The numbers paint a very clear story when it comes to the gender gap in construction: there are very few women to be found in this male-dominant field.
Statistics vary, but even the higher ones still peg the number under 10%. Right now, the news is focused on how to close the pay gap in construction between men and women, but it helps to understand the gender gap in context to frame these abysmal statistics before you take action.
Women in the Field
For the most part, you’ll find very few women (~3%) working on the actual job sites, though you will find more variety as you expand to different roles. Women fill the need for engineers, architects, general managers, project managers, accountants, secretaries, etc., and about 800,000 play a vital part in ensuring all work is completed on time — without sacrificing the safety of laborers. Before the recession, more and more women were flocking to construction because they saw it as a viable career choice. In fact, the industry saw a more than 80% jump in the numbers between 1985 and 2007. After 2010 though, about 300,000 women left the industry when jobs were lost, and so far women don’t seem to be doing much to change this.
The Other Gender Gap
Women who actively work in construction state that they notice a real difference in how they’re treated as opposed to their male counterparts. The casual attitudes toward a woman’s position in society can feel demeaning or even downright sexist. Even though most women workers come prepared to fight stereotypes with humor, understanding, and grace, it can still feel off-putting to enter such a foreign world where they may not feel very welcome. It’s a workable situation that hinges on communication, education, and empathy, but it can feel like slow going for many.
The State of Skilled Labor
As more and more students were pushed toward college and away from trade schools, it left a major gap in the supply and demand of skilled tradespeople. More than 1.5 million people are needed to fill the demand in the next five years, and women should have the opportunity to be a part of this growing economic sector. It’s unfair to paint construction workers as uneducated or unable to get a normal 9 to 5. These jobs are well paying, and they require a good deal of talent to do well. This is especially true as technology make the construction process that much more complicated.
What Can Be Done?
Part of the problem has nothing to do with the debate between college and trade schools. It has to do with gender roles. It’s still unlikely for parents to push their daughters to enter the construction industry, which can leave young girls not even knowing they have the option to do anything in the building trades. Companies can play a major role in getting women to rethink their prospects though. It can be as simple as a visit to the local high school, or holding a job fair with a focus on women. Focus on just how capable women can be in construction, and how you’re fully prepared to offer equal pay for equal work.
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