Women in Construction: A Big Opportunity for 2020
Do you know what percentage of America’s construction workers are women? It’s only 9%*. While this statistic is surprising in and of itself, it is even more surprising when you consider that the number of women working directly on jobsites is even smaller.
There are a number of factors contributing to this difference, but needless to say, this statistic should serve as a wakeup call for managers and recruiters in our field. Numerous studies have shown that diverse teams are higher-performing, report greater overall job satisfaction, and do a better job recruiting new talent.
“When teams include women’s voices in the decision-making process, you begin to see a shift in the way that work is accomplished,” says Anebel Hernandez, Branch Manager for L&W Supply Miami. “It makes collaboration stronger and also helps attract new talent that might not otherwise come on board.”
Given that women make up nearly half the job market and the construction industry is expected to add almost 2 million new jobs by 2021, attracting more women to construction is a huge opportunity for businesses. Here are a number of strategies for how to attract more women to construction teams:
Change of Perception
It’s no secret that construction has had to contend with its reputation as a male-dominated industry. Much like law enforcement and the tech industry, the culture of construction companies has evolved in order to keep up with an evolving workforce. Today, the construction industry is in fact one of the very few industries where the gender pay gap between men and women is almost negligible.
In the last 20 years, construction firms have done a much better job of making jobsites and offices more welcoming for women. Women are now occupying more to leadership and management roles in recent years than ever before, with a number of high-profile companies run by women.
Still, there is more progress to be made. When polled, the majority of women working in construction said they have felt passed over for roles due to their gender. One of the best ways to combat this perception is to lead by example: if women can see themselves reflected in the leadership of your company, they will be more likely to feel as though they have opportunities for advancement as well.
Adequate Training & Equipment
Gender bias can have a subtle but very important effect on the way that construction teams are trained, along with the design of all kinds of equipment. For the most part, construction gear and training materials are only designed with men in mind, which creates a number of issues for women.
First, equipment that is not properly designed for women can be ineffective and even dangerous in certain circumstances. Additionally, this disparity has the effect of excluding or discouraging women from feeling like they are part of the team, just because it is harder to see yourself in a role that seems to only be designed for men.
“For the most part, men are the only people who are encouraged to go into construction from a young age,” says Norma Serrato, Branch Manager and Managing Partner for L&W Supply Redlands, CA. “Even when you take a look at the language used on job postings and images we see of construction workers, which are typically men, women do not appear to be the targets of managers and recruiters, despite comprising almost half the workforce.” Much like the other examples mentioned above, the best way to counter this narrative is to do your best to reinforce how inclusive your team is.
An Optimistic Future
How can one company try to shift age-old ideas of what a “traditional” woman’s job is? There is unfortunately no clear answer. One thing that is certain is that this type of change does not happen overnight.
By reinforcing as much as you can that your business is a great place for both men and women to work, you can start changing the narrative surrounding the construction industry. One common saying when it comes to women in trades is: “If she can’t see it, she can’t be it.”
- Showcase and celebrate women who have developed careers in your field to help inspire others to follow their lead.
- Highlight the fact that for women, the construction industry is a largely untapped source of high-paying jobs, not all of which would require extensive physical labor.
- And finally, do your part to invest in or create job training and mentorship programs for young women looking to start their careers,
Looking for further reading on this topic? A number of initiatives and organizations have formed in recent years to help bring women into construction. Visit the links below to learn more.