By Lior Zitzman for Big Rentz
When you think of any male-dominated industry, construction is probably the first job that comes to mind.
Of all the people who work in construction, women comprise only a small 10.3 percent of the workforce. Even smaller is the number of female construction workers on the front lines of a job site—there is only one woman for every 100 employees on the field. Considering that women make up 47 percent of all employed individuals, this means that the construction industry is only benefitting from about 1.25 percent of the total female workforce.
These are several factors that explain this enormous gender gap, from unconscious gender bias to the lack of adequate training to overall perceptions of women working in construction, which is traditionally a male-dominated career. Despite these barriers, women continue to build their path in the industry. According to Randstad, nearly one-third of companies promoted a woman to a senior position in 2017.
As construction was expected to grow by 3 percent in 2019 and create almost 2 million new jobs by 2021, companies are looking to recruit more women to bring their skill sets into the field.
So, how are women rising up in construction in 2020? To answer this question, we compiled key statistics and examined the backgrounds of female leaders from around the construction industry. Check out the infographic below to learn more.
Our study shows that although women are still underrepresented, they are making significant progress in becoming leaders. A substantial portion of female executives and construction managers have been in their roles in the last 5 years, suggesting that companies are more recently promoting women to leadership roles. Furthermore, companies and associations are increasing their efforts to promote women in their organizations and educate young women about the benefits of working in the industry.
Growing Resources for Women in Construction
To enter the male-dominated field of construction, women can seek the increasing number of resources available to them that addresses their specific needs in the industry:
Nationally recognized groups like the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and Women in Operations provide mentorship, marketing and networking opportunities to help women who are new to the industry. Other notable groups include the Women Construction Owners & Executives USA and Women in Operations.
A success of NAWIC comes from Jenny Brongo of Brongo Contracting and Supply, who learned from the organization how to successfully run the business after the passing of her father.
In certain areas of the country, large construction companies collaborate with the local community to offer courses and boot-camp programs for young girls and any women interested in the industry. Many cities also offer apprenticeship programs that strive to recruit women, prepare them for exams, and train their bodies for work.
Conferences and Blogs
A number of conferences are held to celebrate and discuss the topic of women in construction. NAWIC’s Annual Conference includes professionals seminars and workshops for women, while the Groundbreaking Women in Construction conference provides management training and teaches women how to bridge pay gaps in their workplace.
In addition to conferences, women can stay up to date in the industry with blogs like Constructing Equality and Tradeswomen, which aim to tackle issues of diversity, provide original research, highlight scholarship opportunities, and share personal stories and anecdotes.
Inclusion Raises Performance
Although the construction industry may get a negative mark for diversity, it has been shown that companies whose workers look like the communities they’re working in outperform their competitors by 33 percent. In fact, the report, “Delivering Through Diversity,” found that construction companies that had more women in executive line roles than staff roles experienced an above-average financial performance than those companies that didn’t. When women were in executive-level positions, they had a 21 percent likelihood of outperforming their competitors.
Nevertheless, although more diversity brings about more success, women executives are more likely to occupy staff roles (14 percent) than line roles (7 percent). This is in stark contrast to their male counterparts, with 33 percent of staff executives being male compared to 46 percent being line executives.
How Companies Can Recruit More Women
There is still much work to be done to fully include women in construction. To increase recruitment and improve retention, companies need to acknowledge and remove gender bias from their work culture, develop training programs and local mentorship groups specific to the needs of women, include more females in the hiring process, and encourage women to become role models for other women. Schools and educational programs need to highlight the value of construction jobs for women and young girls so that they can see the industry as a viable career path.
The construction worker shortage has presented an opportunity for more women to be hired while also fixing the issue. True, there is a skill gap when it comes to women working in construction, but there are ways to get around this.
As advancements in construction technology have grown, many companies are hesitant in trying them out for a variety of reasons, including a lack of staff. Hiring and training women in the IT departments of construction companies can help with the staff shortage and advance their diversity.
Likewise, training women on operating heavy equipment can help shorten the skills gap that can sometimes be present with new employees. For example, certain types of cranes need more than one person to operate them; hiring and training women to become licensed in all parts of crane operation will provide dedicated workers to those specific jobs.
Although there are obstacles for women to get into construction, women have the potential to solve the industry’s labor shortage. With more and more groundbreaking women chipping away at gendered norms and leveling the playing field, the industry is taking bigger steps at becoming a more diverse and inclusive space for future generations.