As one of the few female construction managers, I believe that breaking down limiting beliefs about women in construction will propel the construction industry forward and create unprecedented opportunities for women.
The pandemic has decimated the future of women in every industry. The number of women in construction has always been abysmal. But the construction companies that are finally destroying the old, antiquated, unaffordable mindsets and creating inclusive cultures will thrive in the future.
The historically male-dominated construction industry has made some strides towards diversity and inclusion in recent years, but the number of women in construction remains low. A recent study by BigRentz reports that 10.4% of women are employed in the construction industry. While this may seem like a small number, it has increased from 9% in previous years.
Women are most likely to hold sales and office roles in construction, followed by management, maintenance, and a handful in service and transportation. Around 86.7% of women in the construction industry work in office positions, while only 3.4% work in the skilled trades.
Women brave enough to venture into the construction industry have always faced obstacles. Keep in mind that, according to BigRentz, in the construction industry:
· 43% of organizations do not actively monitor the gender pay gap.
· 60% of victims of gender discrimination are female.
Women are at higher risk of workplace injuries due to poorly fitted equipment and a shrink-it-and-pink-it mentality about personal protective equipment.
· 73% of women feel they have been left out of roles because of their gender.
· 47% of women have never worked with a manager, so they are less likely to have role models.
Nearly 3 million American women left the workforce in the past year in a COVID-19-triggered exodus that reflects ongoing wage differentials, undervalued work, and outdated notions of care.
Before the pandemic, women represented roughly half of the country’s workforce. The number fell sharply when women, especially mothers of young children, were given leave or dismissal. Many others, especially frontline workers and single mothers, had to choose between caring for their children or earning a paycheck because daycare was closed and schools went online.
Kate Doyle, Risk Manager at Jordan Foster Construction, was one of the lucky ones whose position allowed flexibility and the ability to work from home. It was a tremendous accomplishment to meet the demands of her job and three school-age children.
“We went from the daily routine for school, work and extracurricular activities to an overnight chaos. Last year I felt like I was turning 25 plates all day, hoping not to drop any, ”she said. “I was fortunate enough to work in construction, where my position remained stable, and I mostly did my work from home. I was better off than most of the others. “
Construction was seen as an essential business during the pandemic that allowed our industry to survive. However, the industry has a work problem. Industry leaders at a panel discussion held by an associate general contractor for construction risk managers in January said the ongoing labor shortage is the biggest risk facing the industry. Construction industry leaders expect business to improve this year and the number of new construction jobs to increase by nearly 2 million in 2022.
Why haven’t construction companies banded together to attract our future workforce? Unemployment during the pandemic has hit women harder than men, and construction companies that actively hire women can solve both their labor shortage and diversity problems.
Recruiting women for construction is not for the faint of heart. The industry was built by men for men and the traditional Brocode culture is strong. However, the future depends on change.
The pandemic has shown that Americans still assume that children are the most cared for and that aging parents fall on women. This should lead us to disturb the outdated narrative that women are only vital in the workplace as long as parenting and caring responsibilities are not interfered with. We need to deliberately develop strategies to support not only women but families as well.
Effective recruiting starts early. There are few role models for young girls in our industry. Thankfully, that’s changing. Several blogs like Move Over Bob celebrate women in craft and science, technology, engineering, and math, and show women from all walks of life how to build careers in construction.
Building is a lucrative, well-paying career with a bright future. By breaking the limiting belief that women are not a building, we are opening the door to the future of young women.
Tricia Kagerer is Executive Vice President Risk Management at Jordan Foster Construction. She wrote this column for the Dallas Morning News.
Do you have an opinion on this subject? Send a letter to the editor and you might get published.