It’s no secret that gender representation in the construction industry is far from equal. Recent studies have found that women make up just 11% of the workforce, but even that is only when you include those that work behind a desk (design, management, and secretarial). On job sites, the statistics drop even more dramatically; only 1% of construction laborers are female.
The most likely cause of this discrepancy is the societal bias surrounding these career paths. Women aren’t exposed and encouraged to pursue careers in construction fields the same way men are. It’s not always a conscious effect, but it plays a role in our lives regardless. Because of these gender stereotypes, we often see certain professions as either male-orientated or female-orientated.
Sadly, many of these stereotypes have given young women the sense that they would be unfit to perform these jobs in particular. The image of construction work as a physically demanding environment might make them think twice about their abilities. While many construction jobs do require a bit of heavy lifting, it is not so strenuous as to disqualify women.
Additionally, there are some skills that women, on average, perform better than men. In tests where individuals are given a set of instructions and made to compete, men overwhelmingly tend to rush through the directions and make more mistakes, whereas women take their time and complete the task more accurately and efficiently. This thoughtful and thorough approach is invaluable in the construction field.
Start in School
To fix the problem, we need to make an active effort to encourage girls and women to consider pursuing these jobs. Perceptions that women are less skilled than men in certain intellectual pursuits, such as spatial reasoning, have been found to cause poor performance by women on tests. In fact, studies have revealed that any group of people burdened with a preconceived bias is likely to reflect that bias: expectations to underperform often yield underperforming results. Expectations to perform well will also yield a higher-performing result. This effect is known as the stereotype threat.
Beginning at a young age, presenting girls with all kinds of toys or activity choices at home or in school can help encourage and develop the math, science, or engineering inclinations that may otherwise get stifled when only gender-targeted options are presented. Later in their schooling, opening up the same trade school path to women as their male counterparts are important first steps. It demonstrates that these are viable career paths by introducing them to working professionals in the field, and tangibly connects them to the industry. Giving young students positive female role models will also show there is a place for them in this business.
Why Women Should Consider Construction
If given a chance, women would enjoy all the same benefits in the construction business that have attracted men for years. The building industry has a higher than national average annual salary and exceptional benefits. The cost of an education through a trade program or apprenticeship is significantly less than a typical four-year degree program. As we’ve discussed before, there is a huge demand for qualified workers in the field; the Department of Labor Statistics estimates the business is expanding by an average of 2.6% annually.
For women interested in the construction field and determined to earn a traditional degree, more and more colleges offer programs in construction. A degree in construction management is incredibly valuable and offered at most four-year schools. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 5% increase in new construction manager jobs by 2024, (around 17,800 new jobs). Prospects for electricians and plumbers are great too, with expected growth as high as 14% and 12%, respectively.
There is often unfair pressure put on women to care for their families before worrying about their career ambitions. Construction industry jobs can offer plenty of flexibility and stability. Forcing to choose between a career and a family would be less of a concern in this line of work.
Why It Matters
Women are creative, hardworking, ambitious, and inspired to create just as much as men. At present, we’re limiting our job pool to just a little more than half the population. If the stereotypes were lifted, then more women may feel comfortable pursuing a career in a field that would bring them genuine satisfaction and a job where their unique talents and skills could thrive.
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) provides resources, scholarships, and opportunities for women all over the country to explore jobs in this industry. Experienced members of the trade community should strongly consider seeking out female candidates for their apprenticeship programs to do their part to break down the gender barrier. Connecting with an industry-specific recruiter is also a great way to gain insight in developing strategies that will draw more female candidates into the job pool.
Electrical Search Group is an industry-specific recruiter specializing in commercial and industrial construction. We’re poised to match the highest qualified candidates with the top companies in the industry. Explore our website or visit our contact page to reach us directly.