There is a lot of buzz in today’s construction industry about who will replace retiring older workers and how to attract younger workers. But what is often overlooked in this conversation is whether the construction industry is making inroads into hiring more women to drive greater gender equality.
Specifically, what is the construction industry doing when it comes to hiring and retaining female workers? Women make up 9% of the construction industry’s workforce, meaning there is only one woman for every 100 employees. By comparison, women comprise 47% of all employees globally, meaning construction only benefits from about 1.25% of the total female workforce.
Closer Look at Critical Labor Shortage
One thing is clear: today’s construction industry is experiencing a severe worker shortage with employers looking to fill an average of nearly 225,000 jobs monthly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Almost 80% of construction businesses report having a hard time finding qualified workers. In 2016, the United States employed around 10.3 million people in the construction industry. Of those 10 million, it is estimated that 99% were male.
Now, consider that the construction industry is expected to grow by at least 3% in 2019 and create almost two million new jobs by 2021. In fact, a new Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) survey notes that 79% of construction firms are planning to expand their headcount in 2019.
Perceptions Hold Women Back from Construction
As noted, less than 9.1% of construction industry jobs are held by women with many being on the administrative or design side, leaving only 1.2% of trade jobs to women. With about one million of the 10 million construction jobs filled by women in the United States, the industry has lots of room to grow when it comes to attracting female workers.
“There’s a perception that it’s not an industry friendly to women,” says Katrina Kersch, chief operating officer of the National Center for Construction Education and Research. Kersch explains that this is due to things like scarcity of images depicting women at work in the industry and the stereotypes of male construction workers as being unwelcoming to women.
Advancement in Construction Easier for Women
There is no one-size-fits-all answer for how to attract more women to construction work. Likewise, there is no one cause for what is preventing women from seeking these good-paying jobs that offer room for advancement. With average wages running as high as $30 an hour, top pay is just one reason for women to consider a construction trade.
But this lack of women participating in the construction sector is not limited to only the U.S. It’s a global phenomenon. For example, women only make up around 12.4% of the United Kingdom’s construction workforce. In Canada, only about 11% of women register to start training apprenticeships. Even in Australia, only 12% of the construction workforce are women and they struggle to retain female workers as they leave the field 39% faster than their male counterparts.
Ironically, even though women represent a smaller number of craft workers, more women are moving into construction leadership roles. It would appear it is not only easier for women to get hired in the wake of the construction labor shortage, but there is also plenty of opportunities for advancement.
Although men hold most leadership roles in the construction industry, there’s evidence that having women in leadership roles can have a beneficial impact on any company. Though women own only around 13% of construction firms, 9% of those firms achieve revenues of over $500,000 or more. Such statistics prove the point that women in leadership roles can have a significant impact on the profitability of any construction business