Recruiting and Retaining Women in the Construction Industry

by Beth Scarano

Women make up more than 50% of the population, yet they only fill approximately 10–14% of jobs in the construction industry. It’s no surprise there are fewer women working in this male-dominated field. At a time when the industry continues to struggle with labor shortages and it is difficult to find people to hire, recruiting women presents a real opportunity for both employers and employees. Since 2016, there’s been an incremental increase of women taking jobs in construction. The question is, how do companies continue to attract and retain women to the field?

Begin with Education

Most young women are unaware of the possible career paths the construction industry has to offer. The first step to changing this is education. Starting outreach to female students in middle school and high school will allow young women to begin learning more about their options sooner. Companies can get involved by hosting interactive events at schools, inviting women in the industry to participate in career days, and encouraging school counselors and teachers to present career options in construction to female students, too.

At the college level, students need to see and interact more with women in the industry. Female business owners and managers in the industry can be invited as guest speakers to classes. This not only allows students to learn more about career opportunities, but it also demonstrates that the industry is not exclusively for men. Promoting internship and apprentice programs to female students is another positive step toward encouraging more women to pursue careers in construction.

Seek Skills vs. Experience

Companies trying to fill job openings will benefit from thinking outside the box — and hiring more women is a move in that direction. While women may not always have direct construction industry experience, female candidates working in other related fields will possess transferable skills. Women currently working in areas such as property management, marketing and finance in other industries have valuable skill sets that the construction industry is seeking. As a rule, women are often good multi-taskers and problem solvers. They also tend to be strong communicators, with a big-picture viewpoint.

Getting Women to Apply

Recruiting women requires a change to the messaging. If companies want to attract more women to the team, they need to promote the benefits they have to offer. In addition to the various career opportunities, companies are embracing flexible work schedules and more work/life balanced programs that appeal to women and millennials. With more men and women sharing parenting responsibilities and caring for aging parents, if employers want to attract and retain more employees in general, offering benefits that support family needs is valuable.

Addressing the Pay Gap

Women in the U.S., in general, earn an average of 82.9% of what men are paid. The gender pay gap is significantly smaller in construction occupations, with women earning on average 95.5% of what men make. While this is positive, the goal needs to be eliminating the pay gap altogether. Women and men with equal experience should receive equal pay.

Women in Construction Week

The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) is a leading industry organization that is spearheading the charge for connecting women in construction and elevating their involvement. The organization has chapters throughout the U.S., including Phoenix. The Phoenix chapter is dedicated to providing education and networking opportunities for women in the industry to connect and learn. It also spearheads a program called Block Kids that provides outreach to students and scholarship programs. March 5 – 11 marks the 2023 Women In Construction Week, sponsored by NAWIC. The Phoenix chapter will host a networking event that week, featuring a number of female leaders in the field as guest speakers. The event will be held Tuesday, March 7, from 3-6 pm.

While companies are making positive strides, they can do more to mentor young women and to communicate potential career paths. NAWIC, and other organizations such as CoreNet and NAIOP, offer opportunities and resources for women to connect and learn from others.

Beth Scarano is the principal and CEO of Launch PM, specializing in commercial construction project management. The company’s portfolio of projects includes multiple healthcare clinics and medical offices, corporate offices, hospitality, education and municipal facilities.

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