Women in Construction Are a Competitive Advantage

Many of the attributes women bring to a jobsite have long been deemed assets to project delivery. Here's why gender diversity is critical to competition and how women strengthen the industry.
By Sally Hoekstra
May 14, 2021

The construction industry is evolving, and so is its workforce. Thirty years ago, women made up less than 10% of STEM graduates, a figure that now hovers around 30%. With the number of women earning degrees and pursuing careers in the fields of architecture, engineering and construction increasing every year, the industry is poised to tap into its largest and most diverse talent pool to date.

According to Randstand, one-third of construction companies promoted women into senior leadership roles, and there has been a 64% growth in woman-owned construction firms in the last decade. Women are being recruited and promoted in the workplace because of the strengths they bring to the construction industry.

Many of the attributes that women bring to a jobsite have long been deemed assets to project delivery. But why is gender diversity critical to competition and how do women strengthen the industry?

Relationship builders

The construction industry revolves around building—but building a physical structure is about more than brick and mortar. Relationships drive the built environment—relationships between owners and general contractors, trade partners, the design team and other project stakeholders.

Women are strong relationship builders in many facets of their lives and incorporate this into their approach to construction.

Expert negotiators

Relationships and negotiation go hand-in-hand. Researchers have observed that women have a greater ability to read non-verbal cues and take turns in conversation. Being a good listener is critical to a successful negotiation.

In an industry where stakeholders vary greatly in role and expertise, it essential to know the target audience, understand their objectives and know how to read the room. To understand and negotiate with a variety of stakeholders, contractors need to speak their language—to learn to speak their language, it’s important to listen.

Agents for Change

Women offer fresh perspectives from their lived experiences, and teams benefit from the different points of view, new approaches, and being pushed to walk in someone else’s shoes.

More specifically, women are incredible assets with regard to corporate efforts to build more inclusive and diverse company cultures. At its core, an environment of inclusivity affords everyone the freedom to be themselves; if a person can be his or her natural and authentic self, he or she is going to be stronger in anything that they’re doing.

Women traditionally have a deeper level of understanding for others who also want to see themselves represented. They also know firsthand the role that having leaders who look like them plays in gaining confidence, owning decisions and succeeding at work. Women are uniquely equipped to mentor the next generation of leaders from underrepresented backgrounds beyond just gender.

by Sally Hoekstra
Written by Sally Hoekstra, a vice president at Clark Construction. Sally has been with Clark for 29 years, and she started her career as one of a handful of women in operations in the Mid-Atlantic. She has led the successful delivery of numerous mixed-use, office, and healthcare projects and forged the first dual executive role in which she was responsible for the purchasing and project delivery. As vice president, Sally focuses on advancing purchasing efforts in the Mid-Atlantic region.

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