The Construction Industry Needs More Women
Traditionally, women have made up a small fraction of the construction workforce in the United States. That needs to change.
It’s no secret that blue-collar jobs in the construction industry have traditionally been seen as a “men’s jobs.” The numbers certainly back that notion up, as women currently make up just eleven percent of construction workers in the U.S.
But as traditional attitudes towards work and education shift and more barriers are broken, the time for women to become a more prominent and active part of the construction industry could be around the corner.
We sat down with Jen Alessandra, senior vice president and chief people officer for American Home Shield, to get some insight into why women should look into construction careers and how construction companies can eliminate the gender discrepancy in their industry.
Why Construction Companies Should Recruit More Women
One of the most talked-about issues currently limiting the U.S. construction industry is the skilled labor gap. According to a recent report, construction needs to add two million workers in the next three years to keep up with housing demand. By focusing more heavily on recruiting women, Alessandra says construction companies can take advantage of an untapped source of potential workers.
“The current labor shortage is presenting an even larger opportunity for women to begin honing the skills needed to build a career in this industry,” she says. “Recruiting women for construction jobs can create more diversity for a company and potentially drive performance.”
How Construction Companies Can Appeal More to Women
Of course, construction companies won’t find enough women to hire if women don’t find jobs in the industry appealing. Alessandra recommends companies reach out to potential candidates when they’re young, before they’ve settled on a career path.
“One tactic is getting in front of women who may just be getting into the work force such as high school, trade school or college students,” says Alessandra. “This is a great time to show them the benefits of an industry when they may be unsure of what they want to do in their careers.”
Most young people don’t consider blue-collar careers after graduating high school. Alessandra says construction companies looking for new talent should present themselves to young people, and in particular young women, as an alternative to the traditional career path.
Misconceptions About Careers in the Trades
Construction industry jobs have developed a certain stigma. Many view them mainly as “dirty” jobs without potential for advancement or career growth. And while that may be true with some industry jobs, there can also be plenty of opportunities and unique benefits in construction.
“One of the most prominent benefits is that the construction industry has one of the lowest gender pay gaps in the U.S.,” Alessandra says. “Many tradespeople have their own businesses, appealing to those with an entrepreneurial mindset. Skilled trades workers are also likely to have increased flexibility as they progress in knowledge and experience.”
Biggest Obstacles to Women in Construction
Many obstacles prevent women from pursuing construction careers. In most cases, being a woman in construction requires a certain level of trailblazing. According to Alessandra, a lack of prominent role models also discourages some women from entering the construction trades.
“With the minimal amount of females in the skilled trades industry, women may feel as though they don’t have anyone to look up to — unless they really do their research,” says Alessandra.
The good news is, those optics are slowly changing. As the number of women in the construction workforce grows, so do the number of organizations and institutions support those women and their careers.
“There are plenty of networking organizations specifically for women in the workforce which can help spread the word about the opportunities within construction,” says Alessandra.
How To Get Started as a Woman In Construction
So how should a woman interested in a career in construction get started? Alessandra recommends doing some homework on a few companies that pique your interest.
“For women who are interested in exploring a career in the trades, online research, following home improvement and construction specialists and podcasts are ways to begin a journey in the skilled trades,” she says.
Find out what services construction companies in your area provide. Narrow things down to the specific trades that might interest you. Don’t be afraid to look online for insights into different company cultures, and what it’s like to work for them.
“Setting up informational interviews with owners and employees of companies in the skilled trades can allow potential candidates to learn more about a job firsthand,” Alessandra says.