The construction industry is changing in more ways than one. For one thing, it’s starting to adopt more construction technology. Now we’re seeing another construction trend. It has been a male-dominated world. That is, until now.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women comprise almost 11 percent of the professionals in the industry. Here’s why the number of women in construction is growing and what organizations need to do to support them.
Why Women in Construction Is a Great Career
When people think of construction careers, they tend to think of big and strong men hammering away and welding on the construction site. This is how they are often portrayed on TV and in films. However, there’s so much more to construction than those workers on the job site laying the bricks, operating large equipment, and working as roofers, electricians, and plumbers.
Construction has managers and directors, surveyors, project managers, marketers, administrators, architects, CAD specialists, BIM managers, inspectors, bid managers, compliance managers, contracts managers, engineers, land buyers, and more.
Here are the benefits of a career in a skilled trade industry like construction:
- Job security: There is always something to build, thus jobs are always in demand. While other industries came to a standstill during the pandemic, construction work climbed. The Occupational Outlook Handbook says construction laborers and helpers are growing faster than the average and they offer short-term on-the-job training.
- School requirements: With a diversity of available roles, the schooling requirements vary and many don’t require a full four-year degree. This shortens the time and reduces the cost of student loans.
- Shortage of qualified workers: Construction has been dealing with a shortage for a long time. Additionally, many of the current workers are nearing the end of their careers, which means more openings.
- Career traction: Skilled trades does not mean doing the same job for an entire career. It’s common for people in skilled trade careers to move up into management and supervisory positions.
Go Construct’s construction careers has a comprehensive list of jobs. Each one explains what the job entails, approximate earnings, career path and progression, and what you need to get into that role. The website is based in the U.K. so the salary ranges are not in dollars and the job titles might vary from North American job titles.
Construct-Ed has a list of construction jobs along with salaries in U.S. dollars. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ construction and extraction occupations page highlights different occupations, what they do, education required, and median pay.
Aside from all these benefits, JLL says construction will add more than 2 million new jobs in 2022. That means there’s a lot of opportunities for women to break into construction. Not to mention, companies want to hire people from underrepresented groups.
How Organizations Are Effecting Change for Women in Construction
Did you know there is an organization for women in construction? The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) aims to provide its members with support, networking, and education to advance their careers in construction, take on leadership roles, and pick up technical skills. Anyone working in construction, even as a marketer or administrator, is eligible for membership.
Founded in 1953 by 16 women, NAWIC has 115 chapters across the U.S. and a few international affiliates. They report that women in construction make 96 cents for every $1 men in construction earn. That’s better than the average of women earning 86 cents for every dollar a man makes as revealed in the State of the Gender Pay Gap in 2021.
Moreover, earning an average of 94 percent of what their male counterparts make, “Women in Trade Careers” indicates women in skilled trades industries have one of the lowest salary gaps. With 70 percent of employers struggling to fill jobs with qualified employees, now is the ideal time for women to break into construction.
The organization believes increasing female interest in construction requires education. This includes working with top universities that promote women in STEM and have a focus on construction and engineering as well as initiatives to encourage providing females with opportunities to succeed in a traditionally male-dominated field.
Additionally, there are government-led or state-run programs working to encourage women to enter construction careers and promote workplace diversity and inclusion. The U.S. Department of Labor offers Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) grants.
The purpose of the grant is to help awardees recruit, train, and retain more women in quality apprenticeships and non-traditional occupations. WANTO has awarded more than $4 million to six community-based organizations to boost women’s employment in nontraditional occupations.
Be sure to check your state’s response. For example, Minnesota’s Construction Career Pathways educates middle school and high school students about construction careers with skilled trade unions.
Myths Regarding Working in Construction
Construction has gotten a bad rap as people picture construction workers wolf-whistling anytime a good-looking person walks past. Modern construction sites do not tolerate this behavior.
Additionally, many construction sites install video surveillance cameras around the property. These ensure everyone follows safety procedures, treats each other with respect, and deters crime.
The construction industry has changed in so many ways. They’re moving the needle on technology using building information modeling (BIM), nanotechnology, robots, and new building methods and materials. Construction materials have come a long way as some are sustainable.
Many older and historic buildings will undergo remodeling to reduce their carbon footprint and waste. These projects require a lot of creativity because you want to maintain the building’s aesthetics while achieving modern standards.
Yes, many jobs in construction involve working with equipment that can be dangerous when not operated properly. The U.S. and other countries have stringent safety rules and procedures. The companies with the fewest injuries conduct training on a regular basis. They ensure workers know which equipment to use for each task, what personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear for the task, how to prepare for the task, and how to shut it down.
Besides, many jobs in construction don’t involve handling equipment or working live on the construction site. They work in offices, from home, or at a workshop. Hundreds of construction careers like those in engineering, management, and design don’t require getting your hands dirty or working in extreme temperatures. In fact, Big Rentz says three-quarters of women in construction jobs don’t work on the job site.
Green technology and sustainability are flourishing career fields. People in these roles take steps to make sure the construction process has a minimal impact on the environment. They also find better ways to build environment-friendly buildings.
This Is a Great Time Women in Construction
The pandemic has forced many women out of jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said that in one month alone, almost 300,000 women have lost jobs during COVID-19. This is especially true in the retail and food industries.
The pandemic has also forced many to rethink their careers. With daycares shut down and schools going virtual, women struggled to find a way to work and care for their children. They could use the time to undergo training, which can be done online. It depends on the role that interests them.
Those who worked in retail and the food industry will see their hourly earnings go up notably. Construction wages are often higher than private-sector wages. The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) says wages in construction tend to outpace and rise faster than in other industries. Don’t forget the gender pay gap is one of the lowest in construction.
Construction jobs have been declared “essential” during the pandemic. These jobs offer more stability and opportunities for growth. What’s impressive is that almost 1 in 3 companies has promoted women to senior roles in 2018 per Big Rentz. In the five years between 2014 and 2019, the industry saw 64 percent more women owners of construction firms.
In a Forbes interview with Maggie Hardy Knox, president of 84 Lumber, Knox reinforces the industry being a hardy one with endless career opportunities. She says that a college education isn’t for everyone and experience is what’s important in construction.
“I believe the basic requirement is to have genuine care for customers and associates,” Knox says. “And like anything else in life, a great work ethic can make you super successful. If you show us that you have those traits, our company will train you on everything else.”
While the construction industry has seen more diversity, the number of women remains low. Don’t let the number of women in construction throw you. It’s actually up 9 percent from previous years, so it’s increasing. No doubt, there will be challenges for women in construction. However, the payoff will be worth it as it’s a well-paying career in an industry that never slows down.
More Reads on Construction
If you liked this story, you might want to read these:
- Construction Trends for 2021
- 5 Reasons to Upgrade Your Construction Equipment
- 10 Tips for Better Construction Site Security