Women in Construction Still the Largest Minority

Women in Construction

Being a member of any members-only organization used to be a mark of professional and social success. Fraternal organizations and non-academic sororities thrived in every community. Being a part of anything exclusive meant you were…special.

“Special” usually means possessing a unique quality and/or deserving of better-than-average treatment. Like minorities.

Women make up only about 10% of construction industry workers, even though they are 47% of the overall U.S. workforce.

Construction Dive says it best: Construction’s diversity numbers are awful. The construction industry is an embarrassing third from the bottom of the racial minority-hires chart.

Women are the largest construction industry minority*. Another interesting fact: Women in construction are, as a group, older than men.

Inclusion has become something to be proud of. The first Construction Inclusion Week was October 18-22, 2021. The group of contractors that created Time for a Change (with a goal of identifying ways to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in construction) developed Construction Inclusion Week. If you missed it, there’s still time to commit to hiring women in construction.

Show-Me State Contractor Shows How Women in Construction Improve Company Growth…And Profits

Burns & McDonnell is a Kansas City, MO employee-owned, full-service construction and engineering firm. Since 1898, the company has been a flagship for exceptional customer care and construction planning, designing, and project management. Today, one-third of their construction new hires are women.

Manager Leon Harden says you can see more contract wins, enhanced productivity and profits when you initiate diversity initiatives. Here’s how:

  • Be transparent about hiring. Create a consistent recruitment process that is fair for all applicants.
  • Contractors should define what diversity and inclusion mean for their firms. Implement programs to increase education, eliminate intolerance, and heighten appreciation for cultural diversity.
  • Encourage employees to tell their stories. It is powerful and builds empathy for minority and diverse co-workers.
  • Offer employees reciprocal mentorship opportunities and encourage advocacy for each other.
  • Think outside the box when recruiting. Ask employees to tap their networks for potential talent.

Change can be uncomfortable. But it’s often necessary to attract and retain the workforce of the future, says Harden,

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* With the exception of Asians, Native Alaskans, and Native American Indians

Apprenticeships for Women in Construction

women in construction

In 2020, only 4% of skilled construction workers were women. Women in construction are seeking jobs that are considered nontraditional employment roles. And yes, there have been barriers to overcome.

There is one nonprofit – WINTER (Women In Non-Traditional Employment Roles) offering a free pre-apprenticeship program for women. The Apprenticeship Readiness Program tackles two of the problem areas for some women: physical strength and mental toughness.

Women in construction comprise 9% of federally registered apprenticeships. In addition to facing bias among reporters, “Women also frequently face sexual harassment and bullying on job sites,” says retired electrician Meg Vasey. It’s almost as if getting an apprenticeship is a “family secret” she continued.

Networking among friends and family likely leads to more apprenticeships than anything else – for men. And unlike most men, housing and childcare are concerns for women in construction.

New Commitment To Funding for Women in Construction

An apprenticeship is one of the many forms of construction craft training. In a construction apprenticeship program, apprentices learn skills and knowledge from experienced craft professionals. Examples of craft specializations that might be taught through an apprenticeship include carpentry, masonry, plumbing and welding.BYF.org

President Biden shared his infrastructure proposals in April 2021. In addition to focusing on highways, bridges, and transit systems, a proposed $48 million was earmarked for workforce development. Biden wants to create 1-2 million apprenticeship openings.

“That funding includes a special focus on creating new registered apprenticeship slots as well as support for pre-apprenticeship programs for women and people of color,” says Fortune.com “to ensure they are allowed an equal share of those opportunities.”

Meg Vasey says she sees more hope for women in construction than ever before.

The Change Begins With You

Women in construction add value to our industry. Mentoring is one way to encourage women and minorities to tackle apprenticeship programs. Possibly the most important thing you can do is to make high school students aware of their options. Presentations explaining “earn while you learn” will go a long way to creating interest in the construction industry.

The challenge to create construction employment opportunities is real. But if you don’t cultivate job opportunities, it’s a moot point. Building business leads using building permit information is what we do. Contact Construction Monitor for more information.