women in the hiring process, reaching out to women who have potential to succeed in construction jobs, providing career advancement opportunities tailored to women and offering professional support network opportunities.
2. Offer and Advertise Equal Pay
Generally, women earn 81.5% of what men earn, but in construction the gender pay gap is lower, with women earning 94.3% compared to what men earn. That may be better, but it’s not equal pay.
Women are aware of the gender pay gap that exists in most industries, so they will be more likely to apply for jobs at companies that offer equal pay and that advertise this fact in job postings, networking events and career fairs.
3. Improve Safety at Job Sites
Construction sites are dangerous places. Construction work typically involves safety hazards such as falls from heights, trench collapses, electrical shock, being struck by heavy equipment, scaffolding or ladder collapses, injuries from repetitive motions, and hearing damage caused by exposure to loud noises. While both men and women are equally at risk for injuries, these hazards tend to deter women from considering jobs in construction.
4. Give Them Paid Maternity Leave
Many people are surprised to learn that most U.S. companies don’t offer paid maternity or family leave to their employees. As of 2021, only 23% of private industry workers had access to paid maternity leave, while 89% had access to unpaid leave, according to BLS data. Therefore, offering paid maternity leave is an effective way of encouraging more women to consider jobs in construction.
5. Provide PPE That Fits Women
Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hard hats, respirators, googles, boots and gloves, is essential for working safely in the construction industry. Unfortunately, most standard PPE comes in sizes designed to fit men. Construction companies that provide properly sized PPE are in a position to attract and retain more women workers.
6. Educate Young People
Many girls and young women are unaware of the career opportunities available to them in the construction industry. They’ve grown up seeing construction workers, at job sites and at executive offices, portrayed as men. Construction companies and educators should partner to raise awareness among young women about the variety of jobs available to them in the construction industry.
7. Build a Welcoming Environment
Some women have reservations about working in construction because of mindsets and attitudes they may face at the workplace. Women in traditionally male jobs sometimes are expected to toughen up and put up with discrimination and harassment. Construction firms should have zero-tolerance policies that protect women from this type of behavior. All employees, including leaders, regularly should receive adequate training that covers workplace diversity, sexism, bias and misogyny.
Resources for Women in Construction
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), Professional Women in Construction (PWC), Tradeswomen Inc, and Women Construction Owners & Executives (WCOE) offer memberships, conferences, educational courses, scholarships, advocacy services, publications and networking opportunities that support and promote women in construction.
Clearly, there are a variety of ways to attract more women to the construction industry and to support them once they’re there. Women not only can add diversity to the workplace, which is a good thing, but also can be crucial to make a dent