Empowering Women in Construction

March 07, 2023
women in construction

Women in Construction Week was founded in 1998 by the Sacramento chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). This year, Women in Construction Week is celebrating 25 years! While there have been many positive changes for women in the industry over the years, there is still a lot of work to do to create equity and educate women about career opportunities.

Women currently only make up 14% of the construction workforce but this is still an all-time high. It’s important to empower women to join the construction industry, whether it be in the field or in the office. To get perspectives from female leaders, Deltek spoke with customers in the industry about challenges women in the industry face as well as opportunities.

Challenges in the Construction Industry for Women

There are many challenges in the construction industry that women face today. These range from conditions in the field to schedule flexibility to getting past and breaking down gender stereotypes. While there is more work to be done, women are increasingly finding themselves and making their mark in the industry.

Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes

Many people stereotype working in the construction industry means getting your hands dirty. As a known, male-dominated industry, this can be a barrier for women to join the construction workforce. However, there are a number of jobs within the industry that do not require you to be in the field at all, yet are still quintessential for the success of the job and the company as a whole. With the increasing amount of construction technology, data required to complete jobs can be provided online without even stepping away from your computer.

Conditions in the Field

When it comes to conditions in the field, shared portable restrooms are typically at the top of concern for women. Typically, these restrooms do not offer female-specific amenities and can be uncomfortable. It can also be hazardous to their health, as they may skip drinking water and risk dehydration so they do not have to use the restroom as much. Best practices are to follow OSHA regulations, provide separate bathrooms for male and female workers and place the portable restrooms in well-illuminated areas.

When it comes to safety and apparel, many construction companies lack apparel and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that properly fit women’s bodies. If safety equipment and clothing do not properly fit, they may not be effective. Regarding women’s construction apparel, there are also fewer options. For example, Lori Koopman, Director of Finance at MHS Legacy Group, distinctively recalls the first time she felt there was another option for women’s construction apparel, “I remember when I was first working on a job site in a trailer, I remember how excited I was when I found out that Nike was making white and pink steel-toed shoes for women because I was so tired of wearing boots!”

Schedule Flexibility

Scheduling shifts in construction, especially on-site work, are commonly irregular and sometimes unpredictable. In many places across the country, this is due to the fact that you have to work when the weather allows you to. These conditions may be deal breakers for women, especially with children, as it is hard to balance irregular hours with daycare or school schedules. One of the most significant barriers to scheduling is when it comes to maternity leave. With more women entering the construction workforce, companies need to look into what they offer their female employees and how to welcome them back once their maternity leave is over.

Hiring and Retaining Women in the Construction Industry

The construction industry continues to see a workforce shortage. In 2022 the industry needed to attract about 650,000 workers in addition to the normal hiring pace needed to meet the labor demand. This shortage will continue to grow in 2023 since the demand was not met, and many skilled laborers are retiring and exiting the workforce.

With so many job openings there is a huge opportunity for companies to hire more women in the industry. Not only would this help fill the labor gaps, but diversity and gender equality can positively affect a company’s productivity and innovation. With the right staff, companies can go after more government contracts that have a minority participation limit.

While many of the strategies to combat the construction labor shortage are the same for both men and women, there are some things you can do to do appeal to women to get them interested in the construction industry. This includes:

  • Highlight female role models in your company: It’s important to showcase female leaders in the construction industry to help create role models for younger generations. Not being able to see people who look like them may discourage girls and young women from pursuing careers in construction. If there are no internal female role models in your company, look for external mentors.
  • Reach out directly: An easy way to specifically target women for roles in your company is to reach out to qualified candidates directly. Harvard Business Review explains that women typically will not raise their hand for positions or apply to jobs unless they qualify for 100% of the requirements on a job description.
  • Create inclusive job listings: Job descriptions are typically the first impression of a company. Be sure to spend the time to ensure the listing is inclusive of all genders. This can be done by using gender-neutral pronouns, avoiding gender-coded words, and describing the company’s approach to diversity and inclusion.

Opportunities for Women in the Construction Industry

The construction industry offers a range of opportunities for women from hands-on trades to research and development to management and leadership roles. While there is not a lack of opportunities, there is a lack of education for younger women and their families, to know what opportunities are available. Some ways you can open the door to these opportunities include:

  • Engage and partner with high schools and universities for career fairs, job shadowing, internships and classroom presentations.
  • Partner with organizations that support women in STEM to reach a wider audience and showcase the connection between STEM and the construction industry.
  • Use social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok to reach young women and showcase the opportunities in the construction industry.
  • Highlight women in leadership positions within the construction industry to showcase the potential for growth and advancement.
  • Provide mentorship opportunities for young women who are interested in the construction industry. This can include pairing young women with female mentors in the industry who can provide guidance and support.

By taking these steps, companies and industry organizations can help educate young women about the opportunities in the construction industry and encourage more women to consider careers in this field.