Now Is the Time for More Women to Break Ground in Construction

As construction companies recruit more women who bring new skill sets into the field, now is the time for the industry to take notice and for women to take charge. Here are five areas that can help narrow the gender gap in construction.
By Melissa Uribes
August 12, 2021

The construction industry has a long history as a male-dominated field. Historically, there has been a lack of women role models and gender bias in the industry, which has contributed to the lack of diversity. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that women comprise only 10% of the construction industry’s workforce, which leaves a huge talent pool that the industry isn’t tapping into.

For construction companies, attracting and retaining more women in the workforce can have significant economic benefits. According to a McKinsey & Co. report, the most gender-diverse companies are 25% more likely to achieve above-average profitability than companies with less diversity.

While women are still significantly underrepresented in the construction industry, the tides are starting to change as more emphasis is being focused on diversity in the workplace and new technologies and tools are opening up more opportunities. In addition, the current skilled labor shortage is opening up new opportunities, and training and mentoring programs are helping to attract more women.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Across the United States, companies are changing their business practices and making public commitments to improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) among their workforces. In fact, chief diversity officer positions grew 16.2% over the last year. This renewed focus on diversity also includes efforts to eliminate gender bias, especially in industries like construction where this issue has been a challenge.

There are a variety of reasons gender bias occurs including hiring managers who rely too heavily on their own networks, which are also limited in diversity, to fill roles and the assumption that these candidates lack specific skills and experience needed in the construction industry. DEI programs are a positive way to address labor gaps and shortfalls in the industry, and the data clearly shows that it is a priority for job seekers, of which 70% value a commitment to diversity in potential employers. The focus on diversity, equity and inclusion provides a more welcoming environment for women to succeed in construction-related jobs.

Digital Transformation

Technology is playing a key role in keeping people connected on and off the jobsite as digital transformation initiatives are becoming more of a priority in the construction industry. The adoption of technology such as building information modeling (BIM), off-site development and prefabrication, on-site robotics, remote collaboration tools and virtual/augmented reality can open up new opportunities for inclusion by eliminating physical, age, geographic and gender barriers. These technologies are helping the industry recruit and retain women and other diverse groups who can bring more innovation and creativity in the construction industry. In addition, technology is helping to improve productivity and efficiency on the jobsite that can help create more balance and a better quality of life.

Training and Education

Educational programs are raising awareness of opportunities and careers in the construction field among university students. These programs can prepare students to enter the workforce with the skills needed to operate and optimize technology.

Role ModelS

A lack of female role models in the construction industry has historically been a contributing factor to attracting more women; however, today there is an increase in support and role models for women. Currently, 13% of construction firms are owned by women and many of them serve as mentors and advocates to attract and retain other women. In addition, organizations like the National Association of Women in Construction and Women Construction Owners and Executives provide networking, training and mentoring opportunities for women who are new to the industry.

Skilled Labor Shortage

Even before the pandemic, the construction industry was facing a huge skilled labor shortage as older workers retired, and younger workers sought jobs in other industries. In fact, soon after the 2008 economic crash, 600,000 skilled construction workers permanently left the industry. That number has since accelerated as baby boomers, which make up a large portion of today’s construction workforce, are retiring. With more technology and training available industry-wide and an emphasis on creating more diverse workplaces, women can play a key role in helping address the labor shortage.

The workforce of the future will look very different than it does today. As construction companies recruit more women who bring new skill sets into the field, and the Biden administration invests in infrastructure improvement, now is the time for the industry to take notice and for women to take charge.

by Melissa Uribes
Melissa Uribes, SPHR, is Vice President, Talent, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Trimble Inc. Check out the 2021 Trimble Dimensions Spotlight Series for more on this and other construction workforce topics.

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