The construction industry is big business in the US. It employs more than 7 million employees who create nearly $1.4 trillion worth of structures – each year. But a shocking few of those employees are women. According to BigRentz, women comprise only 10.3% of the industry and most women construction jobs are in office positions, 86.7% to be exact, while only 2.5% are in the field. These numbers must improve if the construction industry is going to remain strong in the future.
Below are key reasons why the construction industry needs more women.
Women Can Help Combat the Worker Shortage
Women are needed in construction because there simply aren’t enough workers. The construction industry needs 2.2 million workers to keep up with housing demand amid the current labor shortage. There are two main reasons for this shortage – an increased number of resignations and fewer new workers entering the industry.
Baby Boomers represent a huge chunk of the construction workforce. Many decided to retire following the COVID-19 pandemic and it is estimated that the remaining boomers will retire within the next 10 years – leaving a significant gap in the talent pool. The problem is younger generations aren’t choosing to pursue a career in construction. Surveys have found that 63% of young adults wouldn’t consider a career in construction, citing the work is difficult and they want a less physically demanding job.
According to AGC, construction businesses will need to hire 430,000 workers this year and a million more over the next two years in order to keep up with demand. Women construction jobs can help narrow the labor gap.
Women Create a Stronger, More Diverse Workforce
Diverse workforces are stronger workforces, which makes sense because employees will step up when they feel represented, safe and appreciated. For example, McKinsey studies have shown that companies with more than 30% of women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30% — sometimes by almost half. Companies with racial or cultural diversity outperformed others by up to 36%. More companies today recognize this and make it a point to make diversity, equity and inclusion efforts a top priority. That includes hiring more women for women construction jobs.
Women Make Great Construction Employees
In construction, skills are paramount. . Construction employees need to train and get certified in numerous areas like plumbing, HVAC, electrical, carpentry and the list goes on. Having training around these trades and skills helps to equalize the playing field, and that means women are just as capable as men. According to Build Your Future construction blog, some have found women tend to outperform men in welding competitions because women focus on the pattern while men focus on the flame.
Women are also great leaders, bringing different management skills to the table compared to men. According to a Harvard Business Review survey, women scored higher than men in most leadership skills — 84% in the competencies most frequently measured. Women excelled in taking initiative, acting with resilience, practicing self-development, driving for results and displaying high integrity and honesty. All of these are attributes that are needed on construction sites.
Remove Bias from Your Hiring Efforts
One way to increase women construction jobs is to hire more women, as well as other non-represented workers, is to remove bias from your hiring process. Most companies don’t set out to exclude women, but unconscious bias does exist.
Unconscious bias or implicit bias is prejudice or unsupported judgment for or against another person that isn’t deliberate. These quick judgments often occur automatically based on past experiences and background and are influenced by our exposure to diversity and media. For example, you don’t see many females represented as construction workers in the media, so an unconscious bias may exist that women can’t or don’t want to work in construction.
Focus on hiring efforts that help to remove or combat unconscious bias in order to tap into the potential of women construction jobs.
Remove Bias in Job Descriptions
Audit language that could prevent certain people from applying and also lead to hiring a candidate based on their gender. Job descriptions shouldn’t use gender-biased language like guys, he or she. Use gender-neutral language like “the candidate” or “the applicant.” Job description writers should also be aware of masculine skewed language, like ambition, driven and competitive, and feminine skewed language, like thoughtful, flexible and trustworthy and try to eliminate or reduce their use.
Use the “Flip it to Test” Approach
The “flip it to test” approach works by asking yourself if you’d feel the same way about a candidate from an underrepresented background if they were similar to your typical hires. For example, if you had concerns about hiring a black woman, would those same concerns still be present if the candidate was a white male? This helps uncover implicit bias and widen your pool of potentially qualified candidates.
Reward Referrals of Diverse Candidates
Employee referral programs account for a greater number of high-quality hires, but if your current workforce is made up of people who are all alike, they’ll likely refer someone who looks or acts just like them, leading to affinity bias. Encourage employees to refer candidates from backgrounds that are different from their own.
While the number of women currently working in construction jobs is low, women construction jobs are growing as smart businesses understand the necessity to cast a wider net in recruiting and hiring. In 2020, 10.9% of employees in construction were women. To fill immediate workforce needs in 2022 and ensure an adequate pipeline of skilled help in the coming years, the construction industry needs to continue its efforts to train, attract, hire and retain even more women.