Arrowsmith Project Management Limited

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When you think of an industry dominated by men, construction might be one of the first that comes to mind. The conversation about women in construction has been going on for decades, and with only 9% of the construction workforce represented by women, it is easy to see why. What can be done to make the industry more inclusive and appealing to women as a career? The question isn’t “can they do it?” as it is, “do they want to do it?”

The truth is that this isn’t your father’s construction industry. From the designer, project manager, office, management, and even to the field, there are options for women if we as an industry do a better job in showcasing those paths. There are so many career paths that women can not only partake in but are even uniquely wired for. As I’ve talked to women working in the construction industry, they tell me that women are known to add a creative mindset to construction projects and bring the “soft skills” of diplomacy to situations involving deadline pressures and problem solving.

Consequently, they are less likely to burn bridges and more likely to help teams align and work toward common goals. Because they have different developmental backgrounds, they bring different perspectives to a project. In an industry that is known for having silos and protecting turf but desperately needing better collaboration, wouldn’t it be nice to have people around that are more naturally gifted in inclusion and finding common ground?

I think women also bring a valuable natural curiosity to the jobsite with questions like “Is this the best way to accomplish this task?” or “Can we use more sustainable processes?” That helpful challenge forces teams to look at a problem through different lenses and almost always leads to better, more efficient results. Only when we start challenging the status quo can we truly expect to grow exponentially.

There has been so much talk about the very real skilled labor shortage in the industry. And with so many retirees on the horizon, it is a problem that has to be addressed quickly for survival. Why would we not want to be able to tap into over half of the population? But it brings up an interesting question, do women have to start coming into the industry to make it more appealing to other women, OR must companies first start making it more appealing to women by changing policies and perceptions. The real truth is both need to happen, and it is in the companies’ best interest to make sure it does.

Although you’ll often see discussions about the balance between work and family that center on women in most any industry, the truth is that women and men both have families. They might be families they are building or families they’ve come from. The crux of the discussion is the ability for a construction employee – woman or man – to sometimes say, “no” to work. Whether it’s attending your kid’s soccer game or taking your parent to a doctor’s appointment, honoring your family brings respect from co-workers.

What Can Women Do in Construction

Women can take on any role in the construction industry. However, they are currently severely underrepresented in trade and executive positions. Just under 87% of women working in construction hold office positions, and only about 2.5% of tradespeople are women. Women also only make up about 14% of staff executive and 7% of line executive positions.

Despite these troubling statistics, many organizations are making efforts to promote more women into leadership positions, and women working in the industry are inspiring younger generations to follow in their footsteps.

Some of the challenges that women face in the construction industry

  • Pay Gap: Statistics reveal that 43% of organizations do not actively monitor gender pay gaps.
  • Gender Bias: Women are the victim of 60% of gender discrimination cases at the workplace.
  • Exclusion: 8 out of 10 women feel left out at company social events and gatherings.
  • Lack of Advancement: Over 70% of female construction workers feel passed over for roles because of their gender.
  • Shortage of Role Models: More than 45% of women in construction have never worked with female construction managers.

Several other factors, such as labor-intensive work and lack of safety, further keep women from pursuing construction jobs.

 Companies are now working on improving their work culture by proactively recruiting gender-diverse talent to meet the worker shortage and promoting women as construction managers.